By the end of Saturday evening, Diego Simeone could be a Champions League-winning coach.
The Argentine came agonisingly close to lifting European club football’s most prestigious trophy two years ago but will have the chance to exact revenge on Real Madrid for that gut-wrenching defeat in this weekend’s final at the San Siro in Milan.
Simeone isn’t your average coach and, as a result, it probably won’t come as a huge surprise that he doesn’t regard Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid’s most important player this weekend. Nor does he view Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema or Luka Modric to be the Spanish giants’ key man.
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Instead, Simeone reckons that Casemiro is the most important player for Los Blancos; an usual choice on the face or it, but hear him out.
"For the balance of Real Madrid, yes, certainly,” Simeone was quoted as saying by Sport when asked if he meant Casemiro was more important to Zinedine Zidane’s side than Ronaldo or Bale. “It's going to be a very tense, balanced game. The presence of Casemiro gives them the possibility of regrouping better if they lose the ball.
"Casemiro makes Madrid very dangerous on the counter-attack. If you give them space they're very dangerous."
Simeone on Atletico
Atletico have never won the Champions League before. The Colchoneros finished as runners-up in both 2014 and 1974, and Simeone will be hell-bent on ensuring his side don’t make it a hat-trick of European Cup final defeats this weekend.
"The club, the players, it's reinventing itself continuously," Simeone added, after turning the conversation to his own club. "And that's what's most valuable in this club. Everyone works with the idea of continuing to grow, you try and try again and if you continue you eventually get what you want.
"To play a final is fantastic, to win it... there is nothing better. It makes you continue to prepare yourself for these moments. Not change the structure or the identity, but repeat, repeat, repeat and you can achieve things.
"I think the continuity in the successes the club has had positions you a lot better as one of the best clubs in Europe. Few teams are better - perhaps Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid - but there's an idea about how we work and that's what allows us to be in this privileged position. The only way of maintaining that is by winning."
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