The striker has underlined the coach’s importance to the Spanish champions, claiming he has put the club back on th
Fernando Torres has hailed Diego Simeone’s role in Atletico Madrid’s resurgence, claiming that the general footballing public had forgotten all about the club before the Argentine’s remarkable Rojiblancos revolution.
Following years of underachievement, Atleti have re-established themselves as a major force in European football under their abrasive and outspoke coach, who represented the capital club with distinction as a player before returning to the Vicente Calderon as coach in December 2011.
After lifting the Europa League trophy just six months after taking charge, Simeone subsequently masterminded a Copa del Rey triumph in 2013 before then stunning the football world by beating both Barcelona and Real Madrid to last season’s Liga title.
Torres, of course, spent his formative years at the Vicente Calderon before departing for England in search of trophies and he is in no doubt that Simeone, who also led Atletico to the final of the 2014 Champions League final, is the man most responsible for restoring the club to their former glory.
“When I left, the people asked me ‘Where did you play before, at [Real] Madrid or Atleti?’ It was not clear. Now everyone knows who Atleti are. Simeone has been the key in this sense,” Torres told AS.
“The team started to grow a few years before. They won the Europa League and the European Super Cup. The club reached a stage that other clubs like Sevilla and Valencia had been in as well, but then those teams disappeared.
“The tricky thing that has been achieved since the arrival of Simeone is maintaining that level. To reach a Champions League final, to be La Liga champions against Real Madrid and Barcelona, to win a Copa del Rey in the Bernabeu.”
The striker then went on to suggest that he cut short his stay with previous clubAC Milan because the Serie A side reneged on promises made before the start of his spell at San Siro.
The Spain international penned a two-year loan deal with the Rossoneri last August, after a disappointing three-and-a-half-year stay at Chelsea, but returned to Atletico this January, after Milan made the transfer permanent in order to sell him to his old side.
“I went to Italy with an expectation and with an idea which, later, was not met,” Torres told AS.
“I went to Italy to play, to be an important player, and at no point did I feel like it. I was in and out of the team, I played on one day, yes, and on another, no.
“My dealings with the club were excellent and I don’t have anything to reproach, but when you see it’s not going to get better, you are uncomfortable.”
Torres has scored three times since returning to Atleti, his goals coming against Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, and he will be aiming to break his Liga duck against Carlo Ancelotti’s men in Saturday’s derby at the Vicente Calderon.
“You notice that the people are looking forward to the match,” the attacker added. “Not just the squad but the fans. It’s because we can compete. We are going out to win. We are not going out to see what happens, as it might have been before.
“We know very clearly what we have to do. It would be very important to win. If we don’t win, there are many matches left, but for us it is not just that it would stop Madrid from increasing their points total, but it’s for the confidence it would give us.”