Photography by Sergio Cueto

Diego Simeone

Player, Argentina, 1988-2002

“Messi is undoubtedly the best player in the world”

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone, the victim when David Beckham was sent off for England against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup, was the first footballer to win 100 caps for his country. In this exclusive piece with The Coaches’ Voice, he speaks about the feeling playing for his country gave him, his hopes for Argentina at the 2018 World Cup, and the importance of Lionel Messi to their chances.

“Representing Argentina is a feeling, a place where as a kid you dream to be. At that time, [for me] to get to 100 caps wasn’t easy because you played fewer matches, and only continuity over so many years in the national team meant I reached that number. It was wonderful. People would always say, they would always ask: “But aren’t you tired of playing with your club and with the national team?”

I’d say: “The national team gives me a boost. It lifts me up, because defending your country gives you adrenaline. You are going to play alongside your own people.” I lived that so passionately that when I get asked if I want to play again… the truth is that I gave all I had, I didn’t keep anything back. And that gives me peace of mind.

As a fan, my expectations [for this World Cup] are the best, because these lads have been close to winning for so long that at some point something has to go their way. I watch the Germans a lot, and it’s no coincidence, especially when it comes to the German national team, they are always there: semi finals, quarter finals, they win, then they lose the final…

I think that’s the most important thing you can give a team, and Argentina is now in that phase of having lost a World Cup final, two in the Copa America – both on penalties, if I am not mistaken. But it’s coming.

I hope they can draw strength from all those experiences. They understand there is something in the good as well as in the bad [experiences], and they play with a calm that comes with age and with the wisdom that comes from where each of them now is in their careers.

Messi is undoubtedly the best footballer in the world, capable of inspiring the team to the extent that, if they are maybe not having a good day, they end up having the best day. Seeing him, their enthusiasm grows, and this is closely tied up with emotions.

Within the national team, he’s the determining factor. He’s key, he controls the pace, he directs above all the team’s attack. And he knows all the players who will end up playing with him. Like it or not, this is an important thing for everything that they are going to have to face.”

Diego Simeone

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