Despite doubts over his continuity at the club during the winter months, Diego Simeone told the media on Sunday night that, along with his technical staff, he will remain at Atlético Madrid next season.
“There is nothing to dissect about (my) future,” Simeone said. “(We will be) calm and, as always, we will be here.”
The 2022/23 season will be Simeone’s 11th season as Atleti’s boss, meaning he will have the chance to pass the 600-game mark as he edges closer to Luis Aragonés’s games-managed record (610). It seems only fitting that club captain Koke, the team’s longest-serving player, will surpass Adelardo Rodríguez’s games-played record (553) early next season as well.
The news may not come as a surprise given Simeone’s amazing longevity on the Atlético touchline and his special relationship with the club. But the difficulties this season presented had fueled speculation that Cholo would walk away after the campaign ended, even though his contract runs until 2024. Atleti’s title defense was in tatters by the time 2022 began, and failure to beat Real Sociedad in San Sebastián next weekend could yet see the Rojiblancos fall out of LaLiga’s top three for the first time since 2012.
“There are a number of things to improve,” Simeone said. “I have it clear through my own daily self-criticism, and the self-criticism we will have when the season ends.
“Excuses are useless. Even in an inconsistent season, we all share responsibility for not going further despite meeting the club’s objective (of Champions League qualification). We need to improve, to speak and believe in what we do in order to compete well. There have been times where we have approached Real Madrid and Barcelona, as we won two leagues over them. But Sevilla, Betis, and Athletic are also getting closer to us.”
Simeone was speaking after Atlético’s home finale, a laborious 1-1 draw with Sevilla that kept Atleti third with one round to go and sealed the Andalusian side’s place in next season’s Champions League. The squad’s limitations were again on display for all to see. Instead of subbing on younger, fresher players, Cholo turned to the outgoing Héctor Herrera and much-maligned center-back Felipe Monteiro to shore up the team as it looked to protect a 1-0 lead.
With five minutes left, an Óliver Torres cross caught out Felipe as Youssef En-Nesyri snuck around him to bury the equalizing header.
José Giménez, who headed in Atlético’s opening goal from a Yannick Carrasco corner in the first half, intimated that referee Sánchez Martínez’s performance hurt Atleti. The club’s third captain even hinted at a backroom agreement struck to help Sevilla clinch top four.
“Sevilla wanted to draw, but not only them,” Giménez told Movistar. “There are things that are not well-understood. I always respect those who work in sports, but there are things that go on that are unbearable.”
Nevertheless, Atlético still found plenty to celebrate on Sunday. The club honored Herrera and Luis Suárez with a postgame pasillo as both players will continue their careers elsewhere — Herrera with Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, Suárez heading for an unknown destination.
“What I had to do upon arriving was to give everything back on the field,” Suárez told the Metropolitano. “I gave 200 percent. Apart from winning the league, which unfortunately we weren’t able to enjoy with our people, I will take with me the love they showed me each day. I won’t forget it.
“No matter where we are, I always will be one more Atlético fan.”
“Regarding Suárez, I’m grateful,” Simeone said. “He came to show that he could continue to play at a high level, to show how competitive he is. He helped us, and we helped him to win a league in which he was decisive due to his forcefulness.
“This season, despite not playing all the games he wanted to play, Luis is still the team’s top scorer. I wish him the best, nothing but gratitude for an extraordinary footballer and an even-better person.”