Atletico Madrid finished the La Liga season in second place, which has undeniable value in the era of Argentine coach, Diego Simeone, and over the last 20 years in general.
Its significance becomes more relative throughout the history of the club which has ended 20 seasons in top-two, although Atletico has come second only on three occasions, all of which were under Simeone, since earning the local double of La Liga and the Cup titles in 1996.
“We are not happy with ending second, (but) yes we are satisfied because the people must understand that it is a championship in which Real Madrid and Barcelona, the best in the world, compete, and we got ourselves in between,” Simeone said.
“This maybe can move us closer to aspiring to more next year, but always knowing where we should start to be in the top, which is being champion,” he added.
Several factors were involved in the process that saw Atletico end in second place, including the great season Barcelona has had, losing just twice they secured the title, but also their away matches and continuous injuries.
On home turf, the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico has been as strong as champions Barcelona, earning 15 victories, three draws and just one defeat, but all the on-the-road game sentenced them to second.
Out of 18 away games, they collected seven wins, six draws and five defeats, meaning Atletico earned half of their 54 available on-the-road points.
The Atletico start to the season was also a key factor in the final outcome, having played to a draw in five of the opening seven matches and then squandering indispensable points that would have allowed them to regain the lost territory to Barcelona.
A 1-0 defeat to Betis and a 2-0 loss against Athletic Club came in the decisive part of the season, giving Barcelona a 17-point advantage.
Asked about the significance of ending second, Atletico’s Koke Resurreccion said: “It has been a great season because it is not easy to win the Super Cup at Real Madrid’s expense or to be second in a league with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“After all the setbacks we have had over the season, I think we should appreciate what we have done,” he added.
Over the past 15 years, it has been unusual to see teams other than Barcelona or Real Madrid end the season in second place, a feat that only two clubs managed to achieve, Atletico, was in that position more than any other club being second on three occasions, and Villarreal made it once in the 2007/2008 season.
Only Atletico in the 2013/2014 season was capable of winning the La Liga title over that period, with Barcelona and Madrid monopolizing the top two in the most recent 15 seasons.
Yet, over the last couple of seasons, Atletico ended the season second, behind Barcelona and ahead of Madrid.
“We have the responsibility of continually seeking to be there waiting for Real Madrid and Barcelona not to have their best year, but it is very difficult that both of them do not have the best year, one of them at some point does not give up, as Barcelona have been doing over the last few years,” Simeone said.
“When someone speaks about consistency, second, third and on one occasion a champion, speaks loudly about it.
“This is a path to follow for Atletico Madrid with or without Simeone,” he added.
Over the seven seasons Simeone has been with Atletico, the team has always been in the top three, finishing a season in first spot, two seasons in second and four in third, which enabled them to earn a Champions League place in every season, the main objective of the club.
Over the past 20 years, Atletico had not been able to get on the podium before the Argentine coach’s arrival and throughout the previous 81 seasons in the first tier league, managed 35 podium appearances, including 10 titles, 10 times in second spot, including this season, and 16 times third.
Before Simeone’s arrival, Atletico has not been able to maintain a top three position over seven years, their previous longest spell was three.
But in wake of the demand Atletico has been facing recently, the large budget, the players’ salaries and the continuous reinforcements, including some of the best players in the world such as goalkeeper Jan Oblak or France forward Antoine Griezmann, titles seem to be an inevitable target.
Atletico has witnessed more victorious eras, including the 70s, when they won two titles in four years, three times in eight seasons or between 1949 and 1951 or 1939 and 1941 when they won two championships. EFE