Fernando Torres and Diego Simeone were embroiled in a bitter feud during the striker’s emotional second spell at Atletico Madrid that rocked the club to its very core.
Torres’ return to Atletico in 2015 was actually orchestrated by Simeone. The pair were team-mates in ‘El Nino’s’ first spell at the club between 2003 and 2005 and there was hope he could offer his old pal something different up front.
But it wasn’t long before an uncomfortable situation between Torres and Simeone began to develop in the Spanish capital.
Fernando Torres has spoken about his feud with Diego Simeone in his new biographical film
Simeone was the man behind bringing Torres back but their relationship quickly went downhill
Torres was given an increasingly reduced role by Simeone after his first season back
The first signs of their relationship fraying came when Torres was cast a supporting role for the 2016-17 season – despite netting 12 times the previous term and finishing the LaLiga campaign with six goals in eight games.
From that point on, things only got worse as Torres continued to play fewer and fewer games while Simeone began to criticise him publicly.
During one press conference, the Atletico boss said: ‘It’s the same with all strikers, he doesn’t score, he doesn’t talk to anybody and they criticise him.
‘Kevin Gameiro doesn’t score enough and they criticise him, Fernando doesn’t score enough but he’s the team idol, he’s got a lot of fans no doubt about it and that’s how he gets by.’
In the new Amazon Prime documentary Fernando Torres: The Last Symbol, their fractious relationship is laid bare.
Reflecting on his time at Atletico with Simeone, Torres said: ‘I don’t think he ever saw me as his starting striker. For me the most important thing was that I was where I was supposed to be. I wasn’t too worried about the conditions.
He was adored by Atletico fans, having scored a glut of goals for his boyhood club in first spell
Things came to a head when Simeone started to criticise Torres in his press conferences
‘What I felt was a great responsibility to the fans. I never asked Simeone for any kind of explanation because I know how he is. I don’t know if it was something personal or professional or a bit of both.
‘I understand it can get complicated for a manager to manage the return of a player like me. But at some point everything just came to a head. It just blew up.
‘I could accept that reality that maybe I wasn’t up to starting 40 matches of the season as the starting striker but I could never understand how he wouldn’t even have me sitting on the bench for games.’
Torres’ friend and personal advisor Antonio Sanz admitted he encouraged the striker to leave after Atletico lost the 2016 Champions League final.
Sanz said: ‘I asked him why don’t we leave? I don’t want to see you suffer anymore and he said: “There’s no way I’m leaving now”.
‘We came to an agreement with the club and the contract is drawn out, they change the coach with the approval of the owner, and Fernando is totally on board and he stays. Fernando became the substitute. He’d been the great No 9 for the latter part of the 2015-16 season, he scored goals but he was rewarded with the bench.’
The forward initially played an important role for Atletico but soon fell out of favour
Torres said he never asked Simeone for an explanation but felt that it might have been personal
Torres (second left) and Simeone (left) were team-mates at Atletico between 2003 and 2005
Former AS director Alfredo Relano even suggested that Simeone didn’t play Torres because he was ‘a bit jealous’ and never accepted him because he was so adored by Atletico fans, having written his name into the club’s folklore during the prolific early years of his career.
Torres stayed at Atletico for another season but agreed to leave at the end of the 2017-18 campaign after owner Miguel Angel Gil Marin called a meeting at his house with him and Simeone in a bid to resolve the situation.
‘In the end, because he wasn’t playing consistently that might have damaged his relationship with Diego Simeone,’ Marin said. ‘So I invited them both over to my house and we agreed that it was best for all three of us to take some time apart.’
‘Well that was not quite how that meeting went. That meeting was called because Simeone gave a terrible press conference,’ Torres said.
‘He was asked if he wanted to keep me for another season and he said no. It was the first time he gave an unfortunate answer and created a situation that was awkward for the fans. I just went to that meeting to listen because I understood he might be ready to offer an apology or an explanation but that’s not what happened.’
Simeone appeared in the documentary and said he only ever did what was best for the team
Torres agreed he’d leave his boyhood club at the end of the 2017-18 season after a meeting
Simeone has always maintained that he has no regrets with how he dealt with Torres and only ever acted in a manner which was best for the team.
Speaking on the documentary, he said: ‘The club idol creates a lot of expectation, a lot media attention, a lot of media attention, but as coaches we have to juggle that with what is best for the team.
‘It was a very sincere and honest conversation we had together. We had the opportunity to give each other a hug because he was very sincere with me and I was sincere when it came to my thoughts about him.
‘So after that we got to a place where we can now look at each other and talk because nobody held back. We were very direct, we had to be.’
Torres, who has now retired from football, insisted that there is no animosity between them, adding: ‘Simeone was my mate. He was my idol, then my team-mate and then my manager, I understand that must have been an awkward situation for him.’
The documentary launches on Amazon Prime Video in Spain and the UK on 18th September
Trailer available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB4PWNyZxiM&feature=youtu.be