As soon as the final whistle went, Atlético Madrid’s manager, Diego Simeone, turned and sprinted down the tunnel not stopping for anyone or anything, still less his opposite number whose hand he refused to shake. Not just on Tuesday night against Liverpool but the game before. And the game before that, and the game before that. Just about every game for a decade, in fact.
At the end of Liverpool’s 3-2 dramatic victory at the Metropolitano, Jürgen Klopp was left holding out his hand for a man who didn’t want to shake it. As Simeone ran away having avoided him, Klopp was left looking down the tunnel, putting a thumb up. There was sarcasm there but there was not, Simeone insisted, a snub. “I never shake hands after the game because I don’t like it,” he said.
Every game, he does the same, the first to leave the scene and usually fast. His assistant coach, Nelson Vivas, did seek out the Liverpool manager. “The situation is clear: I want to shake his hand, he doesn’t want to,” Klopp said. “I want to shake his hand and he is running off.”
In his first interview after the game, Klopp suggested that Simeone’s reaction was “not right and mine is not too good as well”, noting: “He was not happy – not with me, but with the game, the world, that sort of stuff.” That paralleled Klopp’s words pre-game when he apologised for critical remarks made about Atlético the last time they had met in March 2020, excusing himself because of the anger he felt at having lost. “We’re both emotional and when we see each other next time we will shake hands,” he said. “It’s nothing.”
In the first round of post-match interviews Klopp had confronted a reporter, accusing him of “not being a nice person” for trying to make a big deal of the issue. And by the time Klopp had reached the press room, maybe he had been told that Simeone always runs off at the whistle, because his account was slightly different.
“He’s running off and I could have just turned around. He doesn’t do anything wrong and I’m not overly happy with my reaction to be honest.”
Klopp also sought to mitigate comments in which he had said he does not like Simeone’s style. “I’m not the pope of football,” he insisted, “what does it matter what I like? Some things I like in life, some things I don’t. I’m not the same guy as Diego. He has been incredibly successful for 10 years why should they play the football that I like?”
Simeone said: “I always go without shaking hands at the end of the game.” In Spain they knew that but they hadn’t heard the explanation before. Now it was needed. “I don’t think it’s healthy or natural because there will always be one [of the managers] who’s not happy with the game,” he said. “I feel it’s a hand shake with forceps, forced. The one who has won is in one state, the one who has lost in another. I don’t share that culture. I always leave quickly if I lose or win.
“In Liverpool we shook hands: we saw each other in the middle of the pitch. And when I see him now I’ll say hello, for sure.”
Atlético’s centre-back Felipe complained that the referee, Daniel Siebert, had “cost” them but Simeone refused to complain about the refereeing – despite Antoine Griezmann’s red card, Liverpool’s winner coming from the penalty spot, and Atlético having a penalty awarded and then taken away by the VAR.
“On the pitch we protest, we appeal, we get angry, but there’s no problem,” he said. “If he saw on the VAR that it was not a penalty, that’s because it was not one. I still think the VAR is great and it can get better. Griezmann is gutted. He’s looking up, the lad jumps with him and they clash. He doesn’t see him, but he hits his head. The referee understood that was red. Last time in Milan [when the Italian side’s Franck Kessié was sent off in the first half] the referee might have benefited us and today perhaps it’s the opposite.”