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Neutrals would plump for Atletico

Published : May 27, 2016, 10:31 pm IST
Updated : May 27, 2016, 10:31 pm IST

Pele has thrown his weight behind Real Madrid in the Champions League final. For the Brazilian great, Real play more open football than their opponents, Atletico Madrid, on Saturday.

Diego Simeone
 Diego Simeone

Pele has thrown his weight behind Real Madrid in the Champions League final. For the Brazilian great, Real play more open football than their opponents, Atletico Madrid, on Saturday. For the nth time in his post-retirement days Pele’s opinion flies in the face of logic. Some call him the god of the beautiful game but it wouldn’t be blasphemous to disagree with him. Atletico and Real may be neighbours but the way they operate in the transfer market is vastly different. Atletico can never hope to splash around $150 million to sign one player. It was the fortune Real had lavished on Gareth Bale to lure the Welshman away from Spurs.

While Atletico are a stable where normal horses are transformed into thoroughbreds, Real only specialise in buying finished products from other clubs using their financial muscle and resplendent history. Real often buy players who are surplus to their requirements, depriving other clubs an opportunity to sign them. The example of James Rodriguez comes to mind. Despite spending a truckload of money to bring him to the Bernabeu in 2014, Real haven’t been able to use the Colombian properly. Prudence and purpose are the cornerstones of Atletico’s transfer business under the reign of Diego Simeone. The poor cousins of Real spend every penny judiciously. More importantly, Simeone squeezes the maximum from all his players. He doesn’t have the luxury of leaving a $100 million player on the bench match after match.

Neutral fans, no doubt, love to watch flowing football, but they would have no qualms to root for Atletico on Saturday because Simeone’s team have so many admiring qualities. Atletico would be doomed if they tried to copy the style of Barcelona, Bayern and Real. Atletico can defend as if their lives depended on it. It’s the resilience that makes them what they are today. Real depend on individuals to win while collective work is the catalyst for Atletico’s surge in recent years. Simeone’s steely personality has rubbed off on to his players and no elite club in Europe like to meet Atletico in the Champions League.

Zinedine Zidane, who has turned around Real’s fortunes after replacing Rafael Benitez as manager in January, has graciously admitted that Atletico are more than a well-oiled defensive unit. Simeone has a complete team, according to the Frenchman. A Barcelona-Bayern final in the Champions League appeared a shoo-in at the start of the season. But Atletico had other ideas as they put the two out in the quarter-final and the semi-final respectively. No winners can feel worthier than Atletico this season. Beating three best teams of the world in successive rounds would be the crowning glory for Simeone and Co., who had come tantalisingly close to winning against Real in the 2014 final. At the San Siro on Saturday, a first for Atletico would be more welcome than the 11th for Real.