As a supporter of a club, which of the following matters most: to see your side play free-flowing, beautiful, attacking football, or to win games by any means necessary (within the rules and spirit of the game, of course), style points be damned?
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Sure, in an ideal world, the answer is “both,” but sides like Pep Guardiola’s late-2000s and early-2010s Barcelona are few and far between — once every decade or two, if we’re lucky.
Diego Simeone’s current Atletico Madrid squad — and the side they’ve been going on five years now — is perhaps the ultimate test of the above proposition. Following Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first-leg victory over Guardiola’s mighty Bayern Munich, Simeone has his side on the verge of a second final in three seasons.
Simeone’s players — brilliant attacker Antoine Griezmann, in this instance — are the first to hold their hands up and say, “we know it’s not pretty, or even fun to watch, but our style is effective” — almost annoyingly so, as it were.
Griezmann, on Saul Niguez’s stunning goal and Atleti’s ugly-but-effective style — quotes from the BBC:
“Saul scored a ‘golazo’. We’re very happy with a win. In the second half, we saw that Bayern are a great team. It was better for us when we came back to 4-4-2. It may be not so nice to see from the stand or in TV but our game is our game: defend strongly.”
Simeone, on where Los Rojiblancos stand ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg in Munich — quotes from the BBC:
“The first half was very close to what we wanted. In the second half they were better and got in behind but we felt comfortable, we defended well.
“You always want to score goals, they can come at any chance. It was a great piece of individual skill with lots of creativity, he (Saul) is developing well which is great for us.
“I think it’s still an open tie, they will be playing at home next week with their fans behind them but we have the chance to get an away goal. It’ll be a close game like today, we’ll see who makes the most of their chances.“