Diego Simeone quits as Racing coach amid Atletico Madrid speculation
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 20 (Reuters) -- Former Argentina captain Diego Simeone has quit as Racing Club coach fanning media speculation he might be in line to take charge of Atletico Madrid where he shone as a midfielder.
Gregorio Manzano is fighting for survival at Atletico where the fans are in open revolt against him and the board with the side in mid-table after some wildly erratic performances.
Manzano was clearly riled by suggestions on Tuesday that Simeone's exit was the first step towards the former Atletico fan favourite being appointed as his replacement.
"At the moment I speak as Atletico coach," the 55-year-old told a news conference ahead of their King's Cup second leg tie at home to Albacete on Wednesday, a game widely viewed by media as likely to be his last. They trail the third-tier team 2-1.
"But it is obvious that the press are much better informed than I am by the club, directly or indirectly, as to what is happening. Is this ethical?
"I want to continue. Now is the time to seek solutions not someone to blame."
Simeone shocked the Racing board and new president Gaston Cogorno, elected at the weekend, by notifying the club late on Monday through his sister and agent Natalia that he was leaving.
"I always said I liked Simeone, that he was up to what we wanted from the team... Really, his departure surprised me," Cogorno told TyC Sports television on Tuesday after Simeone was reported to be unhappy with criticism from club directors.
"You'd have to ask him if he left because he's waiting for something from Atletico Madrid, I really don't know," added Cogorno.
Simeone has not spoken to the media for several weeks since Racing's season unravelled with a 0-0 draw at Boca Juniors on Nov. 20. That result ended any hope Racing had of preventing Boca winning the Apertura championship they clinched two weeks later with two matches to spare.
The 42-year-old Simeone started having trouble with his squad before the Boca match when he dropped midfielder Patricio Toranzo for missing a training session yet put wayward striker Teofilo Gutierrez in the starting lineup even though he returned two days late from World Cup qualifying duty with Colombia.
A nervous Gutierrez did not help matters by getting himself sent off at Boca for barging the referee and demanding a penalty and he was suspended for two matches.
Racing went 15 matches unbeaten under Simeone, who took charge at the start of the championship in August, but lost two of their last four games and failed to qualify for the Copa Libertadores, South America's top club competition.
Lifelong Racing fan Simeone joined the club, where he ended his playing career and cut his teeth as coach in 2006, in June after steering Catania away from the relegation zone in Serie A.
Cogorno said he hoped to sign a new coach by the end of the year with ex-Argentina managers Alfio Basile, a former Racing player and coach, and Nestor Pekerman among the candidates.