“…in football, the train comes only once. Either you get on or you miss it. And I always prefer to be on the train”- Diego Simeone
AS Diego Simeone sets out to lead Atletico Madrid on yet another Madrid derby,Simeone relates football with boxing, with a street fight.For Simeone there has never been any place for doubt in the Atletico squad. They are first believers, then footballers.
Diego Pablo Simeone also known as El Cholo, is an Argentine football manager and former player, who played as a midfielder, and is currently the manager for La Liga club Atletico Madrid. Simeone is often considered to be a legendary figure in the history of Atletico Madrid, due to his achievements as a player and manager with them.
When 17-year-old Simeone was called up to Argentina Under-20s for the first time, he was asked to report for training at the football association’s head office in downtown Buenos Aires.He arrived early. And waited. Five, 10, 30 minutes. Something did not add up.
The young Simeone, worried, went to buy a newspaper. He asked the seller if he had seen his team-mates.
“They’ve already left. At 7am!” Simeone and another young player with him, Antonio Mohamed, began to panic. It was their first call-up and they had blown it.
“We went pale, of course we immediately realised we’d got the meeting time wrong,” recalls Mohamed.
“We rushed down into the metro, got off at the central station and from there had to take two buses to catch up with the team. We got the first OK, but then we realised we had run out of money.
“We got on the next bus anyway, Diego flagged it down and said to the driver: ‘Take a good look at this face. One day I will be a professional footballer. I will play for Argentina. I will be a star. Remember my name, and also his. Don’t forget us. We need just a small favour…’”
Mohamed remembers every detail of that motivational speech. Naturally, the driver agreed to take them for free.But the stop where it left them was still 6km from the training ground. They had no option but to run.Every time Mohamed wanted to give up and stop, Simeone rallied him on. There was still a chance they could make it, he would say.
When they arrived, training was over.Soaked in sweat, they explained to under-20 manager Carlos Pachame about what had happened, how they had got there.Pachame spoke to Argentina manager Carlos Bilardo, who was instantly charmed by the two kids’ attitude. He invited them to play with the senior players, whose training session was about to start.
One week later, Bilardo took both boys to Germany as sparring partners for a team getting ready for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Argentina manager Carlos Bilardo once described Simeone as an ‘all-fielder’.
They were part of a generation who won the Copa America in 1991 and 1993, Argentina’s two most recent major titles.Simeone quickly became a key figure for Argentina, one of the best of his generation.
Simeone played professionally for almost 20 years, from his 1987 debut with Velez until his retirement at Racing Club back in Argentina.Quick decision-making has always been a distinctive part of Simeone’s personality.