Returning to Sevilla for Saturday's clash in LaLiga will be extra special for Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone.
Saturday’s LaLiga Santander trip to Sevilla should be an especially emotional occasion for Atletico de Madrid coach Diego Simeone, given his still fondly remembered time at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan as a player.
Simeone is now mostly associated with Atletico, where he has won a LaLiga Santander title as both a player and coach. However, the Argentine’s first Spanish team was Sevilla and a little bit of his heart has always remained at the Sanchez-Pizjuan.
Having come through the ranks at Velez Sarsfield in his home country, Simeone first played two seasons at Italian club AC Pisa, before joining Sevilla in summer 1992. He made an immediate impression by scoring from the half-way line the first time he wore a Sevilla shirt - in a pre-season friendly against who else but his future club Atletico!
It did not take the super-competitive 22-year-old long to settle in the Andalusian capital, where his fellow Argentina international Diego Maradona was a teammate and another countryman Carlos Billardo was coach. Another colleague was Ramon ‘Monchi’ Rodriguez; then a reserve goalkeeper, now the club’s renowned sporting director.
The following summer Atletico legend Luis Aragones arrived as Sevilla coach, and was to prove a huge influence on Simeone on and off the pitch. 1993/94 also saw the tenacious but skillful midfielder score twice against his future club in a 2-1 home victory at the Sanchez-Pizjuan. In total he hit 12 goals in 64 LaLiga appearances for the Andalusian, while also winning the hearts of the club’s fans as a driving force from the centre of the park.
After Atletico took Simeone up to the Spanish capital in summer 1994, his first game back at the Sanchez-Pizjuan was a crucial fixture for both clubs on the final day of the following season. He duly found the net in a 2-2 draw which ensured that Sevilla qualified for the UEFA Cup and Atletico avoided relegation, although he avoided celebrating out of respect to his old team’s fans.
12 months later Simeone also scored on the last day of the campaign, as Atletico clinched the 1995/96 LaLiga title. And after spending more time in Serie A with Inter Milan and Lazio, he spent a further 18 months at the Vicente Calderon later in his career.
Since returning to Atletico as coach in December 2011, keen competitor Simeone has relished the fixture, which has brought some of the best displays of his time in charge. His first game on the opposition bench at the Sanchez-Pizjuan in November 2012 brought a 4-0 victory. Atletico also knocked Sevilla out of the Copa del Rey semi-finals on the way to lifting the trophy later that season. In total Atletico have played Sevilla 15 times in LaLiga over his time as coach, with eight Atletico wins, six draws and just one defeat
“Whenever I face Sevilla it's special,” Simeone said in 2016. “I remember my time there, when I was a kid, what I went through and how warmly they received me. I have great memories. It is exciting, one of the best stadiums in Europe for the heat from its stands and the competitive team.”
Both last season’s games were hard-fought 1-1 draws and another tight contest is likely with both teams challenging towards the top of the LaLiga Santander table. The Sanchez-Pizjuan faithful still respect their former player - they loved his hardness and will to win as a player, and neither side will be back down in this latest meeting of old friends who wouldn't want it any other way.
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