Barcelona legend Carles Puyol has praised Diego Simeone’s “amazing” Atletico Madrid and rejected former team-mate Xavi’s recent criticism of their playing style.
Speaking to goal.com, the retired central defender spoke of his great respect for Simeone’s ability to compete at the top of La Liga despite their modest resource, in a wide ranging interview that also revealed his thoughts on Leicester City – a team that is tactically similar to Atletico.
"[Atletico] play as a team, they all work a lot and, yes, they are not very offensive,” he said. “But that is a virtue. They have quality throughout their team, but particularly at the back."
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When asked if he agreed with Xavi’s remarks – that Atletico’s defensive approach was not befitting of a “big club” – Puyol was quick to distance himself from the typical Catalan perspective on the aesthetics that top teams should strive for. He admitted that he does not agree with Xavi’s criticism of Atleti’s tactics “at all”.
“I respect Simeone a lot because he knows how to make the most of the weapons at his disposal. Their opponents really need to study them to find a way past them. Since he was in Argentina, Simeone has done well. At Atleti, his work speaks for itself: fighting it out with Barcelona and Madrid and still winning titles - that’s amazing."
Puyol was also asked to comment on Leicester City, a team who won the Premier League this season with a similarly cautious, counter-attacking 4-4-2.
"It's amazing, I'm happy for them, they’ve done a terrific job. They started very well and, in the end, they believed in themselves and managed to win a league that is so hard to conquer because of the presence of so many big teams. In Spain, someone could also 'do a Leicester'. Football is about dynamism and self-belief. Of course, it’s almost impossible to compete with Barcelona and Madrid but look at what Atletico are doing."
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