They did it.
Against all odds, Atletico Madrid went to the Nou Camp and in front of 100,000 rabid fans, took La Liga off the holders by outlasting a team with six World Cup winners, Brazil’s great hope for this summer and the Greatest Player of Our Generation™. It was truly a fantastic moment for Diego Simeone and his men; made all the more impressive that they did it after going one down with their talismanic striker Diego Costa sobbing over an injury. And this weekend, they will play the biggest Madrid derby of their lives against their richer, whiter rivals.
But other writers have already touched on all the above; let me switch gears here.
Remember 2004 and the incredible Porto team that secured a double of their domestic and Champions’ League? That legendary side that had Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira and Nuno Valente in defence? Costinha, Maniche and Pedro Mendes (good god, that midfield is so balanced) in the engine room? And Deco as the jewel in the crown: pulling strings, dictating play and generally not being afraid of anything?
I’m sure you do.
Do you remember how their upstart manager built on this unprecedented victory, with years upon years of European dominance, forever upsetting the status quo and proving that as long as you kept a quality core of players together, anything is possible?
No? That’s because that happened in a slightly shitter parallel universe.
Because here, that young, upstart manager departed and the rest of that Porto side was divided up between Europe’s elite like a whole chicken at Nando’s. And all because they took the spotlight as underdogs besting the continent’s elite to lift the trophy with the big ears.
Back to my original point.
Atletico’s achievement is pretty much amazing; it would’ve been disgrace if that Barca team had pipped them to the title. But success always brings vultures. Vultures with big talons labelled “money” and “reputation”.
Atletico’s squad is gonna get eviscerated.
We already know Diego Costa and Thibaut Cortouis will go, but there’s no telling who will follow. Arda Turan? Diego Godin? Jorge “Koke” Resurrección (Best. Name. Ever)? The state of the other Madrid team’s finances means that flashing a bit of cash will have them snatching it off you quicker than you can say “flash in the pan”.
The one consolation they have is that there is no where immediately obvious for mastermind Diego Simeone to go. Then you remember that it’s World Cup year, with the inevitable managerial merry-go-round that follows. He could stay and rebuild the Spanish champions bigger, faster and stronger. Or he could bugger off to manage his national team after Messi (inevitably) fails to show again.
Atletico Madrid winning La Liga was romantic. If they manage to secure the double, that would be romantic as fuck. But romance doesn’t last in football.