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Simeone - time to turn to a new generation

Diego Simeone at a press conference last month.
Diego Simeone at a press conference last month. / EFE
  • a look at la liga

  • The Atlético manager could take a leaf out of Alex Ferguson's book

A very limited Christmas card list was the key to Sir Alex Ferguson's long-lasting success at Manchester United; now La Liga's longest serving manager must follow his master plan if he is replicate his success.

The legendary Scot is close to the heart of every Manchester United fan but very few of his lieutenants or major players remain close to the “gaffer” who discarded them beyond their usefulness.

His trusty assistant Brian Kidd didn't get a glowing reference when he went solo at Blackburn, David Beckham was left literally scarred by a flying boot, Roy Keane was dispatched to Celtic, Paul Ince shipped to Milan and when Jaap Stam was perceived to have lost a yard of pace he was shown the door. Ferguson was constantly rebuilding his team in his twenty-seven-year tenure.

Now Simeone has committed to managing Atlético for the foreseeable future and he must take a leaf out of his Scottish managerial brethren to reinvent his team and head off in another direction.

With the old guard he's won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, Europa League and made two Champions League finals, but now the band has to break up. Diego Godin is still among the best centre halves in the world, Juanfran is Spain's right back, Gabi a major influence and Fernando Torres has his moments.

This is their farewell tour though as a new boy band is taking to the new stage at the Wanda Metropolitano. The new heart throbs will be Thomas Partey, Luciano Vietto, Saúl Ñíguez and Sime Vrsaljko.

Once you could name the Atlético lineup every week; now you can't second guess what's going through Simeone's mind. He is relying less on the thirty-something players and tapping into the next generation.

The real transformation will take place in the winter when the transfer ban is lifted. Vitolo will jet in from his footballing time share in Las Palmas. He agreed to join Atlético in the summer and was sent to the Canaries to keep himself ticking over.

Diego Costa has rarely been out of the headlines but has been nowhere near a football pitch for months. The media tracked the saga of his departure from Chelsea by following him to Brazil and back. The administration is done and he'll be back in the red and white top of Atlético in the New Year. There were fears that he may have lost his edge but reports suggests he's already causing mayhem at the training ground, so he appears to be his usual self.

The transfer ban actually worked in Atlético's favour as it kept Antoine Griezmann at the club when the market went mad in the summer. He was the top player in the 2016 Euros and I'd argue this made him the most valuable player in the world after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Neymar was attainable in the summer; Griezmann wasn't.

Ok, his buy-out clause will drop to €100m when the next transfer window opens but to lure him away, a suitor would have to deal with Simeone and that wouldn't be pleasant.

And there we go again, nobody signed a Manchester United star until Ferguson felt it was expedient and I suspect it will be the same with Simeone as he produces the next generation of his Star Trek.