Article

Simeone: Atletico Madrid can compete with Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid

19 April 2017 00:09

Diego Simeone believes Atletico Madrid should be considered among the current greats of European football after reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League for the third time in four years under his leadership.

Last season's beaten finalists booked a place in the last four of the competition with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Leicester City on Tuesday, progressing 2-1 on aggregate after goals from Saul and Jamie Vardy on the night.

Simeone hailed the competitive spirit of his side and suggested that if Atletico Madrid were richer they would be on the same level as Spanish rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid, as well as Bayern Munich.

"When you talk about the greats of Europe you have to put an economic and financial slant on things," Simeone told reporters. "The greats are Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid.

"But from a sporting point of view we are definitely competitive. When I say we are not one of the greats I mean in that sense, not in a sporting sense.

"It is great to be in the semi-finals for the third time in four years. Looking back at the first day I arrived at the club, I said my desire was to make Atletico Madrid competitive against every team we played against. It is satisfying now to say we are a competitive outfit.

"First and foremost I'm full of emotion. I'm full of pride at the performance of my team and full of hopes and excitement as we progress in the competition.

"What a great performance from our competitors from Leicester tonight. It was a pleasure to compete against them. They never let their heads drop. We were living in fear all night and they pushed us all the way."

Victory for Atletico Madrid came at a cost as Filipe Luis suffered a hand injury and Juanfran damaged his right thigh, with Simeone suggesting that having to take off the two defenders made his team more effective at the back.

"What we managed to do was almost reinvent ourselves during the game. We were involved in a tough situation," Simeone added. "[Jose] Gimenez played in the middle of midfield where people wouldn't expect him to. We played in the way this match needed us to perform. We always come up with a solution.

"I don't like to praise too much but today we did respond and played in the way that we needed to. The changes the Leicester manager [Craig Shakespeare] made were fantastic. They really changed the second half, even if we had a chance with [Antoine] Griezmann and [Yannick] Carrasco to kill the game.

"What they did really well when they went to a three is they managed to get a lot of people down the wings and get crosses in. [Leonardo] Ulloa did a great job in the area. The defence I ended with was perhaps more effective at combating the Leicester threat than the one that started the second half.

"Tonight we have seen a fantastic game of football. Everything that we said before the match, both teams have lived up to that. Leicester have fought as hard as they could, we have also. There was end-to-end football, both teams taking a risk. In terms of the way forward for ourselves, we are just going to keep trying and trying and insisting and keeping going."

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