MARTIN KEOWN: Diego Simeone’s approach is dirty and unhealthy… Atletico are professional spoilers


MARTIN KEOWN: Diego Simeone’s approach is dirty and unhealthy… Atletico Madrid are professional spoilers, but Pep Guardiola managed the two legs beautifully and Man City – and football – won in the end

  • Diego Simeone’s side are the most annoying team in Europe 
  • But Manchester City were incredibly professional throughout the two legs 
  • When Atletico Madrid couldn’t get what they wanted, they imploded 

On Sunday afternoon we were all treated to a feast of football in Liverpool against Manchester City – two teams who were free in their minds and went out there with a plan to win the game for themselves rather than merely stop the opposition. 

When watching Atletico Madrid face a top-level opponent, however, at times they look like a team simply hell-bent on stopping the opposition. 

They rarely go out there to win the game for themselves. It’s an unhealthy approach which stems from the manager. Diego Simeone was the man who infamously got David Beckham sent off in 1998, remember. He wants his team to gain an advantage however possible – perhaps by getting an opponent dismissed – and then exploiting that. They push you to your absolute limits. 

Atletico Madrid’s unhealthy approach which stems from the manager Diego Simeone

But City were incredibly professional throughout the two legs. At the end of that first leg at the Etihad Stadium, Jack Grealish took a ball to the face while lying on the ground and that was an indication of what was to follow in the reverse fixture. 

And when Atletico couldn’t get what they wanted on home turf, they imploded. I was always tough as a player, but I’d like to think I was fair too. 

We weren’t simply in this business to dish out bruises and get under the skins of our opponents. We wanted to win; not just stop them from winning. 

Tensions first boiled in the tie in the first leg, when Atletico players try to rile Jack Grealish

Tensions first boiled in the tie in the first leg, when Atletico players try to rile Jack Grealish

And let me tell you, when you have helped your team to a victory, there’s no satisfaction like it. 

But Atletico didn’t do that. They took it too far with their single-mindedness in wanting to stop City and they only looked like scoring once they started to give it a go towards the end of these two legs in the final 20 minutes. 

Simeone’s side are the most annoying team in Europe for what they do. They’re professional spoilers. Atletico had men sent off in each of their group games against Liverpool and against City, they took it up a notch, taking ill-discipline to another level. 

A melee broke out towards the end of the second leg after Felipe's hack on Phil Foden

A melee broke out towards the end of the second leg after Felipe’s hack on Phil Foden

The scenes at full time, resembling a pitch-side mini-riot, were always an accident waiting to happen. 

But City won in the end. Football won, you might say. 

Pep Guardiola managed the two legs beautifully. City got out of it, keeping two clean sheets, and they’re the ones in the semi finals of the Champions League. 

In the end, the team that wanted to play football defeated the one that didn’t. 

f Atletico's Stefan Savic escaped a red card despite appearing to headbutt Raheem Sterling

f Atletico’s Stefan Savic escaped a red card despite appearing to headbutt Raheem Sterling

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