Atletico Madrid's young coach
Diego Simeone will test his progress against hugely experienced
former boss Marcelo Bielsa when he takes on Athletic Bilbao in
next month's pupil-versus-master Europa League final.
Atletico swept aside Valencia with a 5-2 aggregate
semi-final victory on Thursday and will meet Bilbao in Bucharest
on May 9, after Bielsa's team edged out Portugal's Sporting in a
Former Argentina captain Simeone played the last 30 of his
106 international appearances during Bielsa's six-year run at
the helm between 1998 and 2004.
"We get to meet up again with Marcelo, with El Profe (the
professor)," Simeone told reporters.
"We have a great affection for each other. It will be a nice
final between friends but reaching the final was only the first
objective. We want to win."
Argentine Bielsa, nicknamed 'El Loco' (the madman), is
well-known for his love of attacking football, his philosophical
musings and as one of the influences on Barcelona coach Pep
Guardiola's style of play.
He led outsiders Chile to the last 16 of 2010 World Cup
finals in South Africa.
Brought in to coach Bilbao at the beginning of the season,
Bielsa has turned the north-coast club, who only field players
of Basque origin, into one of the most exciting teams in Europe.
They knocked out Manchester United on their way to the final
and have already booked a place in the King's Cup final where
they will meet Barcelona on May 25.
Simeone, who turns 42 on Saturday, was appointed to replace
Gregorio Manzano at Atletico in December and was treated as a
returning hero for his part in helping the club to win a league
and cup double as a player in 1996.
Relatively untested as a coach since starting out in 2006,
he had short spells with Argentina's River Plate and Racing
among others, and Catania in Italy before moving to La Liga.
Although more pragmatic in their style of play, Atletico are
the leading scorers in the Europa League this season with 30
goals and capable of the same kind of intensity as Bilbao on
They are level on points in La Liga with one win each in
their direct meetings.
Simeone's animated touchline presence is similar to Bielsa's
and he often looks as if he is about to lunge on to the pitch as
he might have done when he played as an uncompromising defensive
Against Valencia he did actually enter the field of play to
break up a mass scuffle when his player Tiago was sent off for
slapping Valencia's Roberto Soldado.
"I'm like this, very spontaneous," Simeone told reporters.
"I didn't want any more of my players sent off."
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