Diego Simeone says Diego Costa returned to Atletico Madrid to exert a decisive impact on big matches, and hailed the importance of the striker’s “rage” in helping the team reach the Europa League final at the expense of Arsenal.
Costa, who re-joined Atleti from Chelsea this season, scored the only goal of a 1-0 victory in the second leg of the semi-final at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday, the result setting up a decider against Marseille in Lyon on May 16.
The Brazil-born Spain international helped Chelsea to win the Premier League title in 2016-17, but fell out with manager Antonio Conte amid rumours of interest from Chinese Super League clubs.
And Simeone knows the combative 29-year-old, who was unable to play until January as the Rojiblancos served a FIFA-imposed registration ban, thrives under the pressure of playing in high-stakes matches.
“Costa came for this, to be important for the team in games like this,” Simeone said.
“The team needed a forward with his rage, his intensity, the mistakes he provokes in opponents. Along with the other forwards we have, that was very important.”
Simeone was banned from the touchline for the second leg after being sent to the stands during the first meeting with the Gunners at Emirates Stadium last week.
The former Argentina international, though, trusted his staff to get the job done in his absence.
“I’m the visible head of a group who have worked here in an extraordinary way for six years, many people working every day so things go in a positive way,” Simeone said.
“There is a loyalty here that is very difficult to find.
“The club count on us and we keep giving our best. Now we need to look at Espanyol, our game on Sunday, and stay second in La Liga, which is very important for us.
“This was an important step tonight, but obviously hoping for something better to come.
“Marseille are a difficult team, they came through a difficult game tonight, for sure it will be a great final.
“This is a big step, but the most important one is still to come… And we are really looking forward to that.”