Atletico back Simeone to 'keep dream going'
AS the man in black finally downed tools and walked away from the most remarkable season in Atletico Madrid's history on Saturday night, he did so still with a spring in his step and his head held high.
Diego Simeone was asked what he planned to do next and he said: "We need to make plans for next season. Then we will rest a little bit and watch the World Cup and then we will be back to defend our league title."
It was leadership right to the end reminding the club's players and supporters that they finished the season as the best team in Spain.
Whether they will be able to defend their crown with the same players will depend on those players and in the case of Thibaut Courtois, on the club that owns him.
"I don't have an emotional link to Chelsea," the goalkeeper said at the final whistle. "I have nothing against them, it is just that I have this bond with Atletico Madrid after all that I have lived through with the club these last three seasons.
"If I have to go back to Chelsea just to play FA Cup and League Cup games, then I will have to look for a solution."
Courtois would rather stay but the club's chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin admitted it would not be easy to redraw an extension of his loan period that was binned after Chelsea drew Atletico Madrid in the Champions League and he then played against them – despite a clause obliging them to pay Chelsea more money if he did.
Gil said: "We're going to try and make sure that all of the relevant players stay here.
"We've made a very aggressive approach for Diego Costa to stay and we want to keep this dream going but it all depends on him."
Costa, like Courtois, would be happy to stay at the Vicente Calderon another season but that will not happen if Chelsea make their move.
Midfielder Koke and left-back Felipe Luis will be other targets but Koke's allegiance to the club he has supported all his life and Felipe Luis' loyalty to Simeone could yet see both stay.
Gil added: "Our intention is not to sell anyone unless the player himself asks to be sold. Because of the run we have had in the Champions League, we will have the money to mean we don't have to sell."
Simeone will definitely be staying, although how much of the new Champions League campaign he must watch from the sidelines will depend on how Uefa view his one-man pitch invasion during extra-time in pursuit of Raphael Varane.
The young French defender kicked the ball in the direction of Simeone, who said: "He's a bit young to be doing something like that to me. But I also reacted in a way that I should not have."
It was the first time this season he had lost his calm – just as Atletico Madrid were losing their grip on the Champions League dream.
"We will not cry over it," he said. "I am bitter about us falling short but we have to pick ourselves up and go again." (© Independent News Service)