Nothing came to Diego Simeone’s mind after his team from Atletico Madrid finally won the Spanish league title. So he just started laughing.
“My first reaction was to start laughing,” he said. “It came out naturally. I don’t know why, but I laughed, I just laughed.”
Atletico have just come together to beat Valladolid 2-1 and win their first league title in seven years on Saturday. It was the team’s 11th title and third since 1996, when Simeone was still playing for the club.
“It was a happy feeling that came from within,” Simeone said. “We managed to do it again.”
There was reason for Simeone to be relieved, as the triumph came after a tense last part of the season, in which the team took a big lead and allowed Real Madrid, Barcelona and even Sevilla to return to the title race.
There would be no need for late returns after Saturday’s victory. No more applause against opponents. There is no need for a “one-on-one” mentality. But Simeone was not relieved. It was about reassuring the title as part of a successful club project that will continue to grow.
In my loneliness before the match, I remembered the time when we said goodbye to (Vicente) Calderon (stadium in 2017), and people asked me if I would continue or not, and I said yes, I said I would stay because I believed that the club had a future. And I was not wrong. The club has a future. “
The league title on Saturday was the eighth trophy Simeone has helped Atletico win since arriving in late 2011. He is now the club’s most successful coach, surpassing the seven titles won by Luis Aragones with Atletico. Simeone’s other titles with the club include two Europa Leagues, two European Super Cups, the Spanish Super Cup and the Copa del Rey.
“The club is growing and can continue to grow,” said Simeone, 51. “We hope we can help it continue to grow.”
Simeone’s contract expires in 2022 and club president Enrique Cerezo has made it clear on Saturday that the coach will stay much longer if he wants to.
“I think he’s set to stay,” Cerezo said. “He has been with us for 10 years and we hope he will stay with us for another 10 years.”
For his part, Simeone said he did not need to think about his future after such a successful season.
“The important thing is what the team and the club have done this season and that it is constantly growing,” said Simeone.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have won all the titles in the league since 2014, but Atletico is gradually approaching the Spanish security forces under Simone.
Simeone and the players received the trophy in the championship at the empty Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday. Fans were not allowed into the stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they filled some of the streets of Madrid as the team marched through the Spanish capital.
The Argentine coach has been instrumental in rebuilding the team since the departure of club veterans such as Diego Godin, Filipe Luis and Antoine Griezmann. He had to restore the team from almost scratch, but again made him a contender for only two seasons with such as Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Marcos Llorente.
They were among the players who threw Simeone in the air to celebrate at the Jose Zorila Stadium in Valladolid on Saturday.
Simeone said he had the help of many people to keep players focused during the last leg of the long campaign. He said that after about five rounds, he had gathered workers at the club and asked them to greet the players differently each morning.
“I told them that instead of saying good morning, ‘they should greet the players by saying we will become champions,'” Simeone said. “And so they greeted the players every day.”
“We were lucky,” Simeone said with a smile, “We could have achieved our goal.”