A lot has happened in the last 10 or 20 minutes of MADRID – Wanda Metropolitano, the last whistle long gone, almost until another standalone bonus game creates a separate third installment. planned two-part drama.
There was some hair pulling. It was quite a waste of time. was there full scale fight, dozens and dozens of players and staff members flock to a corner of the field to voice their opinions. There were a series of yellow cards and a bright, angry red. There was Diego Simeone, who led his orchestra, calling the stadium to gulf, howl and growl until his last breath.
What was missing, the only thing missing was real football. Of course, there were flashes of Atletico Madrid attacking forward, desperately chasing a goal that would break Manchester City’s resistance and take the game into overtime, extending their Champions League stay by 30 minutes or maybe a few more weeks. For the most part, though, those endless last few minutes were a study in the art of not playing football.
This, of course, is a big part of Atlético Madrid’s identity. Simeone spent ten years creating a team in his own image that plays “with a knife between his teeth” just like himself.
Atletico must rightly be an intercultural alternative to a heroic hegemony of the oppressed, oppression and property among Europe’s elite. After all, it doesn’t have the resources of its overbearing neighbor Real Madrid, let alone the state-sponsored influence of Manchester City or Paris St.-Germain, and yet it refuses to fade, to succumb to financial inevitability.
The fact that his team can so easily and often play the role of the obvious Champions League villain is a strong testament to the great effectiveness of Simeone’s work and indoctrination: a side of cynics, provocateurs and brutalists, designed and built to draw beauty and spirit from the game, in pursuit of victory Happy to break all existing norms and defy convention, rivals and the game’s sense of moral rightness.
And yet, in all this anger and fury, Atletico wasn’t the only one to realize that getting to the semifinals is not about skill and technique, but courage and grit, the willingness to do whatever it takes.
No team is more famous than Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Over the years, it has emerged as an embodiment of football’s high values, the ultimate pleasure referee, the aesthetic of the head. Guardiola stands for sophistication and style, and he instilled all of that in his team.
But these were not the virtues that allowed his team to escape Madrid unscathed, secure a place in the Champions League semi-finals with Real Madrid, and pursue a domestic and European trio. City failed to beat Atletico by beating their dark arts. Defeated Atlético on loan.
Some, at least. Just like the hosts, Guardiola’s team once did not seem particularly interested in playing football. Instead, it played to time. It seemed that every throw-in, every free kick and every goal kick took an age. No injuries were shaken; Even the smallest bump and bruise guaranteed a long cure time. Out-of-play balls were thrown slightly beyond the line, out of reach of Atlético players. No lightness was too small to be met with anger.
This should not be read as criticism of Manchester City; far from it. Often times, Guardiola’s bright side is so easy to be dazzled that his character, his courage, is overlooked. His record in the Premier League, especially in recent years, has been built on defensive stinginess as much as the threat of attack. The city does not fade and does not doubt; With the belief that he will be right in the end, he continues on his way ruthlessly, absolutely.
The Metropolitano – this sleek, modern stadium built with the success of Simeone – somehow became Atletico’s decadent, intimidating, Vicente Calderón. naked unfriendly old houseIt wasn’t her magic that carried City, it was her courage. It’s as much a part of Guardiola’s recipe as anything else.
And therefore, it should not be read as a criticism of Atlético. “Winning is more important than anything else in football,” said Simeone after the game, shortly after the players faced each other in the tunnel. “It doesn’t matter how you do it.”
Even Guardiola admitted that Atlético was close to winning, that if he had had a little more luck he could have scored, could have won. “He had moves to score goals,” he said. “We had to go through this situation. We had to suffer. We were in big, big trouble.” In another night, in another world, he seemed to say, things could have been very different.
That’s why Simeone’s team was able to run City so close, though not in the extreme. As Atlético did in the last minutes, the rage inside the Metropolitano grew louder as anger began to build up outside the steep concrete banks of the Metropolitano. The crowd responded to his team’s growls and snarls, putting the pressure up a bit more and shifting everything vaguely in favor of the hosts. Atlético is not what it is for fun. This is because it works.
“They know how to do it better than any other team in the world,” said Guardiola. No one anywhere plays better football than Atlético Madrid.
Guardiola seemed somewhat impressed. He knows that there are times when that matters is what matters. He knows his team needs to be like Atletico Madrid from time to time if he wants to come back here and celebrate again in a few weeks, if the only one is to climb to the top he hasn’t scaled yet to claim it. Champions League.