THERE was something incredibly satisfying about seeing Diego Simeone implode at the end of last Saturday’s Champions League final.
The Atletico Madrid manager had plenty to be upset about after seeing victory clawed out of his grasp in stoppage time as Real’s Sergio Ramos headed home a 92nd-minute equaliser.
For their closest rivals to then twist the knife three more times, with goals from Gareth Bale, Marcello and Cristiano Ronaldo in the extra period, was just too much for the Argentine boss to bear as he stormed on to the pitch to confront his demons.
Real’s Raphael Varane lit the blue touch paper by passing the ball in his general direction and Simeone was off, marching on to confront the young defender before venting his spleen at the officials.
The outburst earned the former international midfielder a rap from UEFA and a valuable lesson – that what goes around, comes around.
As I saw the red mist of rage and disappointment descend over him, I couldn’t help think back to that infamous night in St Etienne as England took on Argentina in the second round of the 1998 World Cup.
The self-same Simeone earned David Beckham an early bath that night as, with the score delicately poised at 2-2, the Argentine captain went down like a giant redwood after a gentle flick of the Manchester United midfielder’s right boot brushed his ankle. Back when I naively believed England had a good chance of winning the World Cup, I remember acting in a similarly petulant manner at the sight of referee Kim Milton Nielson brandishing the red card in Beckham’s direction.
It was clear to me the Three Lions’ chances would head south along with his marching orders.
And all I remember as the young England star trudged off was the nodding appreciation from Gabriel Batistuta for his captain’s job well done. While Simeone may have regarded his over-exaggerated reaction as gamesmanship, in my mind it was cheating. He later advised Beckham to show more constraint as the South Americans went on to win on penalties. But there was little evidence of that as Simeone’s dreams of leading Atletico to a La Liga and Champions League double evaporated before him.
It made me think of all the other sporting villains who have endured a dose of bad karma. Nothing beats the sight of a sobbing Maradona after West Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 World Cup final, just four years after he incited the “hand of God” to help him score past Peter Shilton to knock England out of Mexico ’86. Then you have famous braggarts like Ben Johnson and Lance Armstong, who puffed out their chests on their way to world domination, only to scurry away when publicly exposed.
The hope is that cheats and villains never prosper, it just sometimes takes a while for them to get their comeuppance.