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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Review: "Simeone: Partido A Partido" (Game to Game) by Diego Simeone

Image credit: Plataforma Actual.
This book is only available in Spanish at
the present time.

Diego Simeone, the manager of Atletico de Madrid, writes a detailed first person account of his management philosophies along with an analysis of the last few stellar seasons with Atleti.

Discussion Items:

1. Organized Format
2. Writing Style
3. Images and Diagrams
4. Conclusion
5. About the Author

"As his manager, I have to recognize that his way of being converted to become my best student on the pitch. It was as if I were playing and could direct the strategy of the team from the field of play. He had a sixth sense to know what to say to his teammates at any time, how to motivate them when they needed it and how to maintain the proper attitude in every situation."

--- Luis Aragones from the prologue on page 17.

"I experience football and life in an intense manner. I have a spectacular motivation when I have to do something. I go crazy. Something begins to run through my veins and gets me excited. If anyone tells me that I can't break a wall with my head, they are mistaken."

--- Diego Pablo Simeone, "Simeone: Partido A Partido. Si se cree, se puede," (Simeone: Game to Game. If you believe in yourself, you can.) page 51, published by Plataforma Actual of Barcelona, Spain, in October 2014 with a list price of 17 euro.

This book was a revision of one entitled, "El efecto Simeone," that was written by Santi Garcia Bustamante in 2013. It remains the only book authorized by Diego Simeone himself. This edition provides Simeone's insights about Alteti's break-out 2013/14 season that saw the Madrid club win La Liga and finish runner-up to Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Unlike the first version, this one is written in the first person by Simeone (although he was assisted by his chief press officer at Atletico de Madrid, Jose' Luis Pasques, with the three appendices according to the publisher).

Let's take a look at the contents of this intriguing look at Diego "Cholo" Simeone. I will translate a few key quotes from each chapter and the appendices, respectively.

1. Organized Format

There is a prologue by Luis Aragones (who managed Simeone at Valencia), six chapters, along with three lengthy appendices. There was no detailed index although the table of contents had sub-topics for each chapter to orient the reader. I believe that an index would have been helpful especially since the author discussed many topics.

This book is laden with highlighted quoted material from Simeone. Many of his key sayings are in boldface type and centered for emphasis which was a good editorial touch. I also liked that there was an entire chapter dedicated to Simeone's sayings.

Chapter 1: I believe in this.

"The group has to be with you. It has to believe you. If it doubts or doesn't trust you, obstacles begin to appear in your path." Page 25

 "When I reach a Cup final, my players already know what is going to be my headline quote: You don't play finals. You win them." Page 34

"I don't believe much in luck. I believe more in work, in convincing, in stubbornness and in capacity." Page 43

Chapter 2: Heart as a guide.

"When the game ends and the electronic scoreboard flashes, 'Champion,' the manager doesn't participate. Starting from this instant, the only protagonists are the players." Page 63

"I manage a team as if it were my family. From that feeling, everyone makes up a part of my team. From the club president to the groundsman. The most difficult thing is to make them all feel that they are an important part within the group. It's a difficult task. But if you achieve such a thing, it's easier for success to come." Page 67

Chapter 3: Managing Humane Teams.

One of Simeone's high intensity training sessions at Atletico de Madrid.

"The members of our group who are substitutes on the bench, or in the stands, are just as important as the starting XI. Titles are not won with only eleven players. The entire team wins them." Page 77

"A player who prefers to be comfortable at a small club where he is the big fish in a small pond will watch Cup finals on television." Page 83

"When we were going to play a game and the bus radio announced a goal by Diego Costa with Rayo Vallecano, the whole team celebrated as if he scored for us. It caught my eye because it's not a normal thing in football. It was strange that such a large group celebrated the goal of a former teammate in this way." Page 118

Translator's Note

Diego Costa was sent out on loan in 2011/2012 to Rayo Vallecano by his parent club, Atletico de Madrid.

Chapter 4: Life and Football

On Alfio "Coco" Basile:

"He was a great group motivator. He managed us with a tremendous clarity and the group believed in him."

On Daniel Passarella:

"He was my idol. As a manager, he was the type who could transmit things only with a look."

On Marcelo Bielsa:

"He knows how to get the most out of each player. When you've been in his team, you come away from it as another player. In training, he went over what could happen during games. He tried to take advantage of each part of daily work to improve the player. For him, daily training wasn't a mere formality just to pass the time."

On Carlos Bilardo:

"I learned competitive know-how from him. He is one of the managers who left his mark on me the most."

--- Quotes from pages 123 to 125.

Chapter 5: Diego Pablo Simeone. The "Cholo."

"The 'Cholo' nickname was given to me by a Velez Sarsfield youth coach, Oscar Nessi. He had a footballer at Boca Juniors named (Carmelo) Simeone who they called 'Cholo.' One day in training, he called me that and it stayed with me always." Page 135

Chapter 6: The Word of Simeone.

"Work, rest, thought."

This section had several neatly organized motivational quotes by Simeone that appeared in other parts of the book:

"You need to have fear in this sport. Fear gives you courage and makes you stay alert." Page 152


Copa del Rey 2012/13

  • Thank you to (@MichaelFranco84) who provided me with the Vine above.

"We proposed having a mixture of ballboys (for the Cup final vs. Real Madrid). Luckily, it could be done. For many it can seem like a strange thing; however, it's very important. Because the boy who sees that his team is winning, 1-0, will retrieve the ball slower. If all 12 are from that team, it's going to kill you. Now, if there are six of each, it's a more equitable thing. Because when the ball comes to our ballboy, he is going to play for us." Page 165

La Liga 2013/2014

"When they say I can't play with a 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, I think it's a lie. A footballer, when he wants and when he has people ahead of him who push him to feel secure in what he does, will respond to any system." Page 178

Champions League 2013/2014

"Not even a tear. This game doesn't deserve even a tear." Page 200

2. Writing Style

Diego Costa
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.
Diego Costa launched himself on the world football scene
 with his excellent work at Atletico de Madrid.

Simeone communicates in a concise, passionate, engaging and detailed style. He is very observant and curious about people along with what motivates them; however, he strongly believes in the team ethos. These traits contribute to his implementation of individual and group psychology techniques. For Simeone, it is his job to make the twenty-third player on his roster feel just as important as "el crack," or the club's top player. Given his trophy haul at Atletico de Madrid, few can argue with his methods.

One salient feature of this book was the author's emphasis upon verbal and non-verbal communication skills as a key driver in his management success. Simeone views the game itself and training sessions as continual teachers. He interprets his role mainly as a motivator, an integrator of the entire playing roster and a visible hands-on leader who uses few but well-chosen words at opportune times. Simeone is demanding. Not all footballers can play for him or flourish in his system.

Diego Simeone is a footballing version of the modern MBA graduate: Someone who understands textbook theories and puts management principles into more realistic action. In a complementary fashion, like old-style football managers, he prefers a more traditional type of player who doesn't require constant coddling, avoids excessive media attention and is self-motivated to improve.

3. Images and Diagrams

Signing copies of his book during a contest.

There were no schematic diagrams; however, Simeone included a few photographs from his childhood and playing career. My favorite image was one of a young Diego conducting a school orchestra in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Even at that precocious age, he was a leader.

4. Conclusion

Diego Simeone has written an excellent first person account that provides us with a deep look into "Cholo" the man and football manager. He is passionate about his work and has placed Atletico de Madrid on a global stage in a few short years. Most of all, he is one of those rare leaders who holds himself fully accountable for failures and credits his players for successes. It was a great pleasure to read and review this book.

5. About the Author

Diego Pablo Simeone was born in Buenos Aires in 1970. After a successful professional football career in Argentina, Spain and Italy, and with 106 caps for Argentina, he began his management career in 2006. His philosophy which is based on effort, motivation and sincerity has allowed him to significantly improve the teams he has managed in an extraordinary manner. Atletico Madrid is the best example.

Biographical text courtesy of Plataforma Actual with my translation from the original Spanish.

Please Note

I have received a complimentary review copy from a representative of the publisher, Plataforma Actual. I was not financially compensated by a representative of the authors, publisher or any other party who would benefit from a positive review.

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. 

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