Diego Simeone is the longest serving manager in Atletico Madrid history, but could his tenure finally come to an end? With no shortage of potential candidates with a deep knowledge of La Liga and European football, what are the chances that someone new can take up the reigns at Los Rojiblancos?

Diego Simeone is a manager that has won La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup in his career. Atletico Madrid have the perfect successor in waiting if he leaves.

If Diego Simeone leaves, Atletico Madrid have the perfect successor in waiting

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Some in the election campaign hope that Marcelo Bielsa, who has been out of job since his dismissal from Leeds United, would return to the club that he led to the 2012 Europa League final in Bucharest (unfortunately against Simeone’s Atletico five months later). But Andoni Iraola is the most apparent option for any incoming San Mames president to repatriate.

Rayo Vallecano’s 39-year-old Basque-born coach is clearly gifted, and he must be deemed unlikely to continue working under the club’s lackluster and reviled president Martin Presa in the long or even medium term. It’s a safe bet that if Athletic were to move to Iraola, he’d be overjoyed. It’s a near-certainty that he’d be acclaimed as a conquering hero, possibly even a Basque messiah, by Athletic fans. Iraola is one of those players, with over 500 competitive matches at right-back and a couple of final appearances for Los Leones, who is considered as the club’s heart and soul. He is in touch with his audience and is loved by them.

All of this is a situation that would leave Marcelino stranded.

Simeone’s record has earned him the right to choose whether he continues or takes a sabbatical and perhaps a couple of seasons elsewhere if Atletico finishes in the top four, ensuring around €70 million from next season’s Champions League (with much more available if they reach the last four or another final). If, however, Atleti, and perhaps even their coach, reach the conclusion that it’s a useful, sensible time for a break from one another, if they decide that some of Simeone’s ideas, rather than having passed a sell-by date, have started to bounce off the players rather than embed themselves, then Marcelino paints as a very, very acceptable replacement.

This isn’t a reason for Simeone’s removal; on the contrary, it’s a counter-argument. Personally, he has had a difficult year.

With his new partner, he’s now the father of a little child at the age of 52. Just a few weeks ago, the Atleti president lost his much-loved and powerful father. It’s possible that he not only leads Los Rojiblancos to the top four, but that he also takes a break, reflects, and recharges before returning next season with a vengeance.

But, if the worst occurs and Atleti fails to finish in the top four, Marcelino will be available on the summer market for free. Only the prejudiced and stupid would believe to themselves, “Isn’t he the ideal substitute for Simeone?”

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