There are specific moments that mark a soccer player and scenes that sting a hobby . On Sunday, around 22.40, in the Wanda Metropolitano, Thomas Lemar , under suspicion in Atlético for too long, was (perhaps definitely) without an alibi . He raised his head in a backlash and detected Vitolo on the other side, but Sergi Roberto intercepted his shipment . So far, everything more or less normal. But what came next contradicts much of what Simeone has tried to inoculate in the rojiblanco brain since that first training, on a crowded Vicente Calderón , in the twilight of 2011. No sign of sacrifice or effort after a lost ball. Moreover, Lemar trotted back and witnessed from the distance how Messi undressed Oblak. Only 12 minutes after his entry into the field to fill the vacancy left by Ángel Correa . Tiredness was not, much less, an excuse to justify his neglect .

That gesture of indifference of Lemar, with which Atlético died, reflects part of a problem that the team has been dragging for some time. «I see the same coach, but not the same players. Maybe, the message that came before doesn't reach some, ”said former red and white captain Gabi on Catalunya Radio. That message he refers to embodies a good handful of obligations that that old Simeone guard and some of those who still resist (Koke ​​or Saul, for example) internalized and took to the limit. After the first shipwreck in Turin , last March, in a sector of the athletic apparel there was the conviction that some of the young people, signed to evolve and lengthen the work of Simeone, had not bought with such faith that untouchable mantra that he raised to the team: «The effort is not negotiated» .

Precisely on the culmination of that play that portrayed Lemar, his friend Antoine Griezmann appeared . With other colors and submerged in a constant anger of which he stands, but there he walked. He never had the slightest problem running backwards. His automatic response to a loss was to relentlessly pursue the rival who had just taken out the colors. In the video library (or on YouTube) the first leg of the semifinals of Champions (2017 ) survives in the Bernabéu where they sacrificed more in their area than in others. Until he burst, after four years, that came to metabolize even Arda Turan .


"We must take into account the year of transition in which we are," recalled Simeone, prolonging a speech that started in June, when he described the season that appeared as the most complicated of the eight completed he has faced. In part, to face this transition with guarantees, Atlético paid 70 million to Monaco for Lemar in exchange for 70% of its pass, in the summer of 2018. After a year of alleged adaptation, it is today one of those indicated in these three Months and a half of course: 819 minutes, no goal and no assistance .

However, nothing like a goal to accelerate the maturation process of a team. So that a transition, far from being a trauma like the one the Atlético lives , is a simple journey forward. A part of the road traveled by Simeone, specifically five seasons, was sustained by the smell of Griezmann: 133 points in 257 games . Joao Felix , chosen to cover his emptiness, still has a few cooking matches left. Today, the team tries to evolve without the slightest trace of gunpowder: 16 goals in 15 LaLiga matches. In the last two games (Juve and Barça), he has finished 32 times and none reached his goal . The jam of ideas has been left behind, with a more recognizable and brave version, but the concretion of these new arguments, after the end of the Morata streak and the injury of Diego Costa , despite its state of permanent obfuscation before the rival goal , remains unresolved.

Koke , the Atlético captain, gave some of the keys in a recent talk with ELMUNDO. «You have to create a new Atlético that has that hunger from years ago. There are very good people who listen and want to learn. That is key ». And part of that learning forces to assume normally that message of sacrifice that on Sunday, in the fourth defeat of the course, left pointed at Lemar.

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