Has Jack Wilshere done enough to make England’s Euro 2016 squad?

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England manager Roy Hodgson names his final 23-man squad for this summer’s European Championships on Tuesday night, and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere could be one of the players axed after languid displays in recent international friendlies. On the ball, the 24-year-old is one of the best players in the England team, but his lack of athleticism – due to a lack of match fitness – is a big problem.

Against Australia, Wilshere was withdrawn at half-time, struggling to curtail the threat of the opposition, who passed the ball around the England midfield at free will. Roy Hodgson’s ongoing experiment to play the Arsenal man in a makeshift deep-lying role didn’t work, and now he has a serious decision to make on which two players (Fabian Delph already axed due to injury) will be cut.

The England manager named 26 players in his squad (23 in the main squad, 3 on stand-by), but the fitness woes of Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Fabian Delph (Manchester City) and Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) always posed a potential risk for Hodgson. And so it has already proven with Delph out through injury, while Sturridge missed two friendlies while sidelined.

Jack Wilshere is a very valuable player when utilised in his best central attacking midfield role. His passing ability is the best in the England side, but his physical condition doesn’t seem at the level for a major international tournament this summer. Wilshere would be required to play games every few days, and given he’s gone the entire league season out with injury it’s a lot to ask.

Hodgson was subject to a lot of criticism for his inclusion of Wilshere in the squad initially, and given how his performances have highlighted just how much he’s lacking in the fitness department, many are questioning what was expected. Wilshere operates in a physically demanding role in the midfield, but it was clear against Australia that he isn’t ready for England.

The Three Lions boss has to think of the ramifications of thrusting Wilshere back into gruelling competition too soon. If not for the European Championships, the Arsenal man would likely be told to rest ahead of a tough pre-season to come. His inclusion could well set him back for Arsenal in 2016/17, so is it really worth risking injury for a player who has spent more time on crutches than in football boots of late? Should Jack Wilshere be left out of the England side?

Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic looking to win first international trophy at Euro 2016

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They have won 45 trophies between them but Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have never won an international trophy, and both players will be out to make history of the fact when Euro 2016 kicks off on June 10th in France.

Ronaldo is fresh from winning his third Champions League trophy as he netted the penalty that won Real Madrid their 11th European Cup at the weekend at the expense of Atletico Madrid. Ronaldo will be hoping that his Portugal side will be able to take a few steps further and deliver on the international stage. Currently Portugal are ranked as the 4th best team in Europe according to the official FIFA rankings. Overall the nation are ranked 8th.

Ronaldo of course has come close to winning silverware with Portugal. Back as a youngster at Euro 2004 aged just 19 Portugal reached the final and were tipped to win given that they were at home and would meet the unfancied Greeks. But Greece produced one of the all time shocks and with a solid defence won 1-0 to claim the trophy.

Two years later in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Portugal went all the way to the semi finals before limping out against France. At Euro 2008 Portugal reached the quarter finals but were yet again upstaged by a superior team in Germany. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa raised hopes for the nation after they destroyed North Korea 7-0 in the group stages but the problem remained that they just couldn’t beat a higher ranking team and Spain who went on to win the World Cup despatched of them in the round of 16.

Euro 2012 would the centre of more heart ache for Portugal again when they went out at the semi final stage to Spain on penalties. However this tournament was arguably Ronaldo’s finest in a Portuguese shirt. Brazil 2014 loomed and Portugal would need to meet Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in a play off to reach the World Cup finals. The games were full of goals where Ronaldo netted all four of them in their victory over Sweden, Ibrahimovic also scored but it was Portugal who would qualify. It didn’t matter though as Portugal with an injured but still playing Ronaldo were eliminated at the group stages. The nations worst result in an era.

As for Ibrahimovic his Swedish side have had much less success and the onus is that if Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic will break their duck it will be Ronaldo that seems the more likely. Also at 34 Ibrahimovic could well be playing his last international tournament, however he’s been in great form and if he stays fit he could well be included in the Russian World Cup in 2018 if Sweden can qualify. As for Ronaldo time is running out also and at a stretch the player has two more Euro’s including this one and a World Cup to fill that gaping international hole. History is not on the nations side who have never won a major international trophy between them.

It’s Real again as Madrid beat Atletico to win the Champions League

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Real Madrid have won their record breaking 11th European Cup as they beat rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties in a thriller at the San Siro stadium.

For Real Madrid it was sheer joy as they won their second Champions League in the last three attempts, whilst for Atletico it was a living nightmare given that they were runners up in 2014 also to Real.

Atletico started the game like a rabbit in headlights, as they couldn’t get started and suffered wave of wave of attacks from Real. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema all had early threats at goal. Madrid opened the scoring after just 15 minutes when Sergio Ramos latched onto a Bale flick on. Atletico noted for their mean defending were obviously disappointed to concede such a goal. For Ramos it must have felt like deja vue given that he scored in the 2014 final.

Diego Simeone the Atletico Madrid coach rallied his players and finally after half an hour’s play they woke up. They started getting more possession of the ball but genuine threats on goal were few and far between. Indeed the one thing that Simeone’s side seemed to lack all night was speed.

The second half got off to a frantic start when Atletico were awarded a deserved penalty after Fernando Torres was fouled. At last Atletico would have their chance to get back into the game. However Antoine Griezmann who has been arguably their best player this season hit the crossbar with his effort and Real were let off the hook.

Either side could have scored and chances and space opened up all over the pitch. As tensions rose the Real Madrid defender Pepe twice feigned injury and really should have been received the red card. However English referee Mark Clattenburg who could be seen nodding in disapproval failed to deliver, even though he had a decent game.

With time running out for Atletico it looked like Real would see this game out by a single goal. But then one piece of magic let in substitute Yannick Ferreira Carrasco whose ping pong decisive shot was finally enough to beat Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas who had been solid all night. With ten minutes to go it was 1-1.

And so this final for the most part followed the 2014 one just with the roles reversed of which team scored first and we would have extra time. Here both sets of players kept going down with cramp and to be fair it was a scrappy affair that led to few genuine chances and the 2016 final would have to be settled by the dreaded penalties.

At 4-3 Juan Fran hit the post and this meant that Cristiano Ronaldo who else would be the player that could score his penalty to make Real Madrid champions once again. And of course the Portuguese player did not disappoint, smashing his effort in past a very poor Jan Oblak who failed to dive in three of the four penalties- and Ronaldo ripped off his shirt as an ecstatic Zinedine Zidane hugged his family. The Frenchman has now won the competition with the same club as a player and a manager. As for Atletico they had done their fans proud but losing again to Real in the final was understandably too much for the club to take. No doubt they will be back next season.

Player Ratings: Atletico Madrid- Oblak 7, Juan Fran 8, Savic 7, Godin 8, Filipe Luis 8, Saul 8, Gabi 8, Fernandez 6, Koke 7, Griezmann 8, Torres 6. Subs: Lucas 6, Carrasco 8, Thomas 7.

Player Ratings: Real Madrid – Navas 8, Carvajal 7, Ramos 8, Pepe 6, Marcelo 8, Casemiro 7, Modric 8, Kroos 7, Bale 7, Benzema 7, Ronaldo 8. Subs: Danilo 8, Lucas 7, Isco 6.

Finalists Warm-Up for Euro 2016

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The start of this summer’s European Championship is fast approaching with hosts France set to open proceedings when they face Group A opponents Romania at the Stade de France on 10 June.

As a means of preparing for the tournament as comprehensively as possible, each of the participating teams have arranged to play friendlies, with some having taken place over the past eight days.  Those games have provided an insight into the current form of eight of the 24 finalists, as is now to be summarized.

Roy Hodgson’s England have already played two of their three warm-up games, winning both of which 2-1 against Turkey and Australia respectively.  Producing particularly impressive performances in those victories were the attacking trio of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy & Marcus Rashford, with the 18-year-old Manchester United striker scoring on his international debut in the win over Australia.  Subsequently Rashford has enhanced his chances of making Hodgson’s final 23 man squad, which is to be announced on 31 May.

One of England’s Group B opponents Slovakia recorded a commanding 3-1 victory over Georgia, with striker Adam Nemec scoring a brace for Jan Kozak’s side as they extended their winning run to six games.

Currently enjoying an even longer sequence of positive results are Romania, who as previously mentioned will play France in the first match of the tournament.  Despite conceding a late equalizer, the Romanians remain undefeated in 15 games after drawing 1-1 against DR Congo.  Surprisingly included in the Tricolorii starting XI by manager Anghel Iordanescu was Denis Alibec, as the Astra forward earned just his second international cap.

The first match to be played in Group D is between Turkey & Croatia.  Although beaten 2-1 by England in their opening warm-up match, Turkey produced an encouraging display, with the quality set piece deliveries of goal-scorer Hakan Calhanagou, creating several chances for Faith Terim’s side.  Meanwhile courtesy of an Alex Kramaric strike, Croatia overcame Moldova 1-0, despite being without the key players Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic & Mario Mandzukic.  Ultimately the prospects of Ante Cacic’s side enjoying a strong tournament, will depend heavily upon the availability of the trio.

Set to make their first appearance at a major finals since the 1986 World Cup, are Northern Ireland.  They began their formal preparations for doing so with a resounding 3-0 victory over Belarus, with Kyle Lafferty celebrating his 50th cap with a 17th international goal.  Following that result Michael O’Neill’s side – who are to contest Group C, alongside Germany, Poland & Ukraine – have now gone 11 games unbeaten, which is a record they will aim to maintain in their next warm-up game against Slovakia.

Whilst Northern Ireland will play Germany and Poland in the finals, Republic of Ireland did so during qualification and continued a fine recent run of form by playing out a 1-1 with the Netherlands in their first friendly ahead of the finals.  Shane Long was on target for Martin O’Neill’s men, who have consistently proved very difficult to beat over a prolonged period of time.  Ultimately in order for them to be competitive in Group E against the quality opposition of Belgium, Italy & Sweden, they will require to yield their full powers of resoluteness.

The warm-up friendlies are set to continue up until just two days before the finals start, with a full list of those fixtures provided below.

Wednesday 8 June
Portugal v Estonia (20.45)

Tuesday 7 June
Spain v Georgia (20.45)

Monday 6 June
Poland v Lithuania (18.00)
Italy
 v Finland (20.45)
Iceland v Liechtenstein (21.30)

Sunday 5 June
Czech Republic
 v South Korea (15.10)
Sweden v Wales (16.00)
Belgium
 v Norway (18.00)
Russia v Serbia (Monaco, 18.00)
Slovenia v Turkey (20.15)

Saturday 4 June
Germany
 v Hungary (18.00)
Croatia v San Marino (18.00)
Austria
 v Netherlands (20.30)
Slovakia v Northern Ireland (20.45)
France v Scotland (21.00)

Friday 3 June 
Switzerland v Moldova (18.00)
Romania
 v Georgia (20.00)
Ukraine v Albania (20.30)

Thursday 2 June
England v Portugal (20.45)

Wednesday 1 June
Spain v South Korea (Salzburg, Austria, 16.30)
Russia v Czech Republic (Innsbruck, Austria, 18.00)
Norway v Iceland (19.45)
Belgium
 v Finland (20.45)
Poland v Netherlands (20.45)

Tuesday 31 May
Austria v Malta (20.30)
Republic of Ireland v Belarus (20.45)

Monday 30 May
Sweden v Slovenia (19.30)
France v Cameroon (21.00)

Sunday 29 May
Germany Slovakia (16.45)
Albania
 v Qatar (Kapfenberg, Austria, 17.30)
Spain
 
v Bosnia and Herzegovina (St Gallen, Switzerland, 18.00)
Romania
 v Ukraine (19.30)
Turkey v Montenegro (19.45)
Italy v Scotland (20.45)
Portugal v Norway (21.45)

Saturday 28 May
Switzerland v Belgium (16.15)

¿A la tercera irá la vencida?

Fernando Torres y Sergio Ramos

La final de la Champions despliega la alfombra roja. Todo está listo para que la competición de clubes más importantes del planeta llegue a su último escalafón. Real Madrid y Atlético, dos equipos del mismo país y de la misma ciudad, vuelven a verse las caras. Reeditarán aquel encuentro de hace dos años que quedará grabado en la memoria de unos y de otros, ya sea para bien o para mal, con aquel con en el descuento de Sergio Ramos para los blancos.

Los merengues buscan su Undécima apenas un par de años después de alcanzar la friolera de diez copas. Ronaldo será el máximo goleador de la competición, lleva 16 tantos y ansía marcar más (el segundo que es Lewandowski se mantiene en 9 y Griezmann, con 7, es impensable que se lo pueda arrebatar), mientras que Keylor Navas pretende seguir echando el cerrojo a su portería en Europa. Las bajas de los blancos son Varane, lo que hace augurar una defensa central formada por Ramos y Pepe, y Arbeloa, que ya se ha despedido del equipo.

Por su parte, el Atlético de Madrid quiere formar parte de los grandes del continente. Aún le falta una Champions en sus vitrinas, y eso que ya ha jugado dos finales. ¿A la tercera irá la vencida? Al menos eso es lo que esperan en el Calderón. Este Atlético es mucho mejor que el de hace dos temporadas, sobre todo porque cuenta con más experiencia y viene con la lección bien aprendida. Griezmann está en estado de gracia y Saúl, la revelación de la temporada, quiere darle más motivos a del Bosque para que le lleve a la Eurocopa. La férrea defensa colchonera cuenta con grandes jugadores y con un Oblak que lo para todo.

¿Qué pasará? El Atlético viene con sed de venganza, mientras que el Madrid quiere salvar la temporada con un título que le corone en lo más alto. La respuesta, este sábado. ¡Qué viva el espectáculo!

A descorchar cava

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El Barcelona ha puesto la guinda a su temporada al ganar la Copa del Rey. Esto supone el doblete azulgrana, que pone su broche ante un año siguiendo cosechando triunfos. Eso sí, no lo tuvo nada fácil porque el Sevilla le plantó cara desde el primer minuto, supo jugarle de tú a tú y el campeón tuvo que decidirse en una prórroga intensa.

El partido pintaba mal para el Barcelona, quien vio cómo a los 35 minutos se quedaba con un hombre menos tras la expulsión de Mascherano. El Sevilla apretó fuerte, pero no supo rematar cuando mejor jugó y más ocasiones tuvo. El Barcelona resistía, y el miedo se acrecentó cuando saltaron las alarmas con la lesión de Suárez. Aún quedaban muchos minutos en los que tuvo que jugar con 10, sin la Bota de Oro y resistiendo un aluvión de ocasiones sevillistas.

Pero eso no quiere decir que el Barcelona se replegara, ni mucho menos, porque ese no es su estilo. Los azulgranas tuvieron varias ocasiones peligrosas que no entraron gracias a las excelentes paradas de Sergio Rico. Además, al filo del minuto 90, el colegiado sacó la roja a Éver Banega. Esto equilibró el número de jugadores, pero el resultado no se movió; 0-0 y a la prórroga. Un empate sin goles que sorprendió, ya que podían haberse marcado varios tantos en cualquiera de las porterías.

El Sevilla acusó más los minutos adicionales, hay que recordar que venía de jugar una final europea 4 días antes, mientras que el Barcelona tuvo una semana completa de descanso. Jordi Alba adelantó a su equipo y a partir de ahí, casi la mitad de los jugadores de uno u otro equipo recibieron tarjeta amarilla. Carriço terminó expulsado y, a falta de un minuto para el pitido final, Neymar anotó la sentencia.

El Sevilla se marcha con la cabeza bien alta y eso se lo supo reconocer su afición. Por su parte, el Barcelona se alza con otro título más y enmarca un nuevo doblete en sus vitrinas.

Zizou: A master manager in the making

AS Roma v Real Madrid CF - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg

As one of the greatest players of his generation, Zinedine Zidane is now aspiring to attain such a revered status as a coach.

During a professional career which spanned 19 years, Zizou won a mass of major honors including the World Cup, a European Championship, the Champions League, three league titles and a Ballon D’or, before his retirement.

Zidane’s glittering days as a player ended in acrimonious circumstances with him being sent off in his last professional match for head butting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Final.

Almost ten years on and Zidane is set to participate in his first final both, since then and as a manager, when his Real Madrid side face their fierce city rivals Atletico in the final of the Champions League.

Quite remarkable is that, that occasion will arrive just 133 days into Zidane’s time as a senior head coach, which has thus far been defined by some extremely fine work. Testament to that are the impressive performances, results and team spirit which the 43-year-old has inspired in players, who prior to his appointment were, in the main, enduring an extremely disappointing season.

Since replacing Rafa Benitez at the beginning of January, of Zidane’s 26 matches in charge of the team, they have won 21, drawn three and lost just two, whilst playing with a previously absent desire, determination and drive. Those qualities were particularly evident as Real embarked upon a 12 game winning run to close the La Liga season just one point adrift of champions Barcelona, despite being 12 points behind their bitter rivals at the start of that sequence, which included a 2-1 victory in Zidane’s first el Clasico at the Camp Nou.

Whilst orchestrating an upturn in their domestic form, Zidane has simultaneously applied his wealth of football knowledge and rapidly developing tactical acumen to guide Real to the European Cup Final. On route to that, Zidane’s side overcame Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City. Their most impressive performance among those ties was the remontata – stirring comeback – they produced against Wolfsburg, whereby after losing the Quarter Final first leg 2-0 in Germany, Real won the return game at the Bernebeau 3-0 to progress to the Semi-Final.

Ultimately Zizou has defied his limited coaching experience to slide seamlessly into one of the most demanding roles in world football. That experience was comprised of only brief spells assisting two of his predecessors, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho, along with 18 months in charge of Castilla – Real’s feeder team.

Taking that into account, Real’s hierarchy – headed by president Florentino Perez – have placed great faith in Zidane. The Frenchman is currently repaying that as he aims to become the seventh member of an illustrious group to have won the European Cup as both player and manager. Ironically the last man to join that group was Zidane’s coaching inspiration, Pep Guardiola.

In the short time he has managed Los Blancos, Zidane has developed a wonderful relationship with his players, whilst endearing himself to the club’s supporters, by revitalizing their team and leading them to the brink of winning an 11th European Cup.  In order to achieve that Zidane’s Real are required to overcome the only Spanish team to have beaten them since his reign began – Diego Simeone’s Atletico.  The game is a repeat of the 2014 final which Real won 4-1 after extra time and has all the makings of a captivating contest.

Zidane, whose coaching career is in its infancy, will undoubtedly relish the opportunity to test his tactical acumen and philosophy of aesthete football, against Simeone, who is La Liga’s current longest serving manager.

The stage is set for another enthralling edition of one of world football’s biggest derbies, which Zidane won many times as a player and is now fully focused upon doing so for the first time as a manager.

Atletico Madrid looking to vanquish nightmare of 2014 Champions League final

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It was the 92nd minute of the 2014 Champions League final. Atletico Madrid were 1-0 up through a 36th minute goal from Diego Godin, and the club who have stood in the shadows of their eternal nemesis Real Madrid are about to beat them for the greatest club prize of all. Then out of nowhere Sergio Ramos’ bullet header from a Luka Modric corner turned out to be one of the most important equalisers in European Cup final history.

Instead of Atletico walking up the steps and receiving the Champions League trophy and instead of coach Diego Simeone beaming proudly at his warriors he was encouraging them from the byline as his team had to face another 30 minutes of football. Psychologically Atletico’s players were deflated and Real took complete advantage to turn the result around. Indeed it was more like a hurricane as Los Blancos added another 3 goals in extra time to win 4-1 overall. The 2014 winners could have been Atletico Madrid and no one would have complained. However, as they say it’s not over until the fat lady sings- and boy did she wait on a balmy night in Lisbon 24 months ago. On Saturday night Simeone and Atletico have another chance to win the Champions League and again by a switch of fate they will be playing Real Madrid.

Real Madrid, now under Zinedine Zidane, have had by some accounts quite an easy route to the final, including wins over Wolfsburg and Manchester City. Real will be going for a record 11th European Cup victory.

Atletico have had to see off both Barcelona and Bayern Munich to get to the final at San Siro, Milan and even though they are the underdogs for this final they cannot be written off easily.

Only two years have passed since the first final, hence the core of Atletico’s probable line up will not have changed much from the 2014 team. We should, for example, see the likes of Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Gabi and Koke. Now Atletico have Antonie Griezmann, arguably one of the finest players in his position in Europe. The Frenchman has had two exceptional seasons for Atletico.

Real Madrid of course still have their two attacking main threats in Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. However, Real have undergone more changes in comparison to Atletico. Two players that played in that final are now elsewhere in Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira. Also there is no Iker Casillas in goal, but the club have ample replacements.

So what gives in the 2016 final? Real Madrid should have more possession and for Atletico a look back at 2014 could be a good thing- get the early goal, defend well and frustrate Real. Then, Atletico must do something they couldn’t do in 2014, and that is to kill the game and get the 2nd goal before someone like Ramos comes out of nowhere and pickpockets them for a second time.

 

 

Atletico Madrid’s Rise under Diego Simeone

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For the second time in three years, the Champions League final will be contested between Atletico and Real Madrid, with the fierce city rivals set to meet in Milan on Saturday evening.

Not even the most optimistic & staunch of Atletico supporters could have envisaged their team reaching the Champions League not once but twice in three years since their Argentinian manager Diego Simeone took up his position in December 2011. At that time, the club had not won a major trophy since being crowned La Liga Champions in 1996.

Since replacing Gregorio Manzano, Simeone has masterminded a period of success for Atletico, guiding the club to win on the domestic front – La Liga & Supercopa de Espana – in 2014, along with the UEFA Europa League and European Super Cup in 2012. Those achievements are all the more commendable since some of Europe’s wealthier clubs have picked away many of the team’s best players from the Vicente Calderon. There have even been cases whereby Atletico have lost one of their star performers to a La Liga rival. For instance, Atletico Bilbao instigated a €40m release clause in Raul Garcia’s contract to sign the playmaker who played an instrumental role in Atletico’s rise over recent years.

What is impressive is how quickly Atletico have proven to be at replacing one quality performer with another! In fact, the replacement has often come at a less expensive fee and gone on to play a prominent role in Simeone’s side.

The squad he inherited at the end of 2011 was languishing in 11th place in La Liga, whilst in the last 32 of the Europa League. Subsequently Simeone instigated an upturn in the club’s on-field fortunes whereby they finished 5th in La Liga and went on to win the Europa League courtesy of defeating Atletico Bilbao 3-0 in the the final. As Europa League winners, Atletico then contested the 2012 European Super Cup against Champions League holders Chelsea. Inspired by the sharp striking instincts of Radamel Falcao, who struck a hat-trick, Diego Simeone’s side beat their English opponents 4-1.

During the – 2012/13 season which followed – Falcao scored 34 goals as the Rojo Blancos finished 3rd in La Liga and won the Copa Del Rey. Shortly thereafter, in summer of 2013, the Colombian was sold to Monaco for an estimated €60m.

Recruited – for approximately €5m – to help fill the void created by Falcao’s departure was Spain’s all time record leading goalscorer David Villa, who formed a potent strike partnership with Diego Costa. The attacking duo played a vital role in helping Simeone’s team win the 2013/14 La Liga title and reach that season’s Champions League final. After losing that final 4-1 in extra time to their fierce rivals Real Madrid, Costa was sold to Chelsea for a sum close to €40m.

That money was wisely reinvested as Simeone ensured the Brazilian born Spanish international striker was aptly replaced by Andre Greizmann and Mario Mandzukic. The pair’s partnership yielded a combined 65 goals in all competitions during the 2014-15 season, midway through which Fernando Torres returned to the club on loan from AC Milan. The season closed with Atletico finishing 3rd in La Liga and winning the Supercopa de Espana, which represented the fourth piece of silverware Simeone has guided the club to.

As had been the case in the two previous summer transfer windows, Atletico’s number nine was sold. On this occasion Mandzukic moved to Juventus, with Jackson Martinez acquired from Porto – for approximately €35m – to bolster Simeone’s attacking options. However in the January transfer window a bid of €42m from Guangzhou Evergrande was accepted for the Colombian, who had struggled to produce anywhere near his best form during the first half of the season.

A player who experienced no such problem is Andre Greizmann, with the French forward continuing to star for Simeone’s side having scored 32 goals in all competitions this season. One of those was Atletico’s winner in their recent 1-0 victory over Real at the Bernabeau. Partnering Greizmann up front in that game was Fernando Torres, with Simeone likely to pair the duo together again for Saturday’s Champions League Final.

Despite no longer possessing the searing speed and ability to strike fear into defenders, Torres is enjoying a renaissance in terms of rediscovering his scoring touch. That is testified by the 32-year-old having found the net in seven of his last eight La Liga appearances, whilst also scoring against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final, which Atletico won 3-2 on aggregate. Subsequently the Rojo Blancos progressed to the final after overcoming Bayern Munich in the Semi-Final on the away goals rule after the two legged tie ended 2-2.

This leaves Atletico just 90 minutes away from winning the European Cup for the first time in their history, which would bring Simeone’s haul of trophies as manager of the club to six. That level of success is made all the more remarkable given that it has been achieved despite Atletico being a financially weak club relative to the giants of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Under Simeone’s guidance, Atletico has broken Barcelona’s & Real Madrid’s hold over La Liga, whilst also performing brilliantly on the European Stage against clubs with far greater financial resources and spending power.

Taking into account the aggressive and impressive way with which Simeone’s Atletico sides have eliminated giants such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the prospect of the Argentinian’s current group of players overcoming Real on Saturday appears to be closer to reality than many want to believe.