On the face of it, this was a great weekend for Atlético Madrid, 5-0 winner over Sporting Gijon thanks to two goals apiece from Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres. But the news, confirmed Friday, that coach Diego Simeone had reduced his contract length by two years, to 2018, overshadowed the result.
Simeone has helped Atlético win five trophies and reach two Champions League finals in his four-and-a-half years in charge, and turned La Liga’s duopoly between Barcelona and Real Madrid into a three-way fight for dominance. He had signed a deal until 2020 but last week, El Confidencial reported that a two-year reduction was on the horizon.
“We've spoken with the club and as we have always done since we have arrived here we have taken the decision that is best for the club and for the team,” said Simeone before the game. “And along with the directors we have made this decision and it doesn't alter [the idea of me] renewing again when this contract ends.” That seems unlikely: instead you can expect speculation that Simeone will be wanted by Arsenal, PSG and Inter Milan between now and then.
The club seemed to have little choice in the matter: with PSG and Inter both wanting him this summer, Atlético has made the Argentine the highest-paid coach in La Liga, now paying him a reported €7m per year.
The knock-on effect of a Simeone departure could see Atlético’s best players leave, with Griezmann and Saúl Ñíguez linked to Premier League moves in the next 12 months. Simeone is expected to join Inter, where he also played. For Atlético, the succession planning has to start now.