Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid is suffering through its worst season in over a decade. The Rojiblanco abyss continues to deepen, especially after Levante rolled up to the Wanda Metropolitano and deservedly beat the reigning champions 1-0 on Wednesday night. Though undermanned, Atlético again showed no ability to control the match and managed only one shot on target against LaLiga’s bottom side.
Worse is that Simeone’s men blew a golden opportunity to leapfrog FC Barcelona into the top four. Atlético have qualified for the Champions League through league position each season since 2012/13 — a nine-year stretch that is in serious danger of ending this May.
And according to one report Wednesday, Atleti are deliberating whether to take drastic action when the season concludes.
According to journalist Manu Carreño, speaking on Spanish radio network Cadena SER, Atlético are in conversations with an unnamed manager who can potentially replace Simeone after the season. Carreño further claims that several managers have practically offered themselves to Atleti, and Simeone reportedly feels that not everyone is “with him to the death” as the Colchoneros’ season continues to spiral out of control. The team is four points off fourth place with 14 games to play and will welcome Manchester United to the Wanda Metropolitano for a Champions League last 16 clash next Wednesday.
The Spanish media tends to perform histrionics after the big teams’ losses, but it no longer seems far-fetched that Simeone — the club’s greatest-ever manager, on a contract to 2024 — could leave the Metropolitano after this season. Certainly, there is blame to go around for Atlético’s spectacular failure to defend its league title. Sporting director Andrea Berta, as well as executives Enrique Cerezo and Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, must be held accountable for the disproportionate squad makeup — as well as for purchasing players who clearly do not fit the Cholismo mold.
However, Simeone and his technical staff have shown no indication that they can end the current crisis. Atlético’s medical staff has failed to keep the team healthy all season, with muscular injuries ravaging the squad and COVID-19 continuing to be a problem. Simeone’s search for answers has resulted in constant chopping and changing that has made this Atleti side unrecognizable from even last May’s league winners, let alone the tough-as-nails Champions League finalists from 2014 and 2016.
Cholo’s strategizing and man-management have dragged Atlético out of the fire several times over the years, seemingly whenever questions have been raised about the team’s identity and playing style. But the Argentine might not be able to pull off another magic trick this time around. Unbelievable though it may seem, it is starting to feel like a split may be best for all.