In more than nine years at the helm of
Atlético de Madrid
, the Argentine coach Diego Pablo Simeone he had kept his 4-4-2 scheme non-negotiable with two pivots in the center of the field. Until this season, in which he has been champion of League with a single pivot, the captain Jorge ‘Koke’ Resurrection, the most offensive anchor midfielder of the ‘era Simeone‘.
Erected in the support of the team, Koke again unfurled its flag to celebrate a title, that of The league won in the José Zorrilla de Valladolid (1-2). “This flag has had a lot of history, it is the flag of luck. Very happy with the work we have done and with being champions ”, said the Vallecano, who celebrated his first title as captain of the rojiblanca squad.
Mario Suárez, Gabi Fernández, Tiago Mendes, Saúl Ñíguez, Thomas Partey, Rodrigo Hernández… Until now all the ‘5’ employed by Simeone in your stay in the Athletic They had been players with a much more defensive profile than the Vallecano midfielder, who during his career has played as an inside for the band or as a companion for the central midfielder.
However, something changed this season that ended in the league title won in the Jose Zorrilla from Valladolid (1-2). And not for lack of positional pivots: in addition to Saúl, the departure of the Ghanaian Thomas Partey It was supplied with guaranteed players like the Uruguayan L
ucas Torreira and later the French Geoffrey
Kondogbia. Even the mexican Hector
Herrera, more of a steering wheel than an interior, has played in that position. OR frames
Llorente, whose astonishing irruption almost makes one forget that he came to be that positional ‘5’.
Ahead of them all prevailed Koke. For the first time alone in that place, something that had not happened in his eleven previous seasons in the first team. Herrera’s injuries and the irregularity of Saul they forced him to assume the position alone, and the result was more than satisfactory.
So much so that with the Vallecano at the helm, Atlético chained that magnificent streak of eight consecutive victories between December and January that made them take up to eleven points ahead of the leadership. All of them with Koke as a pivot, escorted by frames
Llorente Y Thomas
Lemar as interiors with a clear offensive vocation. In that streak, only one game was lost, 1-2 in Eibar, due to the accumulation of yellow cards.
THE EVOLUTION OF KOKE
An unthinkable stability years ago, not only because of the change in scheme –Simeone He had only come out of 4-4-2 in the previous eight seasons in specific situations, when he had found a rival that used three centrals-, but because of the rojiblanco captain’s own trajectory.
The Vallecano midfielder, second player with the most games in the club’s history, having exceeded 500 games (he adds 502 and only has the historic Adelardo
Rodriguez, with 553), began playing as an inside on the right or left wing, depending on the needs of Simeone, which convinced him in 2012 not to leave for the Malaga.
In the band against the turkish Burn turan, was part of the team that won a Copa del Rey first and a League later, turned to the left wing. When the Turk went to the Barcelona, passed to the right side, but always willing to fill in gaps, also in the center accompanying the captain Gabi Fernandez.
But he was never nominated to be the central pivot of the rojiblanco team. To reinforce that position Simeone was chaining signings: the Argentines Matías Kranevitter and Augusto Fernández, Rodrigo, Llorente and this last season Torreira Y Kondogbia… In the end, they all ended up making room for Koke.
The Vallecano not only offers sacrifice in the center – he has been the player who travels the most kilometers of the team for years – but he also adds responsibility when it comes to wanting the ball to start the play, something that in other seasons was not superfluous in the Athletic, vision of the game and intelligence to understand what each moment requires.
His vocation more offensive than defensive is offset by the current scheme of the Athletic, which by having three centrals can take one off to help pressure the rival or assume greater risk to attempt a robbery, and with the commitment of Marcos Llorente, an ‘todocampista’ capable of stealing and destroying as well as of unmarking into space to score or assist.
Once this tendency to “occupy too many places” and do “more than you have to do” than Simeone acknowledged that he suffered last season, the Athletic he has found his anchor in the most offensive player of his midfielders.
An anchor that has allowed him to look forward and win the League, the eleventh of the club and the second of its captain, who claimed the role of the longest-running players in this team. “It seems that people get tired of them,” he said on Saturday in reference to his partner. Saúl Ñíguez, who has not had his best season and with whom he merged in a significant hug after confirming the title, while continuing to add successes and triumphs that bring him closer to the myth Adelardo.