This was a club in a constant state, a decade long-turmoil it seemed, of one crisis after another. It is not so long in the past that we can forget what the Gil family did to them. Countless coaches were hired and fired under former President Jesus Gil y Gil and the club suffered the indignity of relegation. It has been a long road, over 14 years since their last league victory to Real Madrid, but last night under Simeone's leadership the colchoneros did what I thought was impossible: they outplayed Real Madrid and it wasn't even close.
They stymied Isco and the supply lines he offers. They kept Cristiano from receiving the ball in space, Bale looked like a player who was never comfortable with the ball at his feet, and Benzema was nowhere to be found. At a desperate time with around 10 minutes left in regulation the three were no more than 10 yards from each other about 30 yards away from goal and they were all standing around fighting each other for the ball.
Now, the blow-back is coming. Being 5 points behind the league leaders in any league this early on is not that big a deal, but in Spain it could well be a death-note which explains the whistling by the Bernabeu crowd at Carlo Ancelotti. It's understandable considering who we're talking about, madridistas are fickle by nature, but it doesn't address the reason why they've dropped points: Madrid's best players don't know how to play together yet. Isco has been their best player at times but opponents have responded and are blanketing him. Cristiano is playing too deep and is doing too much across the pitch and Bale is going to take awhile to adjust to Spanish defenses. They will niggle at him all game; death by a thousand paper-cuts you could say.
You'll hear that Ancelotti is a cup-coach, not one to win leagues because of his past record in Italy, but that's a crock. Despite everything they have done over the last four years, making up ground in talent and execution against their hated rivals FC Barcelona, Real Madrid are once again in transition. They have lost some of their most important players over the summer and are still adjusting to the new signings and that's the fault quite frankly of Florentino Perez. It will take them awhile to make up the difference but it may be time they don't have. For Simeone's Atletico Madrid on the other hand, this might just be the sign that all of us neutrals have been waiting for: that real contender to split the hegemony of the La Liga powers.