Simeone says he rejected 35 million euro offer to leave Atletico last year

By Richard Martin
Soccer Football - Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg - Vicente Calderon Stadium, Madrid, Spain - 15/3/17 Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone Reuters / Juan Medina Livepic/Files

By Richard Martin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Diego Simeone said on Thursday he considered quitting Atletico Madrid last summer following defeat to city rivals Real Madrid in the 2016 Champions League final, and turned down a 35 million euro offer from another club to leave.

The former midfielder has transformed Atletico's fortunes in his five years in charge. But in the aftermath of last season's penalty shoot-out defeat in the San Siro he hinted he was thinking about leaving. At the time, he told a news conference: "I'm thinking I have to start thinking about it."

In an interview with Spanish sports daily AS published on Thursday, Simeone explained his thought process and gave details of a lucrative offer to leave Atletico.

"I got to the press room and had to go through the area where Real Madrid were celebrating and I felt a lot of pain, and I started to think that this was going to be a difficult year and it would be hard to motivate my players again," he said.

"I said what I felt, that I needed to think about it. Is that so bad? You have to remember if I wanted to go to another team I would have had 35 million reasons. 35 million! But I didn't leave because I didn't want to."

Spanish media reported that Simeone was alluding to an offer from French champions Paris St Germain, who appointed Spaniard Unai Emery in June.

Atletico were teetering above the relegation zone when the Argentine took charge in December 2011. Under his guidance, the club has finished in the top three in La Liga four years in a row, winning a first title in 18 years in 2014.

The Rojiblancos have also reached the Champions League quarter-finals for four successive years and face Leicester City in April for a place in the last four. Next season they will move to the 67,000-seater Wanda Metropolitano stadium.

"I don't want to leave because I still feel I identify with what I'm doing with the club and because I still have a huge bond with the team and I know we're still growing," Simeone said.

"The club is in the best shape possible, we have a new stadium and we'll have a bigger budget for the future."

The coach also said his club had done all it could to sign Diego Costa back from Chelsea last summer. The striker said on Wednesday that he had wanted to rejoin Atletico after getting off on the wrong foot with Antonio Conte but that his former club were not prepared to wait.

Atletico signed French forward Kevin Gameiro when they realised they could not lure Costa back.

"Atletico tried everything but in England there is no buyout clause," Simeone added.

"Diego did everything to come and wanted to. We were always transparent with Gameiro and he knew he was our first choice if Costa did not sign."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Richard Lough)