Liverpool looked to be “breaking up” when Philippe Coutinho left for Barcelona, says Diego Simeone, but the Atletico Madrid boss admits they have become “even stronger” without the Brazilian.
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Those at Anfield granted a South American playmaker his transfer wish in the winter window of 2018, with a big-money agreement reached with Barcelona.
A highly-rated creative influence was allowed to leave Merseyside with no obvious like-for-like replacement brought in.
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Funds were invested elsewhere, though, with Jurgen Klopp spending heavily on Virgil van Dijk and Alisson.
Liverpool have found considerable value for money in their recruitment business, with the runaway Premier League leaders looking to add a domestic crown to their Champions League one.
Simeone is the next man charged with the task of trying to derail the relentless Reds, in a European last-16 encounter, and he concedes that Klopp’s side have become a “magnificent team”.
The Atletico boss told reporters of the challenge facing his players on Tuesday: “We have always spoken about great teams throughout time and I have no doubt this Liverpool is going to go down in history as a great team because it is different to teams that we have admired (in the past).
“This team is much more intense, more adaptable, and it makes me admire it as a rival.
“We are facing a magnificent team, really well trained by a coach who is different and has different alternatives in his team
“They can play counter-attack, they can play the positioning game, they are very strong in the air and has been creating this team for four years now.
“He has been improving even after Coutinho left.
“It could look as if the team was breaking up, but on the contrary, the team has become even stronger.
“That says a lot about the footballers who are still with Liverpool.”
A midweek meeting with Atletico is set to take Liverpool back to Wanda Metropolitano for the first time since they edged out Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final.
They will return to Madrid sat 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League table and with UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup successes having been enjoyed on the back of conquering Europe.