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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Diego Pablo Simeone

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Diego Pablo Simeone Gonzalez was born on April 28, 1970, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is nicknamed "El Cholo" (from Atztec Xoloitzcuintli meaning mixed race).


He started his career with Velez Sarsfield and made his debut in 1987 at 17. He played 76 games over three seasons and scored 14 goals for "El Fortin" (The Fort).


In 1990 he was brought to Europe by Romeo Anconetani's Pisa in the Italian Serie A. The Tuscans were not new to discovering young talents and over the years bought several promising players (Dunga, Wim Kieft, Klaus Berggren, José Chamot, Henrik Larsen to name a few). He stayed two seasons in Pisa, the first in Serie A and the second in Serie B. He played a total of 62 games and scored 6 goals. His 4 strikes in Serie A came against Lecce, Juventus, Genoa and Juventus again. This habit of scoring against the "Zebra's" would later prove crucial to Lazio's history.


In 1992 he moved to Sevilla in the Spanish Liga. He stayed two seasons playing 64 games with 12 goals.


In 1994 he remained in Spain but moved to Atletico Madrid. It was a successful period for the " Colchoneros" (The Mattress Makers) and they won the Liga-Copa del Rey double in 1996. Simeone played 123 games with 28 goals over three seasons, in this that would be his first spell with "Atleti".


In 1997 he returned to Italy and Serie A, joining Inter. He played two seasons appearing 57 games in the league (7 goals), 10 in Coppa Italia,18 in Europe (9 in UCL and 9 in CU). He won the UEFA Cup in 1998, beating Lazio 3-0 in Paris.


In 1999 he joined Lazio. He teamed up with Matias Almeyda, Pavel Nedved, Dejan Stankovic, Sergio Conceição and Juan Sebastian Veron to form a formidable midfield under Sven-Goran Eriksson. In his first year he played 28 league games with 5 goals (Juventus, Piacenza, Venezia, Bologna and Reggina), 7 in Coppa Italia with 2 goals (Juventus, Inter), 11 in the Champions League and 1 in the Italian Supercoppa. He played a major role in Lazio winning their historic second scudetto. He scored decisive goals especially the winner away to Juventus and his charisma and determination helped Lazio never give up even when all seemed lost. Lazio also won the Coppa Italia (Simeone scored important goals both in the semi-final and in the first leg of the final) and the European Super Cup (1-0 against Manchester United in Monte Carlo). They also had a good run in Champions League reaching the quarter finals (Valencia 3-5 on aggregate).


In his second year he played 30 league games with 2 goals (Perugia, Vicenza), 2 in Coppa Italia, 8 in Champions League with 1 goal (Sparta Prague) and 1 game in the Italian Supercoppa. It was not as triumphant a season for Lazio and Eriksson resigned in February, after a series of negative results and it came out he had agreed to become the England manager from the following season. Lazio had a good team though coming third and also winning the Italian Supercoppa (Inter 4-3).


In 2001-02, under Dino Zoff and then Alberto Zaccheroni, Simeone played less due to injury with only 8 league games and 1 goal (ironically against former club Inter, contributing to the Nerazzurri's May 5th fiasco) plus another 5 games in the Champions League. Lazio finished 6th, qualifying for the UEFA Cup.


In 2002-03 Lazio were in financial difficulty but had a good season. Under manager Roberto Mancini they came 4th, qualifying for the Champions League, and reaching the semi final of the UEFA Cup. Simeone played 24 League games with 7 goals (Chievo, Torino, Como, Chievo, Piacenza, Torino, Empoli), 4 in Coppa Italia and 7 in the UEFA Cup. This was to be his last season at Lazio.


In 2003 he returned to Atletico Madrid for a second stint. He stayed one and a half seasons playing 36 league games (2 goals), 5 in Copa del Rey and 6 in the Intertoto Cup.


In January 2005 he returned to Argentina and joined Racing Club de Avellaneda. He played one and a half seasons playing 37 league games and scoring 3 goals.


At 36 "El Cholo" called it a day and retired after an excellent career.


At International level he played 106 games for the "Albiceleste" and scored 11 goals (Saudi Arabia, Paraguay, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Slovakia, Chile, Poland, Venezuela, Perú, Ecuador). He is the sixth most capped Argentine. He played in three world cups (USA '94, France '98 and Japan-South Korea 2002). He won the Copa America in Chile 1991 and Ecuador 1993. He won the Confederations Cup in 1993 and earned a silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.


After retiring Simeone became a manager, taking over at Racing Club on February 6, 2006. In a Lazio connection he chose Matias Almeyda as his assistant. He then moved to Estudiantes where he won the Apertura 2006 for "Los Pincharratas" (The Rat Stabbers), after a 23 year long wait. He left Estudiantes in January 2007. In January 2008 he became manager of River Plate and won the Clausura title after five years. In the following Apertura, after a series of poor results, he resigned on November 8, 2008. He then spent a year at San Lorenzo de Almagro (Pope Francis' team).


On January 19 he returned to Italy and took charge of struggling Catania in Serie A. He managed to lead the "Etnei" to safety, winning the derby against Palermo 4-0 and in the penultimate match beating Roma in the last minute, denying the "Giallorossi" a Champions League preliminary slot. Catania finished 13th with a record number of points.


He then returned to Racing Club obtaining a good second place but resigning after only six months due to disagreements with the club owners.


And so started his third Atletico Madrid adventure but this time as manager. Simeone is still there so it is safe to say he has been successful. He has won 2 Ligas (2014 and 2021), 1 Copa del Rey (2013), 1 Spanish Supercup (2014), 2 UEFA Europa Leagues (2012 and 2018), 2 UEFA Super Cups (2012 and 2018). He and Atletico Madrid have come agonizingly close to winning the Champions League (In 2014 losing to Real Madrid who equalised in injury time and then won 4-1 and in 2016 losing on penalties to Bayern Munich). Simeone has been voted Manager of the Year three times in Spain (2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-16) and Manager of the Decade in 2020 by IFFHS.

A great playing career followed by an equally good managerial one. The term "Cholismo" has been coined for Simeone's team's style of play and attitude. This philosophy is based on defensive solidity, a rapidity in both transitions, detailed tactical organisation, pragmatism, aggression and a fierce desire to win. The latter two will come as no surprise to those who saw him as a player. At the heart of Cholismo is the quote "Effort is non-negotiable" and his teams are incredibly hard working, each player sacrificing himself for the greater good of the team. His system at its best seems almost unbreakable. It has served him well so far.


As a player Simeone was a solid, tenacious, hard-working midfielder, a complete two-way player, who could defend and attack. He was dynamic, mobile and able in both winning possession and starting attacking moves. He was usually used as a central midfielder in a box to box role. He was good in the air and had well timed runs into the opponent's area accounting for his high scoring rate. He definitely possessed leadership qualities. He was a perfect mix of strength, stamina, technique and "garra" (fighting spirit). He once described his style as "holding a knife between his teeth".


For all these reasons at Lazio he was revered and still is. He is considered one of the mainstays of the 2000 Scudetto. His 4 goals in the last 4 games kept Lazio fighting when some would have given up. His "grinta" (grit) combined with his technical skills made him a fan favourite. His personalized chant was one of the most popular in his Roman days. In fact the fans still sing his name out, in memory of the glory days, but also in the hope/ dream that Simeone can one day return as manager. Whether he does or not will be irrelevant to his player status at Lazio; absolute legend.


Lazio career

Season

Total games (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

UEFA Cup

UEFA Super Cup

Super Coppa

1999-00

33 (8)

28 (5)

7 (2)

11

-

1

-

2000-01

41 (3)

30 (2)

2

8 (1)

-

-

1

2001-02

13 (1)

8 (1)

-

5

-

-

-

2002-03

35 (7)

24 (7)

4

-

7

-

-

Total

136 (18)

90 (15)

13 (2)

24 (1)

7

1

1

Source


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