Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid’s latest LaLiga title success feels particularly special in a year complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Saturday to finish two points above Real Madrid, who themselves completed a turnaround by the same scoreline against Villarreal.
It is Atleti’s 11th title and their second in nine years under Simeone, on top of winning two Europa Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana.
That sees Simeone overtake Luis Aragones (seven trophies) as the Spanish side’s most successful ever coach.
Atleti were top for 30 matchdays and, despite being given a scare by Madrid and Barcelona in the closing weeks, Simeone feels his side are deserving champions in what has been a tough year for everyone off the field.
“It has been a complicated year,” Simeone told Movistar+. “It’s one of the best years to be champions. I’m happy for a lot of people.
“Many people have been lost to the virus. For Atletico to be champions is a different feeling.
“The two league titles we have won come with different feelings. The world is experiencing a bad situation and I hope that we have given a lot of people some joy.
“Spending as long as we did on top is huge. I’m grateful, especially to those who played less than others. We stuck to our goals throughout.”
Long-serving boss Simeone, who has also guided Atleti to a couple of Champions League finals, hinted earlier this season he may soon seek a new challenge.
The 51-year-old accepts that his training methods can take their toll on players but can see a bright future for Atleti going forward as he hinted at a longer stay.
“I’ve no doubts that people can get tired, but I’m very hard-headed,” he said. “I knew and know that this club can keep growing and I hope it will continue like this.
“The club have done incredible work. Miguel [Angel Gil Marin], Enrique [Cerezo] and all of the unseen people have given us stability beyond results. They’ve always wanted this.
“They’re not here celebrating, but soon we’ll all embrace.”
Oscar Plano gave relegated Valladolid a shock half-time lead against Atletico, but Angel Correa’s stunning solo effort – the Argentine’s 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – equalised before Suarez’s winner.
Suarez’s 21 top-flight goals have been worth 21 points to Atleti this season, more than any other LaLiga player, and Simeone was quick to praise both of his forwards, who have kept big-money signing Joao Felix out of the side during the run-in.
“I’ve been saying that Angel has needed a goal for a long time,” Simeone said. “It makes me happy that he’s been called up by the [Argentina] national team.
“As for Suarez, I said before that his surname speaks for itself!”