The former Chelsea midfielder Deco has compared Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid to his FC Porto team that so unexpectedly won the trophy in 2004.
Atletico play Real Madrid in tonight’s final in Lisbon with their manager, Diego Simeone, having drawn comparisons with Jose Mourinho, who guided the Portuguese club to that success 10 years ago.
There are also similarities in the manner that both clubs have defied football’s economic realities to progress so far. With an annual revenue that is just 21 per cent of Real Madrid’s, Atletico would be financially the weakest club to win the Champions League since Porto in 2004.
Deco was the playmaker in that Mourinho team, and has been struck by many common qualities between the two sides. “The mentality is important,” said Deco, the MasterCard Official Player Mascot Manager for the final. “In [the Porto team of 2004] and Atletico Madrid, the teams are the face of the coach, the spirit of the coach.
“After 10 years, I think they are similar. They both are big clubs but are not like [Real] Madrid or Barcelona, but they built a strong team, with young coaches and fantastic players. [Other clubs] take the important players but they are able to get young players [to keep improving].”
Deco also noticed similar moments when both teams finally believed they could go all the way, comparing Atletico’s win over Chelsea in the semi-finals to Porto’s famous elimination of Manchester United 10 years ago. “Atletico were playing well but, when the season starts, you don’t know if it’s possible to continue. After the first few months they were still playing well. When they beat Chelsea in Stamford Bridge and Valencia in the league, you could see it’s possible.”
Comparing the Chelsea result to Porto beating United in the round of 16 a decade ago, he said: “That game was fantastic. We were playing well, better than Man U but, when we went there, we were losing 1-0 and at that moment going out. When we got the goal and went through, we started to believe it was possible to win the Champions League.
“We knew what we could do. We won the Uefa Cup the season before and won it playing very well but the Champions League is different. We knew we had a chance.”
Deco was also part of the Chelsea team that won a 2009-10 league and FA Cup double under Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian can today become the first manager since Bob Paisley to win three European Cups. Deco puts that down to his man-management, which is key for a club like Real.
“He knows how to train big stars, the teams with fantastic players, the players that won many things, I think he managed very well things like that,” he said. “It’s important in such moments. He’s very calm, knows exactly what needs to be done on the pitch, shows exactly what the players need to do. He’s tactically very good.”