Spain have such an embarrassment of riches that the likes of Jesé Rodriguéz, Isco, Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Morata are in the U-21s. Where does the production line end?
Neutrals in Spain should be very glad indeed that Diego Simeone whips his 'team of men' into a frenzy because that means La Liga remains a three-horse race...
If Luis Aragonés was watching Atlético's truly triumphant victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday then the blast of the final whistle would have seen the air turning blue with enough joyful swear words to break the most rigorous of bleep machines.
The former Rojiblanco player and manager was coarse, grumpy, direct and forthright, along with many other characteristics, but most of all he was one of the most passionate figures in the Spanish game, and really, really, really loved his football.
For this reason, grounds all over Spain held impeccable minute silences to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Luis, who passed away on Saturday morning at the age of 75, less than six years after his most triumphant moment in a playing and coaching career that began with Getafe in 1957 and included four spells at the helm at the Vicente Calderón.
Although the influence of Aragonés on the Spanish game was extensive throughout his life, his job of cajoling, coaxing and downright threatening the Spanish national team out of its permanent slump to win the European Championships is how the Madrid-born manager will be remembered. An astonishing desire to win, win, win and win again was drummed into the Spanish players, a legacy that has an endured and will surely be a driving force in Brazil this summer. "I took over a national side and I tried to leave it as a team," said Aragonés.
At the weekend, it was fitting that it was the mighty Atlético out of the three title chasers who captured the spirit of Aragonés to move to the top of the table without any other rivals, for the first time in 18 years. "He will be happy with the bravery of the team, watching from above," said Diego Simeone after Sunday's victory, with the Argentinean almost moved to tears by the tribute held to one of his predecessors before the match.
Two weeks ago, Barcelona slipped up against Levante in a 1-1 draw and Atlético failed to capitalise, drawing to Sevilla in the Vicente Calderón. Another chance to claim the top spot came up again on Sunday, when Barcelona suffered an incredibly rare defeat in the Camp Nou to Valencia with Tata Martino's side starting the game with an impressive first half-hour and a disastrous 60 minutes.
Not for the first time this season, the side looked sluggish, cumbersome and downright clumsy with the 5 foot 3 Pablo Piatti managing to out-jump and out-muscle Alex Song for the visitors' second goal in a 3-2 win.
A day later and Atlético showed no mercy to a visiting Real Sociedad, a fine side themselves. Goals from David Villa, Diego Costa, Miranda and the returning Diego Ribas produced a comprehensive 4-0 victory for Atlético. The goal from the Brazilian playmaker was celebrated with some gusto after the Spanish club had tried for two years to bring about the return of a figure who was truly outstanding in the Spanish capital between 2011 and 2012.
It was a fine time for Atlético to bring in reinforcements as they now face a double header against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and an upcoming clash with AC Milan in the Champions League, the reason why a Clarence Seedorf was in the crowd and must have left the ground very concerned indeed.
Real Madrid will also be a little concerned having suffered a jolt with a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao, having picked up eight wins from eight in January without conceding a goal. Although the Basque side remain unbeaten at home in the new San Mamés, an invincibility that had run in the Copa del Rey too was broken just a couple of days before - against Atlético Madrid, of course.
After that victory to set up a clash with Real Madrid, a team who have lost twice to Atlético in the past two encounters, Simeone sad that "the effort from the players is out of 100, not out of 10". After going top of the league on Sunday, the Argentinean must be rating his charges out of a 1000, as they would be making one of the legends of the club very proud indeed.
Round 22 Results
Granada 1-2 Celta Vigo
Getafe 0-0 Valladolid
Levante 0-0 Rayo Vallecano
Barcelona 2-3 Valencia
Málaga 3-2 Sevilla
Elche 1-0 Almería
Betis 2-0 Espanyol
Atlético Madrid 4-0 Real Sociedad
Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Real Madrid
Villarreal 3-1 Osasuna
Actually scratch the Ronaldo comment from my orevious post apparently he's free to play tonight as his ban of three games doesn't start immediately.- frakessmee