KEIR RADNEDGE in MILAN: Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone apologised to his club’s fans after the shootout defeat to neighbours Real in the UEFA Champions League Final here in the Stadio Meazza in San Siro.
Two years ago Simeone’s Atletico were losers against Real on the same tournament stage in Lisbon after extra time. This time, even more bitterly, they lost 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw over the two hours.
Atletico’s noisy travelling support will believe they deserved to win and were denied only by bad luck and two missed penalties – one by star forward Antoine Griezmann in normal time and then one by Juanfran in the shootout.
Simeone, asked to compare his feelings with his regrets in Lisbon, said: “I don’t know which defeat hurts more. One thing that really does hurt me though is to have seen the people who paid for their tickets and travel and were so excited to come here and support us.
“I feel a bit responsible that I wasn’t able to give them what they wanted.”
However the Argentinian was not prepared to indulge in self-pity, even a matter of minutes after the game.
He said: “The team who win are always the best and Real Madrid were better than us here because they won. We had the chance to be champions and we didn’t take it.”
Real scored in the opening exchanges through Sergio Ramos and Simeone acknowledged that “we started the game badly and didn’t get organised until around the 25th minute.”
He added: “In the second half we could have levelled quickly when we had a penalty and missed. They also could have scored again but we equalised [through Yannick Carrasco] and then it was very tiring for both teams in making all the efforts they both did to win the game.
“What’s clear is that no-one remembers losers. Losing two finals is a failure but we have to get over this and heal our wounds. You try to do your best, you get to two finals . . . and lose them both. It’s never easy but in my life I never had it easy.
“Two finals in three years is a marvellous achievement but of course I’m not happy with what I have achieved.
“I don’t believe in excuses. The team who won did so because they deserved to win but I feel proud of my players. They made enormous efforts not only in a very difficult final but also because we had to beat Barcelona and Bayern to get here. I love my players and they gave everything they have – as they always do in every game. Some had cramp – Filipe Luis, Koke – but the effort was tremendous.
“I said to them afterwards: ‘Don’t cry because you made an enormous effort to get this far and football is a question of destiny and today destiny wasn’t on our side.”
Simeone also hinted that, in reviewing events in Lisbon and Milan, he might reconsider his expected continuation as Atletico’s coach. His contract has a year to run.