Simeone aiming to recover Atletico’s lost glory

Madrid: New Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said at his presentation on Tuesday that he is aiming to rediscover the club’s glory days that he helped forge as a player.

Simeone played a part in Atletico’s last Spanish league and Copa del Rey titles won in 1996. Since then, the club’s fortunes have varied wildly from season to season, and the team has consistently disappointed in the Spanish league.

“The responsibility is huge, but instead of frightening me, it motivates me,” the former Argentina midfielder said. “When I left as a player I set a goal of coming back as a coach. We are here to recover a little of what we always had.”

Simeone signed a contract with Atletico until the end of the 2012-13 season after former manager Gregorio Manzano was fired last week following his team’s elimination from the Copa at the hands of third-tier Albacete.

The 41-year-old Simeone will lead his first training session on Thursday to prepare for Atletico’s next game at Malaga on Jan. 7.

Atletico has struggled since the exit of South American strikers Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan in the offseason. It currently sits 10th in the Spanish standings, just four points above the relegation zone, approaching the season’s midway point.

“The past six months haven’t been the best,” Simeone said. “But the club has built a squad capable of achieving its goals.”

Simeone, however, shied away from establishing concrete objectives for a team that had set out to finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League.

“Atletico has always been very demanding, but I am focused on the game at Malaga,” he said. “We have to be realistic and not think ahead of tomorrow.”

Simeone’s main task will be to improve Atletico’s away form. Under Manzano, the team only took one point from seven away games in league play.

As for the team’s style of play, Simeone said he wants Atletico to stay true to its counterattacking character.

“I like an aggressive team. I want to see Atletico play like it always has, with punch and speed on the break. That is how we have historically played.”

Simeone also avoided discussing the future of forward Jose Antonio Reyes, whose potential exit in the January transfer window has been discussed in the Spanish media.

“We are in talks and we are open to having the best players,” he said.

As a coach, Simeone led Estudiantes and River Plate to Argentine league titles. This is his second job in Europe after managing Italian side Catania for the second half of last season. He quit as coach of Argentine club Racing Club last week before signing with Atletico.

Bureau Report