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Atlético: the triumph of hard work

AS AS 18/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

They didn’t present the league trophy in the Camp Nou, and maybe that was a shame, but Atlético won the Liga. I can confirm it; I was there. They did it as they’ve done everything this year. Working damn hard, keeping the faith, overcoming difficulties. In a life or death game, in Barça’s neck of the woods, against Messi, Iniesta, then Xavi, Neymar... They did it with Diego Costa injured after 20 minutes, with Arda going off just after. They did it coming back from an Alexis wonder-strike, who scored the goal of his life from a piece of play that appeared to be going nowhere. They did it with yet another Villa shot hitting the post.

There’s something in this victory to cheer everybody. Atleti fans the most, of course, but also for most Real Madrid fans. And for most football lovers across Spain. Even fans of Barcelona will respect Atleti for this title, despite their disappointment at seeing, again, the impotence of their own team, who finish the year with nothing. Barça kept being allowed back into the fight for the league, and they spurned every chance. The final opportunity was yesterday, when their attacking play seemed to come only from Alves and his continual crosses into the box. No, this isn’t the Barça we knew, they’ve been changed.

And Atleti have changed as well, of course. But much for the better. They’ve struggled to the title with few players, three of whom are cast-offs from the big clubs and with an on-loan keeper. The rest are sensible signings rather than wasteful ones. No ‘super-stars’ here. Teamwork, football, hard-work... that’s what Atleti are made of. I thought Willy Caballero’s hand had denied them the Liga. I thought Alexis’ shot had taken their dream from them. But no, this was their Liga, because they deserved it and football needed them to win it. It’s important to believe in what this Atlético stands for.

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