Quique and Forlán almost come to blows

Coach and player had a heated exchange on the bus ride back to Santander airport

Atlético manager Quique Sánchez Flores  and forward Diego Forlán (Getty Images)

Atlético manager Quique Sánchez Flores
and forward Diego Forlán (Getty Images)

Despite spending most of the season denying that a rift between them existed, it was clear early on that Atlético manager Quique Sanchez Flores and star forward Diego Forlan aren’t exactly the best of friends.

The feud between the manager and striker finally boiled over Tuesday evening following Atleti’s defeat to Racing.

On the bus ride back to the airport, the two lashed out at each other and came close to exchanging blows over Quique’s derisive post-match comments about Forlan’s play.

Back in late February, following months of speculation about the nature of the coach’s relationship with the player, tempers ran hot after Quique took the Uruguayan out of our home match against Sevilla, replacing him with Diego Costa with just under 10 minutes left to play in a 2-2 game.

Days after, Spanish paper El País broke the news that there was a possible plot against Forlán by his teammates, the infamous “Not a single ball to ‘La Rubia’” campaign.

Quique was quick to dismiss the paper’s claims and told the press, “I’m tired of these situations and that every little thing that happens with Forlán gets talked about,” before finally acknowledging some bad blood between himself and the forward.

“[Forlán] and I are well aware of our issues and that we have to unite for the good of the group,” he had said.

The friction between the two took a turn for the worse however, days before our match against Osasuna.

Forlán had just returned from international duty with Uruguay, who had played friendlies in Estonia and Ireland. According to El Mundo , the 31-year-old told his manager he wasn’t feeling fit to play in Pamplona, but Quique included him in the match selection anyway.

Costa started the encounter in place of Forlán and tied the Uruguayan in goals scored in 2011 with a stunning hat trick. Meanwhile, Quique made Forlan warm up for most of the second half, only to leave him on the bench until the final whistle blew.

During the next-day’s training session, the two apparently had a bust-up.

El Mundo reports that members of the team and training staff were afraid things would get physical after one (presumably Forlan) was heard to have yelled, “I’m not a child!”, while the other (presumably Quique) responded, “I’m the boss here!”

From that point on, until Tuesday, Quique and Forlan had given each other the silent treatment, while Cachavacha’s name hasn’t featured in a starting XI since.

“It’s almost better that they haven’t spoken, because they will probably end up fighting each other,” an unnamed Atleti squad member had told El Mundo.

That confrontation had not been made public until Wednesday. Up until then, supporters and the media mostly attributed La Rubia’s benching to poor performance, but these recent revelations seem to suggest Quique’s line-up decisions may be partially based on a personal vendetta.

The player-coach feud reached its boiling point Tuesday evening, though there were some clues days before that a possible showdown was imminent.

Costa faced a one-game suspension and was unavailable for our trip to Santander, so naturally it was assumed that Forlan would finally get a shot to re-claim the role he had lost and start against Racing.

In the pre-game conference though, when Quique was asked by a reporter if he would indeed go with Cacha up top alongside Sergio Aguero as was expected, the tactician bluntly responded, “Forlan? We have other options.”

True to his word, Quique paired Kun with Reyes in the attack and for the seventh consecutive time, Forlan was left on the bench to start the game.

The two-time Pichichi winner came in a little after the second half kicked off, but failed to find the back of the net in our 2-1 loss to the Cantabrians.

When questioned by reporters about why he had opted to leave Forlan on the bench to begin the encounter, Quique showed little restraint.

“Forlán was given 35 minutes, 40 counting stoppage time, and you’ve seen his minutes,” he said after the game. “You [the media] are the ones that are supposed to criticise the players, not me. When the team was winning no one talked about his benching.”

AS claims the pair almost came to blows on the bus ride to the Santander airport when Forlán confronted his coach about those remarks.

Quique insisted his words were taken out of context, but that argument was obviously too hard to swallow given the scornful nature of the manager’s comments.

Atleti skipper Antonio Lopez was forced to separate both men, and on Wednesday morning, the left back came to Forlan’s defence, telling the press, “There’s no reason to single out anyone.”

A 45 minute team conference was held before Wednesday’s training session in which yet another heated verbal exchange took place between Quique and Forlan.

According to AS, teammates sided with the Uruguayan, echoing the sentiment expressed by their captain that there was no reason to call anyone out. Everyone assumed responsibility for the loss.

While it’s unclear exactly how costly this divisiveness has been to our season, one has to feel that it might be partially responsible for Forlan’s decline.

In the short term, the parties should check their egos and look to make amends, even if temporarily, so as not jeopardise our chances of securing a Europa League berth.

In the long term, it’s a practical certainty that Sanchez Flores will not be coming back for another year, while Forlan will be placed on the market come season’s end and is highly likely to leave, though he has recently suggested he wants to see out his contract with Atleti.

Do you think a new coach could bring back the best out of our World Cup Golden Ball-winning striker, or is it time to part ways with Forlan?

  • Robel

    I feel for Quique more than I do for Forlan. Quique would start Forlan without a doubt if his performances merited it. Forlan is simply angry to be left out of the team, but the decision is correct. I’d rather let Forlan leave, because I don’t think he will recover his form of old anymore.

  • Gert

    I think they’re both to blame… I mean, they’re both old enough. If they’d just put aside their ego and treat eachother at a professional level, things would be much different.
    I fear that the team will eventually pay for this, and I’m afraid for the last two games…

  • SoLobo

    Of course they are both to blame, but as Marca suggests today, Luis Enrique is set to be our new coach. I am really sorry for Quique, but I think that if he leaves, Forlan should be given another chance. Surely he will be better next season!

  • SpeGo

    Quiques weakness is his self control. He cant be provoked by press in the way he has! He says too much wrong things to reporters and I think his insecurity is reflecting to his coaching! He is poor media player. Still im thankful for the 2 trophies he brought us. Same goes for Forlan! I read that Luis Enrique will be our next coach. Are we going to play like Barca next season 😉 Seriously does anyone know is he any good?

  • Sebyk

    They are both like children and don’t realise they harm primarily the team. I understand QSF’s disappointment, but I understand Forlán frustration and loss of motivation also, our ingenious board is to be blamed here – they should have let Cacha go in the summer and if not in the summer, in January there was a bid from Tottenham. Why keeping a player against his own will, a player without motivation, contribution and a player who has problems with the manager and maybe also other members of the team? We could have got at least a decent sum of money for him, but now?

  • culbia

    I totally agree with Sebyk. There were offers, and I could not quite understand why they were not taken – for a player who was already spending most of his time as a bench.

    Atleti have quite a few great forwards, so the competition will not go away, and I can fully understand how demotivating this must be for Forlan, particularly as he’s no youngster… Really feel for him, but if this affects his performance while others score goals the decision not to include him is right…

  • hopefully forlan will be better next season with the new coach .But Quiques work for atletico must be respected

  • starvs

    What a great year this has been, I’m glad nothing went wrong.

  • Well, Quique is gone, for sure, although Forlán should stay, new coach might be better off with him? But anyhow, the behavior does not suit someone of that profession or any actually, I mean the amount of money they get paid, and this is what comes out? Goes on my tits in a massive way to be honest…

  • Chalet

    I don´t think that the whole situation might affect the team for the last two league games.
    Obviously the rift between QSF and Forlán exists for quite a while now – and nobody was talking about it as long as Agüero scored some nice goals and the team had a tiny little chance of even reaching a CL-spot in the end.
    Then we had the loss against Málaga at home and the oncoming game against Santander, where Costa was out of the squad due to suspension.
    I think that from that moment on things got really personal when QSF decided to ban Forlán from the starting line-up and to field a completely clueless team instead.
    What QSF did and said in the after-match press conference was a disgrace – and it was him who decided to make the rift public.
    I´m really sick of this “tinkerman” with his estimated 387 different line-ups.
    And one should not forget that he started to substitute Forlán from the very beginning of the season in the Supercopa game against Inter and later on, even when Forlán had a good game and/or scored and even then when there was sometimes really no need for doing it.

    Some people are saying that we should have sold Forlán right after the World Cup. I don´t agree with this because nobody could see these things coming.
    But the club should have let him go during the winter transfer window – even to Real Madrid who also made an offer for him.

    Forlán still knows how to find the back of the net – just look at his stunning goals against Casablanca.

    But I have a feeling that QSF won´t nominate him for the two remaining games – not as long as he has Agüero, Costa, Reyes and the busdriver available up front.
    So it could well be that on Tuesday we´ve seen Forlán for the last time in an Atléti shirt.

  • Mark

    Chalet, I was with you right up till you said you would of sold him to Real Madrid. Forlan has been an outstanding player for us and there is no way I would ever want see him in that shirt.

    It’s only fair to sort out the new manager first, then let him decide if he wants to keep forlan or not. His value in the transfer market will minimal, so the board shouldn’t be tempted by the money on offer.

  • culbia

    I`m totally with Sebyk – just couldn`t understand why they did not take the offers they had for Forlan, a player who was already spending most of his time on the bench.

    Atleti have so many good strikers, so the competition will probably continue – I can imagine how demotivating this must be for Diego Forlan, who`s no youngster either. I`m really feeling for him, but for as long as others score the goals I`m afraid the decision not to include him in the first line up seems right – cause it`s the goals which get the points…

  • Ringo Schut

    Forlan could do great next season, but I don’t really mind seeing him leave, just for tactical reasons (younger options who are not much worse, but still growing).

    If all this is completely true, I can’t wait to see Quique leave, because he’s not objective and mature enough to coach a squad who want to become champions in the hardest competition for that challenge (probably).

    Kun already said it’s normal that coaches come and go in a recent interview, he seems to be friends with most, if not, all, squad members, so that could be a sign that the squad won’t miss him as well, besides perhaps Reyes, who got his form back mostly because of Quique (I guess).

    Don’t start dreaming to early of Barcelona-esque football with Luis Enrique, nothing is certain, neither his signing nor his quality.
    Barca-mentality could mean more canteraminutes, though, which could be a good thing and money saving if done correctly (not that Barca doesn’t spend or something, but maybe the board will realise that spending a lot is not needed).

    Can’t wait for next season (why do I always have to think that before the current season is over? 🙁 )

  • Chalet

    Mark, maybe I was going to far by saying that the board should have sold Forlán even to Real Madrid – so I want to apologize for this one.
    As far as I remember the club rejected all offers for Forlán because of being not acceptable for a two-times Pichichi/Golden Shoe winner and MVP of the last World Cup.

    Maybe there was also some hope that Forlán could improve his performances during the second part of the season after the short winter break – as he did before.

    Obviously Forlán was tired after playing a long and exhausting season and tournament without having enough time to rest. He started the new season in a bad physical shape and always had those ankle problems.
    But it looks like QSF was not really interested in giving him some support to recover.

    An in-form Forlán of the old won´t have to compete for a place in the starting eleven.
    And age is just a number. Just look at Di Natale who is almost 2 years older than Forlán and Serie A top scorer of the season at the moment with 28 goals.

    In a few days we will probably know who is going to be Atléti´s manager for the next season – and what will be going on with Forlán.
    But even with QSF gone Forlán could decide to leave the club because up to now nobody knows the whole truth behind this “plot-and-not-a-single-ball-to-La-Rubia”-story.

  • palc

    Luis Enrique is our new coach guys.

  • Chalet

    Is this officially confirmed or just paper talk at the moment?
    And what could it mean for the squad?

  • Flo

    It’s paper talk more or less. It might be true. But I guess anything will be announced after the last game of la liga.

  • Guest

    The story and the comments were a very interesting read.

    Chalet, great posts.

  • palc

    Im sure its true. They just wont announce it officially yet.

  • Chalet

    Thanks a lot, mate.

  • Sweden

    QSF has now announced that the Hercules game will be his last for the club! bittersweet if you ask me.

  • SoLobo

    I totally agree with Sweden…

  • Flo

    Who says that?

  • SoLobo
  • Flo

    Thanks. I thought it was only something Marca brought up from nothing. But it was a press conference.

  • RojiBlanco

    Wait, he said it will be his last game at the Vicente Calderon right?

  • Flo