surinenglish

A LOOK AT LA LIGA

The perennial disruptors

Marcos Llorente, right, scored twice to seal Atleti's passage.
Marcos Llorente, right, scored twice to seal Atleti's passage. / Reuters
  • Atlético Madrid's style attracts many critics, but Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool were left with a bloody nose by yet another Diego Simeone masterclass

Anyone who was shocked by Atlético Madrid knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League has been oblivious to exactly what the club is about.

They may be 'anti-heroes' but the team, coach and the colourful fans are certainly not 'anti-football' which was Jürgen Klopp's knee-jerk reaction when he knew his club's reign as the Kings of Europe was over.

Liverpool are the epitome of Klopp, just as Atleti are the personification of Diego Simeone.

A crushed Klopp told us in the post-match press conference: "When you see a team like Atlético packed with world-class players and they play the way they play, I don't understand. They could play proper football, but they stand deep and have counter attacks."

In that case Jürgen isn't the student of the game that we all think he is.

His opposite number Diego Simeone has developed a brand of football which has won them La Liga, the Copa del Rey, two Europa League and two UEFA Super Cups in his nine years running the club.

In business they'd be called disruptors, a force that enters the market and upsets the giants of industry with their finely tuned brand.

Klopp may not appreciate the brand of football but the Atlético fans certainly do. At home they average over 58,000 per game and almost three thousand defied medical advice to fly to Merseyside to witness a historic night.

I witnessed Liverpool play some of the most exhilarating football I've ever seen which led to 35 shots at goal, most of them saved by the impeccable Jan Oblak. The English champions-elect played to their maximum but so did the sixth-placed team from La Liga. Simeone squeezed every last ounce of energy from his squad as Liverpool threw everything at them.

Ultimately the difference came down to the goalkeepers. Oblak, in my opinion, is the best goalkeeper in the world and he staked that claim with a sensational performance. At the other end, Adrián was a free signing from West Ham.

Klopp had a weakness, Simeone doesn't allow weakness and he preyed on the frailty.

I suggested in this column that Atleti are the Andy Ruiz Jr of world football. He's the unfashionable Mexican heavyweight who leaps into the ring with much more chiselled fighters and leaves them with a bloodied nose. Against Anthony Joshua he won the first meeting and then took him the distance in the second.

Meeting Ruiz is an unpleasant experience for a boxer, as is a date with Simeone's side. Promoters speculate about putting Joshua in the ring with most all-comers but Ruiz won't get a mention.

This applies to football too. The European heavyweight won't worry about going nose to nose with Barça, Manchester City or Bayern Munich yet they'll baulk at the thought of 180 minutes in the company of Atlético.

The final word goes to Simeone. As the Anfield media was waiting for him to react to Klopp's slightly bitter reaction to losing, he chose to take the sting out of the situation.

"We had 30 more minutes to score an away goal and Liverpool didn't. That's not fair." On the pitch he'd done battle, off it he won the diplomatic battle.

Game set and match Simeone.