Atletico Madrid defeated Chelsea 3-1 in a frantic Champions League semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge, and as Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone gave their post-match reactions to the waiting press, it was fairly apparent who was the happier of the two.
However, Mourinho was gracious in defeat. ESPN's Dermot Corrigan noted:
Mourinho: "Sometimes in CL finalists feel bad as best team not there, but this year Madrid better than Bayern & Atletico were better at end"— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 30, 2014
Even though Corrigan also noted a familiar reference:
Mourinho on Spanish TV: "I must have respect for the team which has eliminated me today." [note the 'me'...]— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 30, 2014
ESPN colleague Miguel Delaney detailed the Chelsea manager's words at how evenly matched he thought both teams were in the initial stages of the tie:
Mourinho: "I think in the first half, both teams were equal."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 30, 2014
And the Sunday Times' Duncan Castles wrote how Mourinho clearly didn't think Simeone needed European football's greatest prize in order to prove himself as one of the best:
It was clear that there was a mutual respect between the two. Simeone himself identified as much, reported by beIN Sports journalist Tancredi Palmeri:
Simeone to Mediaset: "What has Mourinho told me? I'll keep it for myself, something very beautiful"— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 30, 2014
Although the first Champions League final between two teams from the same city will represent a very tough hurdle to conquer for Simeone and his men, "El Cholo" remained confident, per Fox Soccer:
Simeone: For us, it’s been many years, so a new experience, but we will be very keen to play well.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) April 30, 2014
The Huffington Post's Samuel Luckhurst noted the pride Simeone felt at such a huge result:
Simeone: 'The lasting memory will be that, against a world-class opponent, we controlled the game in the second half.'— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) April 30, 2014
Luckhurst also mentioned a rather strange debt of thanks from the Atleti manager:
Simeone: 'I want to congratulate the mothers of these players, because they gave them big cojones.' #Atleti— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) April 30, 2014
The manager reserved special praise for his consistent and hard-working midfielder Koke, via Daniel Taylor of The Guardian:
The player Diego Simeone picked out afterwards: Koke. "He controlled the game all on his own," says Simeone.— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) April 30, 2014
And finished his press conference by noting via Gabriele Marcotti that he won't be thinking about the final just yet:
Simeone on Sky Italia: "How do we beat Real? I'm thinking about Levante right now..."— Gabriele Marcotti (@Marcotti) April 30, 2014
The defeat for Jose Mourinho will hit him hard. After his "specialists in failure" jibe towards Arsenal earlier in the season, many will most likely now remind him that unless there is a big turnaround again in the title race, he will have won nothing at all himself this season.
At the beginning of the campaign, such a scenario would see him leave the Blues by his own admission, per Matt Law of the Daily Mirror:
Of course, it is about winning trophies. My DNA didn’t change, my nature didn’t change. I am not the kind of person to be at the same club for three or four years without winning a trophy.
In this case, I don’t need the club to say ‘we are not happy with you, goodbye’. I will be the first one to say ‘I gave everything I could but I didn’t succeed, so let’s both go and try a different thing.
This is now the fourth time in a row that Mourinho has lost in the semi-finals of the Champions League, and it will be interesting to see whether he intends to follow through on his threat, or whether it was just another media nugget.
Diego Simeone's season at Atletico just gets better and better. Two wins away from winning the La Liga title for the first time in 18 years, one more will see Atleti claim a trophy they have never won.
The physical side of the game has never presented a problem for Simeone's charges, but he also allows his team to express themselves in a very modern take on the beautiful game.
Perhaps a new Special One resides at the Vicente Calderon.