I’m as interested in a good game of football as you, but when Atletico Madrid’s comeback was stopped in its tracks late in the first half of last night’s Champions League semi-final, I was happy for some old friends.
Despite a complete lack of empathy for them, it is impossible to dispute that Atletico are an incredibly well run football club which has achieved beyond all reason for several seasons now. They won La Liga in 2014 against two of the finest teams ever assembled. This was achieved despite an exhausting run to the Champions League final, which they lost in extra time, after allowing a lead to slip away in the final moments of the regulation 90 minutes.
A year later their Champions League adventure ended at the quarter final stage, but they were back in the final in 2016, this time losing on penalties.
For any team this period should be remembered throughout their history with enormous pride, but there’s a sting in the tale for Atletico: it was neighbours and rivals, Real Madrid who eliminated them from the Champions League on each of these occasions.
Atletico have great players, an incredible manager, have humbled many of Europe’s finest clubs, but city rivalries are zero sum games. In years to come fans will largely look back on this era with frustration and regret.
Were it not for their fiercest rivals strength, Atletico would be part of the European Champions club, instead of being multi-times losers.
What I’ve admired most of Real during these seasons is their appetite to get the job done against a formidable opponent.
With six-in-a-row under our belt, this is a trait we’ll need. I know you think that this is easy, but human nature doesn’t work like that. If you want to be ruthless when merely efficient will do, you need to work at it.
This season there is every chance we’ll inch ahead of the record-breaking points total we achieved when we destroyed all before us in season 2003-04. 12 months later an appetite for success was the last observation evident on a field in Lanarkshire. The end of every great season is the time to up your game.
I’ve incredible respect for those who left Celtic Park early this morning bound for Lisbon on their bikes this morning, and for the others who will join them along the way, led by our very own Mouldy67. Read about them here.