After the confirmation of João Miranda’s departure to Inter – and also the pending exit of Arda Turan – it’s easy to think that the first cycle of Simeone’s Atlético is coming to a close.
The man whose forehead changed the course of our recent history was inevitably going to move on this summer, but he has been a key figure in various historic moments that will live in fans’ memories for years to come.
It may now be time for a new generation of warriors to step up to the plate, but Miranda was one of the team’s pillars over the last four seasons, helping to lay down a marker and take Atlético Madrid back to the top of Spanish and European football.
Fans paid tribute to the Brazilian with the #GraciasMiranda hashtag on twitter, and judging not only by their affection but the fact that it was trending worldwide on Tuesday afternoon, his legacy will be more akin to Luíz Pereira than Fabiano Eller, as some feared when he first arrived back in 2011.
Below, we take a look at his top three moments in red and white, and the significance of one in particular (you can probably guess which).
3 – 2012 Europa League semi-final
This one seems like quite a while back now, but cast your minds back to 2012 and the Europa League semi-final tie against Valencia.
Simeone had only been in the job for four months, and the idea of a settled defence was unheard of to Atleti fans. Godín was seen as something of a liability, and the jury was still out on Miranda.
However, it was at this point we saw the foundations of a future partnership that would go on to play on some of the biggest stages in football.
In the first leg, Miranda headed home at a crucial stage to give us a 3-1 lead, but a late away goal from the visitors meant the pressure was on going into the second leg at the Mestalla.
Desperate for a comeback and revenge for their quarter-final loss two years before, Unai Emery’s side came flying out the traps, but the South American duo stood strong and kept a clean sheet, as the red and whites held out for a 1-0 win.
After another solid performance in the final, as well as a goal in the 4-1 thrashing of Chelsea in the Super Cup, the former São Paulo man finally started getting the recognition he deserved and went on to help Atleti keep one of the best defensive records in Europe the following year.
2 – Goal against Elche in title run-in
I get goosebumps just thinking about our run to the title last season, but as the games began ticking down, grinding out results was becoming more and more difficult for Cholo’s men.
As everyone waited for us to fall, the team were relying on their last reserves to get themselves over the line in most of their matches.
One Friday evening in mid-April, it looked for a while as if lowly Elche would put a stop to our aspirations and take a point from the surprise Liga frontrunners. Thankfully, Miranda had other ideas.
Nothing was going right in front of goal, David Villa had missed a penalty, and hope was fading in the stands.
Nerves were also beginning to creep in, but with time running out, our number 23 rose highest to meet a José Sosa corner and power a header into the top corner.
The stands erupted, sent into a wave of collective jubilance, with the relief etched upon the faces of players and fans alike.
It really was a massive goal, as any points dropped at this stage would’ve really thrown us off track. Diego Costa added the second from the spot, and as you know, the rest is history.
1 – Winning the Copa del Rey final in extra time
1) Speaking of history, I’m sure 17th May 2013 is a day that all Atleti supporters will remember rather fondly.
It needs no introduction, but picture the setting. Cup final, against the arch enemy in their own backyard. Fourteen long, painful years without a win, and inside just ten minutes you find yourselves a goal down.
Everyone has seen the script, at this point Atleti roll over and fall to yet another defeat. Rinse and repeat.
But this time was different. The Bernabéu was filled with 40,000 in red and white, and despite all that had gone before, they still believed this could be the moment that everything would change.
Having equalised before half-time, the belief appeared to be transmitted onto the pitch as well, and despite being exhausted physically – Juanfran for example having to hobble through extra-time – we never backed down and the adrenaline took over.
Then came the moment. You’ve probably watched it back thousands of times, but it never gets old. In came the delightful ball from Koke at the second attempt, Madrid’s defence stood still and Miranda ghosted in, glancing the header past Diego López and in between the posts.
Down at the opposite end of the ground, the visiting fans were at fever pitch. After so long, they could dare to dream.
The ‘curse’, as many called it was over, and Atleti finally had the weight of the world off of their shoulders.
Sid Lowe described the moment as ‘the first day of the rest of their lives’ for rojiblancos, and he wasn’t wrong. It was the catalyst for the title win, and a number of memorable derby wins since then as well.
That goal alone was enough to elevate the Brazilian defender to godlike status amongst the Atleti faithful, but it’s also worth remembering just how good he has been for the last four years as well.
In 2013/14, his partnership with Diego Godín was arguably Europe’s most fearsome, and the pair of them also have our two biggest goals this side of the millennium to their names.
Coming on a free transfer, little was expected and he was written off by many early on, but Miranda will no doubt go down as one of our finest centre-backs of all time.
Thank you for everything João, and best of luck in Milan.
As the song goes, Miranda alé alé alé!