Lyon, Tuesday @PeopleSports11
When German Burgos was told in 2003 he needed surgery to remove a cancerous tumour on his left kidney, Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper said it would have to wait until after the next game.
Now Burgos is preparing to take charge of Atletico’s Europa League final against Marseille without Diego Simeone, standing in as motivator-in-chief while his head coach serves a suspension in the stands.
“I’m a bit crazy, like all goalkeepers,” Burgos once said. He has survived cancer, fronted a heavy metal band and saved a Luis Figo penalty with his face.
Burgos played for Atleti between 2002 and 2004, and made 35 appearances for Argentina, recognisable for his long, black hair, contained either by a thick headband or bright red cap.
He was renowned for readiness to throw his body in front of an opponent’s boot or rush out to close down a striker, long before the trend of today’s sweeper-keeper had taken hold.
Meanwhile, after painful defeats in recent continental finals, Simeone’s Atletico are determined to justify their status as favourites in Wednesday’s showpiece in Lyon.
Atletico lost in extra time to Real Madrid in the Champions League final of 2014, having been seconds away from victory in 90 minutes, and then lost on penalties to their city rivals in the final of the same competition two years later.
An exit from this season’s Champions League in the group stage came as a big surprise for a formidable side spearheaded by Antoine Griezmann in attack, but they have put that behind them to close on glory in Europe’s less prestigious competition.
Atletico are looking to win the Europa League for the third time in nine seasons, after triumphing in 2010 and again in 2012, shortly after ‘Cholo’ Simeone was appointed coach.
“We can’t wait for the final to come around,” full-back Juanfran told Radio Marca as Atletico target a first trophy since 2014, when they won La Liga.
It would be a first, and possibly last major medal as an Atletico player for Griezmann, who was raised not far from Lyon but has spent his whole career in Spain.
The 27-year-old forward joined Atletico from Real Sociedad on the back of their title success in 2014, but could soon be on his way to Barcelona.
Griezmann and Diego Costa will lead Simeone’s attack as Atletico return to Lyon, where they lost 3-0 to Dynamo Kiev in the final of the now defunct Cup Winners’ Cup in 1986. -AFP