Diego Simeone: Atletico can be proud
Diego Simeone told his players to keep their heads up after Atletico Madrid fell just minutes short of winning the Champions League, saying, "We know we've given it our all."
Los Rojiblancos led for nearly an hour after Diego Godin opened the scoring in the 36th minute, but Sergio Ramos scored on a header in stoppage time to equalise. Real Madrid went on to win 4-1 in extra time, but Simeone said Atletico played a match of which they can be proud.
"You have to look at it overall," Simeone said. "Madrid were better in the second half, they kept us in our half and we couldn't get out. Football is wonderful because of that. People say that winning is the most important thing, but the support we've had from people tells you there's another side to it. I told my players that, when you've played as well as they did tonight, to keep their heads up and start thinking about next season.
"You can lose or you can win -- this time it's our turn to lose and we know we've given it our all. People responded to what the team have done and that allows us to grow further and continue to compete.
"It's not sadness, it's bitterness. I feel bitter that I didn't reach our objective. I wish I could have won the way I wanted, but I couldn't -- though I can overcome this. I know that, once you've given your all, there's other players and another match. In life, and in football, you've got everything one day, then you've got nothing the next -- you have to keep going.
Atletico captain Tiago agreed that his teammates delivered to the best of their abilities.
"We gave everything and at the end we had no more strength left," Tiago said. "We gave it all but we are sad because we had it so close. All we can do is be thankful and we will keep it alive for our club. I am proud of our team "
Simeone gave a start to striker Diego Costa, who was managing a recent slight tear to a hamstring. Costa only lasted nine minutes before he had to be replaced, using a valuable substitute that Atletico could have used to kill off the game. The Argentine manager owned up to his decision.
"It was my responsibility to have [Diego Costa] play and obviously I made a mistake because I had to switch him as early as I did; obviously he wasn't as good as he had been the day before," Simeone said. "That was my decision to make. We looked at each other, we caught each other's eye, and we didn't want to waste part of the game with one less player."
Atletico can take solace in the knowledge that they won't end the season empty-handed, having already bested Real and Barcelona for the title in La Liga.
"The supporters should be proud of an excellent season, they shouldn't waste a single second being sad," Simeone said. "Once you've given your all, you can't go around licking your wounds -- you have to come back and compete next season, go around annoying other teams and being pests next year too.
"Now we'll do the same thing we always do. On Monday we'll start preparing for next season, see who's coming in and who's leaving and see the options for new players. Once we've done the work with the club's sporting management, we'll have a break with our families, watch the World Cup and then excitedly begin again."