Diego Simeone will mark a decade at Atletico next year, something almost unheard of in modern management.
His tenure? Brimming with blood, sweat, tears and unsettling the hierarchy in Spanish football.
Simeone’s Atletico have always been renowned for collective cohesiveness rather than individual brilliance, overcoming a lack of creativity with a sheer desire to win at all costs.
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Not that they didn’t try to add a little more sauce pretty much every summer.
Seemingly every window Atletico unveiled ‘marquee’ signings with the hope of injecting some star quality to complement their outstanding defensive assets.
In the last four years they have poached the likes of Jackson Martinez (2015), Yannick Carrasco (2015), Nico Gaitan (2016), Vitolo (2017), Thomas Lemar (2018) and Joao Felix (2019).
And, like clockwork, every season, usually after a couple of months in, Simeone reverts back to his tried and trusted methods when the new signings have failed to click.
That’s just the way Atletico tick; those gritty 1-0 wins, those relentless Jan Oblak clean sheets.
Only this season is different.
On the surface it looks like a fairly typical Atletico season; they’re languishing down in fifth having scored just 22 goals in 21 La Liga games.
Their top scorer is Alvaro Morata with seven goals, with Angel Correa the next highest on just three.
Usually this wouldn’t be a problem for Simeone.
He could call on his flag bearers – Diego Godin, Juanfran, Filipe Luis, Gabi and co. – to help drag them towards Champions League qualification comfortably.
The issue this season is the aforementioned quartet aren’t around anymore to galvanise their team-mates.
Their time had come, the end of a generation for Simeone’s foot soldiers who have left giant shoes to fill.
And their absence has been telling as Simeone desperately scratches around for Atletico’s identity.
They’ve scored more than two goals in a game just twice this season and haven’t won away from the Wanda Metropolitano in La Liga since the end of September.
Their last three results read as follows; a 2-0 defeat at Eibar, getting dumped out of the Copa del Rey by third tier Cultural Leonesa and a dire 0-0 home draw against 10-man Leganes.
Typically this wouldn’t be too much cause for concern, but this isn’t a typical Atletico side anymore.
Morata and Diego Costa are like a graveyard for ex-Chelsea strikers with neither showing any kind of goalscoring form.
Koke and Saul Niguez are still there but look weaker without Gabi barking instructions at them.
Simeone doesn’t seem to know his best centre-back pairing without the imperious Godin, with none of his current central defensive recruits playing more than 15 of their league games.
Joao Felix has been plagued by injuries while seemingly struggling with the weight of expectations after that eye-watering £120m fee.
Today they go to the Bernabeu looking to spark their season into life, 13 points adrift of their opponents and great rivals Real.
A damaging result there ahead of their Champions League double header with Liverpool and the grumbles from the stands may turn decidedly more sinister.
Simeone, when the time comes, would want to leave Atletico on a high after everything he’s achieved, but without his noble steeds by his side that looks more and more unlikely.