When Diego Simeone rejoined Atletico Madrid in 2011, they were only one year removed from winning their first Europa League title, but that silverware was deceiving. Amidst financial turmoil, they had fallen to the middle of the league table and two days before his appointment, they were embarrassingly eliminated from the Copa del Rey by a third division club.
What's followed has been the type of rapid ascent to previously unthinkable heights that inspires belief in divine intervention. A second Europa League title in 2012, the Copa del Rey in 2013, their first La Liga title in almost two decades and now a place in the Champions League final. As a result, Atletico players are kneeling in the Church of Cholo.
With the realization that they've actually won La Liga still setting in and on the eve of a chance to become champions of Europe for the first time, midfielder Tiago explains how Simeone is now making cult leaders jealous. From the AP:
"He's like a god for us. He arrived to the club and he changed everything. What he says to us comes true,'' Atletico midfielder Tiago Mendes said on Friday. ''We follow him, so if he asks us to go and jump from the bridge, we jump."
To inspire this type of absolute trust and belief in an era when managers are tossed aside on an almost weekly basis and even the ones who survive for many years are consistently doubted and undermined is an incredible achievement for Simeone. Of course, now that he's getting the recognition he deserves it will only be a matter of time before the backlash begins (just ask Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho).
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