Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has admitted that he does not regret playing Diego Costa in the 2014 Champions League final against Real Madrid, despite the Spain striker not being at full fitness.
Costa, who had been the club’s talisman that season as Atleti went on to lift the Liga title before reaching the final in Lisbon, played just nine minutes of the showpiece event before having to be replaced through injury.
Simeone’s side suffered an agonising extra-time defeat at the Estadio da Luz, but doesn’t think he made a mistake in fielding the striker.
Speaking to AS, the Argentine said: “If I had it all over again, he'd play the final from the start again. How could our best player not play?
“I said: "If this lad can give me 45 minutes in the Champions League final..." It's Diego Costa! It's like [Leo] Messi being at 50% and not playing for Barça in the Champions League final. For us, Diego Costa was our Messi.”
Atletico Madrid's Brazilian-born forward Diego da Silva Costa (R) leaves the pitch during the UEFA Champions League Final Real Madrid vs Atletico de Madrid at Luz stadium in Lisbon, on May 24, 2014.
Image credit: AFP
Simeone guided Atleti to the final again two years later but his side suffered the same fate, going down once again to their arch rivals Real in Milan.
So what does he think his club needs to do to join the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the very top of the game?
“To be honest, I don't think it's possible,” he added.
“You've named three clubs that are different to the rest, particularly because of the footballers they have. After that, the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea have a lot of money, but they can't catch up with them either.
Sergio Ramos - Atlético Madrid-Real Madrid - Champions League 2015/2016 - LaPresse
Image credit: Eurosport
“Don't ask me exactly how, but their history sets them apart as more powerful in every area. To contemplate getting to that level, we'd need years more of what's happening to us now.
“Atlético have the 15th highest budget in Europe but compete in footballing terms. And it hasn't been enough to win the Champions League.”