Football Features

Ranked: the top 10 Atletico Madrid players of the Simeone era

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:31, 29 December 2020

Diego Simeone has changed Atlético Madrid beyond recognition since returning in December 2011.

During a three-season spell in the mid-90s, Simeone, a tenacious midfielder if ever there was one, lit up the Vicente Calderón, subsequently becoming revered.

His second coming has yielded a period of unprecedented success. Now considered to be Spain’s third-biggest club, before Simeone they were on the outside looking in.

Atlético Madrid are not only mixing it with Barcelona and Real Madrid – who shared seven out of 10 European Cups between 2009 and 2018 – at home, but they’re lifting silverware in Europe.

Simeone, though, would be the last to attribute all this success down to himself. He’s not one of those managers, instead what they’ve managed has been teamwork to the nth degree.

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Everyone that has played for him share the same characteristics, so whittling it down to a top 10 hasn’t been easy. But we’ve tried. So read on for top 10 Atletico Madrid players of the Simeone era.

10. Tiago

Appearances under Simeone: 151

Titles won under Simeone: 2012 Europa League, 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga, 2014 Supercopa de España

The former Chelsea midfielder spent seven-and-a-half seasons at Atleti — two of those being on loan from Juventus — before hanging up his boots in 2017. For much of his time in Madrid, the 66-cap Portugal international held down a regular berth in Simeone’s engine room.

He’d chip in with 11 goals but would be renowned for seamlessly winning back possession and subsequent ball distribution.

9. Juanfran

Appearances under Simeone: 323

Titles won under Simeone: Europa League (2), UEFA Super Cup (2), 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga, 2014 Supercopa de España

There was a period when Juanfran genuinely challenged for the accolade of Europe’s best right-back. Although he never attained that status, the Spaniard was always there or thereabouts.

Juanfran finally called time on a lengthy Atletico spell in 2019, having spent the latter parts more as an influential presence behind the scenes than on the pitch.

8. Koke

Appearances under Simeone: 439

Titles won under Simeone: Europa League (2), UEFA Super Cup (2), 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga, 2014 Supercopa de España

A graduate of Atlético’s academy, Jorge Resurrección Merodio (aka Koke) has been a pivotal member of the first team since the day Simeone walked back into the club. A delicious passer of the ball, many saw him as Xavi’s spiritual heir, including the man himself who backed Koke to conduct Spain’s midfield for a decade.

7. Miranda

Appearances under Simeone: 157

Titles won under Simeone: 2012 Europa League, 2012 UEFA Super Cup, 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga, 2014 Supercopa de España

All great teams need a dependable central defender, Atleti had two exceptional examples in Simeone’s tenure, with Miranda — a colossus ball-playing centre-half — being one of them. He’s since moved on to Inter and now Jiangsu Suning, but there’s no escaping his best football in Europe came under the dark-suited Argentine.

6. Filipe Luis

Appearances under Simeone: 273

Titles won under Simeone: Europa League (2), UEFA Super Cup (2), 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga

Like Costa, Filipe Luis left Atleti to join Chelsea before returning. His full-back partnership with Juanfran was among the best out there during their championship-winning campaign in 2014. A marauding left-back, Luis joined Juanfran in departing Atletico in 2019, moving to Flamengo, but his part in Atletico’s recent history cannot be ignored.

5. Diego Costa

Appearances under Simeone: 176

Titles won under Simeone: 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga, Europa League (2)

What can you say about Diego Costa that hasn’t already been said. Across two different spells under Simeone, he’s scored 75 times and generated plenty of controversy along the way. His heart being on his sleeve – which has often got him into trouble – is, after all, shades of his manager.

After falling behind Luis Suarez and Joao Felix in the pecking order, Costa’s contract was recently ended at his own request with the Spain international now a free agent. Where will this controversial figure end up next?

4. Jan Oblak

Appearances under Simeone: 276

Titles won under Simeone: 2014 Supercopa de España, 2018 Europa League, 2018 UEFA Super Cup

Arguably the number one goalkeeper in Europe today. Atleti have enjoyed a fair share of great shot-stoppers down the years — including David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois — with Oblak the latest. His marshalling of their defence has enabled Simeone’s men to pick up a ridiculous amount of clean sheets, and with a mountain between the sticks, it’s regularly proving difficult to score past them. It won’t be too long before Oblak breaks into the top three.

3. Antoine Griezmann

Appearances under Simeone: 257

Titles won under Simeone: 2014 Supercopa de España, 2018 Europa League, 2018 UEFA Super Cup

Fans may not be happy with Griezmann after his frequent links away and eventual move to Barcelona, but Griezmann remains one of Simeone’s greats. No one has scored more under Simeone than Griezmann (133), in fact, he’s the only one to reach triple figures, and he was integral of Atletico’s successes during his time at the club.

2. Gabi

Appearances under Simeone: 329

Titles won under Simeone: Europa League (2), 2012 UEFA Super Cup, 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga, 2014 Supercopa de España

A leader you want in midfield. Gabi and Koke were the axis behind Atleti’s rise to being serious La Liga (and Champions League) contenders. His unwavering attitude earned him the role of Simeone’s avatar on the pitch, which he fulfilled superbly before leaving for pastures new.

1. Diego Godín

Appearances under Simeone: 344

Titles won under Simeone: Europa League (2), UEFA Super Cup (2), 2013 Copa del Rey, 2014 La Liga, 2014 Supercopa de España

Since arriving no fewer than four players have played 300+ games under Simeone with only Koke (439) making more appearances than Godin (342). The incredible Uruguayan central defender joined Inter Milan in 2019 and now turns out for Cagliari but leaves an impeccable legacy. No one defined Cholismo better than he did.