Atlético boss Diego Simeone was invited to COPE‘s late night football programme ‘El Partido de las 12′ Monday, where he answered questions on several topics for almost an hour.
Simeone addressed such issues as his worryingly-still-looming contract extension, the Rojiblancos’ chances of winning La Liga and all the recent commotion with regard to striker Diego Costa, among other subjects.
Here are some of the highlights from his appearance on the Spanish radio station:
On pending contract extension
We’re on track, along with the club, to continuing this project that has been very beautiful for everyone; most of all, for the fans.
“Will Falcao remain at Atleti?”
I can’t answer that question as of right now because it depends on too many scenarios.
“Would you be happy with Champions League qualification or are you after the league title?”
It’s too early to tell. We can’t avoid facing our reality, which is the game-to-game [mentality]. We’ll get disoriented if we get away from that mindset.
“You’d even be satisfied with third place, right?”
Fantasies aren’t real. With what has happened in these last years, with [Real] Madrid and Barça finishing 30 points ahead of everyone else, to say that we can win the league would be a lie. Is there a small chance? Yes. But to get the people’s hopes up because we’re nine points away from Barça, while we are in the midst of the Copa del Rey and the Europa League, isn’t fair. We’ll forge our own path, and whatever happens, happens.
“You said La Liga was boring…”
When we lost to Barça, I was heated, and the first thing that I said was that the league campaign is boring. It’s my understanding that people want to win the title, they want to be the champions despite being aware of what is good for the club, financially. They want to win the league. And in the Spanish league, it’s hard because Real Madrid and Barcelona have a budget that is so much larger, that the third place teams finish 40 points away. La Liga isn’t boring, but it is uneven. It takes a lot to finish third. To finish sixth as well. Several teams are threatened with relegation. The fan wants to be the champion, but from a numbers perspective, it’s very difficult. We shouldn’t get people’s hopes up and lie to them because then, in the end, finishing second or third ends up being a disappointment.
The goal was to improve on what we did last season, especially in La Liga.
“Would you like to stay at Atleti for several years like Ferguson at United?”
I live in the present. The only way to build a better future is to strengthen the day-to-day. Today, we are living the stories that we will tell tomorrow.
On his “nomadic” career as a footballer
I’m a traveler. I think that, even as a kid, your decisions mark the destiny of your life and I have no fear of that. Those that don’t make decisions end up criticising those that do. I left when I was 20 years old, I came back at 34 without wanting to leave Atleti, but I knew that the only way to return was by leaving, finding myself a career knowing that, at some point, I was going to get the call and I would have to be prepared.
“You said you were impressed with the effort of the squad…”
I live my role as the coach and I witness how the people feel. I think it’s impossible for our fans not to be proud of us. I get goosebumps talking about it.
What did you think about Amaya [spitting] on Costa?
That it’s football. Sometimes it’s your own player that does it, sometimes it’s an opponent. Players know when they’ve made a mistake beyond the heat of the moment because they’re temperamental.
Should [Amaya] be punished because the cameras captured his actions?
I’m against cameras. Football is beautiful because of this. There are four referees that sometimes do a good job and sometimes do a bad one. Football is very spontaneous. I’m not sure it would be a good idea to remove that spontaneity from it. Diego is a noble player. ‘What’s wrong with Costa?’ you ask, nothing. Defenders are used to forwards that are lighter. Aggression and intensity are attributes of his playing style. He’s intense, strong, and defenders suffer because of it. If he learns how to balance that passion he has for the game, he’ll get more out of it in a match.
I felt that Diego was more important towards the end of the game, when our opponents were weaker. They would then find themselves facing a strong player, and he was the one that changed the course of the [Betis] game. If he’s strong, he’s very dangerous with his play.
“What makes you happier: second place and nine points away from Barça or being seven over Real Madrid?”
Being in second place, because that means we’re close to first. We’re trying to get closer to the best.
“Would you sign for the league finishing as it stands now?”
I’d like to sign a piece of paper that would get me closer to beating Rayo.
[Interviewer, teasing Simeone, insists on the topic of Cholo’s contract extension]
We’re okay, we’re okay. Miguel Ángel [Gil Marín] told me in October that he wanted me to continue, but I don’t think it’s the right time to talk about it. When you speak about the future, you get away from the day-to-day.
“Are Barça the best team you’ve ever seen in your life?”
Absolutely. Their virtue is to win and keep winning. And Messi is the best player in the world. He doesn’t have a World Cup, but he has the numbers, and football is all about the numbers. I was a teammate of Maradona’s, and that excites you. But Messi doesn’t require analysis.
Rapid response question and answer session:
If Atleti continue to win at home would you wear the same shirt?
A Copa del Rey final over Real Madrid, or the Europa League?
Who was the worst player you ever coached?
[‘Mono’] Burgos (laughs).
Who was the best player you ever coached?
I can’t say. I’ve coached a lot of great guys.
Would you replace any of your current players with the Simeone of years ago?
No, I wouldn’t be able to compete with the players of today.
Would you coach Real Madrid?
That question bores me. I’ve already answered it so many times before.
What would you prefer: Argentina winning the World Cup, Atleti winning the Champions League, or Giovanni Simeone winning the Ballon d’Or?
Argentina winning the World Cup.
After the interview, COPE surprised Simeone by having his three sons, Giovanni, Gianluca and Giuliano call in from Buenos Aires. The youngest, Giuliano, only 10-years-old, was asked by his dad: “How do you see our guys?”
‘Mini-Cholo’ responded: “They’re doing good but they have to improve.”