Arrigo Sacchi called Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid ‘boring’ and said the Spanish club should have spent the money to change their style of play.
Atleti have become famous for their organized defensive setups in their 11 years under Simeone, and those tactics were on full display again in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City.
Simeone’s side failed to collect a single shot in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals, making them the first team to do so in the competition since APOEL v Real Madrid in March 2012.
Indeed, since this data was first recorded in 2003-04, there have only been four instances where a team has failed to register at least one shot in a single game.
Simeone’s tactics have led to plenty of success over the past decade, however, with Atleti lifting eight trophies – including last season’s La Liga – while reaching the Champions League final twice.
While Sacchi respects what the Argentine has achieved, the coaching legend can’t accept Atleti’s style of play.
“Simeone has achieved many results in recent years,” Sacchi, who coached Atleti during a brief stint in 1998-99, told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“There is no doubt that his experience as a player in Italy influenced him as a coach.
“First of all, don’t concede and then let’s see what happens, let’s rely on the talent of some individuals and hope for the best.
“It’s true that Atletico have quality elements, but instead of buying players and spending a lot of money, they should have spent money to change their style.
“Let’s face it: this way of playing is boring for the public. Fans ask for beauty, they ask for emotions. What emotion can there be in a long ball?
Atleti have averaged 50% possession in La Liga this season, which is outside the top 40 among teams in Europe’s top five leagues.
For comparison, Man City lead this metric with 68% of the ball per game on average in the Premier League, followed by Atleti’s domestic rivals Barcelona (65%).
Atleti’s 11,033 assists in the Spanish top flight this season are only eighth, putting them behind Real Sociedad (11,204) and Celta Vigo (11,653).
Despite his reservations about the way Atleti are coached, Sacchi acknowledged Simeone’s men still have a good chance of beating City in next week’s return leg at home.
“We have to be honest, the draw between the Spaniards and City is still open. Anything can happen in the second leg,” he said.
“Atletico haven’t had a single shot on goal, it’s true, but it’s not like City have many. Apart [Kevin] De Bruyne’s goal, which was magnificent in its construction and execution, I don’t remember many chances to score.
“It was a challenge for them, so it wasn’t fun. Atletico didn’t want to play football, but City had a duty to do something more to overcome the wall.”