Atlético Madrid upset the established order and beat the behemoths Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to seize, on Saturday, May 22, the eleventh Spanish league title in its history, the first since 2014 under the Diego Simeone era. .
The celebrations by several thousand supporters were mourned by the accidental death of a 14-year-old teenager on Saturday evening, emergency services told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The authorities had called to avoid any gathering for health security, but about two thousand supporters gathered around the Neptune fountain, which was barricaded and watched by the police.
The “Mattresses” who reigned in La Liga for a large part of the season, once again played spoilers to end up claiming the Spanish crown thanks to their 2-1 victory in Valladolid, while Real won (2-1) at Villarreal.
Saturday, the ” White House “ only believed it for a few seconds. Led 1-0 at the break as the“Athletes”, Zinédine Zidane’s men believed to equalize with a header from Karim Benzema (56th). But, while his goal was reviewed and canceled by the video referee, at the same time, Angel Correa equalized with a sharp point in Valladolid, before the winning goal, by Luis Suarez (67th), for the “Mattresses”. Benzema caught up at the end of the match, with a valid skylight, this time (87th), followed by a victorious but insufficient goal from Luka Modric (90th + 2).
Barça, ejected from the title race last week, concluded their season without Messi but with a nice goal from Antoine Griezmann and a victory at Eibar, 1-0.
This is only the second time in sixteen years that a team has managed to break the hegemony of Real and Barça in La Liga, after the feat of «Rojiblancos» themselves in 2014, also sealed on the last day.
A coronation that tastes of revenge for Atlético and its totem trainer, Diego Simeone. After the departure of many executives in the summer of 2019 (Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez, Diego Godin …) and after a season undermined by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the Argentinian technician knew how to reinvent himself to find the perfect alchemy, and hoist his team on the roof of Spain. “Finishing champion after such a difficult year will be a milestone. It means a lot about this club, it means that it is made of another material “, assured Simeone at the final whistle.
He managed to attract the «Gunman» Uruguayan Luis Suarez, suddenly dropped by Barça last summer, scorer on Saturday and in tears at the final whistle. He cleverly repositioned Marcos Llorente and Thomas Lemar to make the most of their qualities. And sometimes made the effort to get out of his austere and rough 4-4-2 to inject a dose of spectacle into the Madrid game.
After a great first part of the season, Atlético already accumulated 50 points after only 19 games played, and were ahead of Real and Barça (40 points each) by ten points in the standings. The second best record in the history of the Spanish Championship after 19 matches, behind Barça’s historic season in 2012-2013 (55 points after 19 matches). Such a gap has never been seen in La Liga history. Thus, the «Rojiblancos» marked the spirits, with a streak of 14 victories in 15 La Liga games between mid-October and the end of January.
Tenacity and rigor
The second part of the season was more complicated, but despite the sequence of matches, the “Cholo” Simeone managed to keep his group under pressure and knew how to deal with injuries and cases of Covid-19. And Atlético, by clinging to its values of tenacity and rigor, held out until the end to snatch, not without fear, this eleventh national crown.
A master stroke that elevates Diego Simeone even more to the rank of living legend of the Madrid club: the Argentine technician, in post since December 2011 and under contract until June 2022, compiles two Europa Leagues (2012, 2018), two finals of Champions League lost to Real (2014, 2016), and now two Spanish Championships (2014, 2021).
For his Merengue counterpart Zinédine Zidane, announced on the departure by the Spanish press, this failure symbolizes all the complexity of the season crossed: his Real Madrid has constantly faced up, dodging pitfalls such as fatigue and the sixty deplored injuries to return in the race … but failed to defend his national crown, gleaned last summer after the first confinement.
« Zizou », who said on Saturday night he would chat with the club “In the coming days” about his future, could therefore leave Madrid on a virgin season, without any trophy raised in 2020-2021. Because this year, Spain belongs to Atlético.
The supporters “Rojiblancos”, gathered by the hundreds around the barricaded fountain of Neptune in Madrid, like every night of glory at Atlético, will however have to calm their ardor: the Madrid authorities have banned gatherings to avoid any overflow, while the health situation is s’ improving in Spain for several weeks.