🔴⚪️ How Diego Simeone’s LaLiga-winning playing career with Atléti laid the foundations for today’s success
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🔴⚪️ How Diego Simeone’s LaLiga-winning playing career with Atléti laid the foundations for today’s success

The Argentine has now won two LaLiga titles with the club as a coach, in addition to his first title as a player back in 1996.

Before Diego Simeone was a LaLiga winning coach of the current warrior-like Atletico de Madrid team, the Argentine was also a fearsome midfielder who lifted many trophies including a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double with the rojiblanco outfit.

A mobile, technical and aggressive box-to-box midfielder capable of stopping, starting and finishing moves, Simeone starred for over a decade in LaLiga, first with Sevilla and then in two different spells as an Atletico player.

After coming through the ranks at Velez Sarsfield in his home country, Simeone played two seasons at Italian club AC Pisa before joining Sevilla in summer 1992. The super competitive 22-year-old quickly settled in the Andalusian capital, where his fellow Argentina international Diego Maradona and current Sevilla sporting director Monchi were teammates.

Atletico legend Luis Aragones had a huge impact on Simeone when he arrived in Sevilla as coach in 1993 and also played a role in the midfielder moving to the Vicente Calderon club a year later, having hit 12 goals in 64 LaLiga appearances for his first Spanish club.

Simeone arrived at a team in transition, with his battling qualities coming to the fore in a relegation struggle, and a goal back at his former club Sevilla on the final day of the season was crucial in helping keep the team in the top flight.

12 months later Simeone also scored on the last day of the campaign, but in very different circumstances. A new-look Atletico team coached by Radomir Antic roared to the 1995-96 LaLiga title, with goalkeeper Jose Molina, defender Santi Denia and forward Kiko all key members of a side that represented many of the deepest qualities of the rojiblanco club’s traditions.

El Cholo was the beating heart of a team that also clinched the Copa del Rey final by beating Barcelona 1-0 in the final, thanks to a goal from prolific Serbian midfielder Milinko Pantić.

Summer 1997 took Simeone to Italy, where he played two years for Inter Milan, winning the 1997-98 UEFA Cup. There followed four further seasons for Lazio, where he lifted four trophies including the 1999–2000 Serie A title in a team coached by Sven Goran Eriksson.

Simeone returned to Atlético in 2003 to help the club going through a difficult moment in their history, playing with new teammates including fellow countryman Ariel Ibagaza, and two new homegrown talents by the names of Fernando Torres and Gabi Fernandez.

His international career with Argentina was also long and successful, including 11 goals in 108 caps, appearances at three World Cups, and two Copa America titles. After finishing his playing career back home with Racing Club, he also began his coaching career in Argentine football, before answering another call to return to Atletico as a manager in December 2011.

Simeone immediately looked to instil the same spirit he knew and had displayed week in, week out as a player into that ailing Atletico squad.

Other teammates from the 1995-96 double winners Juan Vizcaino and Jose Luis Caminero were also back at the club, as Simeone led them to their next and against all odds LaLiga title in 2013/14.

And this season, again against all the odds, Atléti led the LaLiga Santander rankings for virtually the whole season and held on despite a late wobble to clinch the club’s 11th LaLiga title.

The indefatigable rojiblanco midfielder was still recognisable in the manic character driving his team on from the sidelines. First as a player and now as a manager, El Cholo is a born winner and Atléti through and through.

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