Madrid: Diego Simeone steered Atletico Madrid into the 2014 Champions League final by embedding the same traits that helped the club win the Spanish League and Cup double nearly two decades ago, former coach Radomir Antic said.
Atletico brushed aside Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday after a goalless semi-final first leg and Antic, who guided them to the domestic double in 1996 with Simeone as the midfield enforcer, hailed an impressive performance and season.
"Diego has moulded an outfit of success-hungry players who have subdued their egos for a greater good, which is the present generation’s biggest victory because it’s not an easy task,” the 65-year old Serb told Reuters.
"I’ve always said that outstanding individuals don’t necessarily make a great team as unity in the dressing room is the most essential ingredient for a club to match the sum of its parts.
“That’s exactly where Atletico have excelled. This season’s performances have dispelled all doubts about their ability as they made Chelsea look second best, especially in the second half.
“They romped into the final with such authority and made a glorious return to the showpiece event of Europe’s club football after a 40-year wait.”
Atletico, who lost the 1974 final to Bayern Munich in Brussels after suffering a 4-0 rout in the replay having conceded a last-minute extra time equaliser in the first match, will face more illustrious and wealthier city rivals Real in the May 24 final in Lisbon.
Simeone`s side also have the La Liga title at their mercy, holding a four-point lead with three games to play.
Antic, who was in charge at Real for eight months in 1991 before he took over at Atletico following a three-year stint at Oviedo, said the legacy of punching above their weight and fierce fan pride were still deeply rooted in the club’s mindset.
“When I arrived at Atletico in 1995, I asked myself what the club represents and I came to the conclusion that it reflects a social group of largely middle class fans who live on a shoestring budget but will never feel inferior in any aspect,” he said.
“Our philosophy was to attack and outscore the opposition and it was a perfect match with our fans’ mentality. Striking a common chord between the pitch and the terraces is always a priceless asset and one that is also typical for this generation so masterfully guided by Simeone.
“The all-Madrid final comes as yet another proof that Spanish football is as dominant as ever and having had the honour to coach both Atletico and Real, I am very proud and pleased that they will face each other in the final.”