Atletico Madrid’s film producer president Enrique Cerezo says if the story of his club’s season was submitted to him he would probably dismiss it as too incredible.
“I don’t know if I would believe the script. We would have to call it A Team For Eternity, with Burt Lancaster as Diego Simeone,” said the man whose Spanish production company has been making feature films for the last 15 years.
Cerezo’s company also produces the series of commercials designed to sell season tickets that the club releases at the start of every season. The most famous has a small boy asking his dad: “Papa, why do we support Atletico?” It plays on the club’s reputation as unlucky underdogs, forever in the shadow of Real Madrid.
That underdog theme has been picked up on this week by the former Chelsea midfielder Tiago, one of a number of free transfers in a team put together for a fifth of the cost of Real’s.
“Of course Real Madrid is the bigger team,” said Tiago. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They bought Gareth Bale, they bought Cristiano Ronaldo before that, they have spent a lot of money every year and they are obsessed with winning La Decima [their 10th European Cup or Champions League title].
“Their team was assembled to win big trophies; we were just put together to battle in every game and that is what will do in the final. We have won the league and now we have the opportunity to win the Champions League.”
President Cerezo echoed Tiago’s sentiments. “We have a budget appropriate for our circumstances and yet we find ourselves in the final of the Champions League and having just beaten two of best teams in the world to win the league title,” he said.
“But we have a great leader. The players will follow Simeone wherever he leads them. He is a magnificent coach capable of transmitting his beliefs on to the team and they play with his personality.”
The Atletico coach also knows how best to use the ‘underdog’ tag. “The two clubs could not be more different,” he said. “But everyone uses the means they have at their disposal. It’s a great rivalry.”
The Argentinian coach, who won silverware with Lazio in Italy and the double with Atletico as a player, but never fared well in the European Cup, is still deliberating who will replace Diego Costa if the Spain international does not pass a late test. The striker trained with the squad last night, but Diego Ribas could be brought into a five-man midfield behind David Villa.
The man who got the goal at the Nou Camp that helped see Atletico past Barcelona in the quarter-finals says he hopes the absence of Xabi Alonso will help swing the balance of tonight’s Champions League final the underdogs’ way.
“He’s a very important player and, although they will still be strong without him, even a team with as many options as Madrid will miss a player of his quality,” Diego Ribas said.
Real Madrid’s coach, Carlo Ancelotti, is still undecided whether to field the inexperienced 24-year-old Asier Illarramendi in Alonso’s place or Sami Khedira, who has barely played since undergoing knee surgery last November.