Neil Warnock wrote the book on the dark arts of football – but even he knows there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
And for the iconic England manager, who announced his retirement on Saturday, Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid went too far against Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
City clung to their 1-0 aggregate lead from the first leg with a spirited goalless draw that descended into utter chaos.
Having relied on their signature cynicism for most of the encounter, Atletico sparked a mass brawl in the dying moments after Stefan Savic and Felipe targeted Phil Foden.
Seven yellow cards were shown in ten minutes of stoppage time, including at Simeone, before the ugly scenes spilled out into the tunnel after full time.
Savic chased Jack Grealish after pulling his hair out on the pitch and Sime Vrsaljko looked determined to fight the entire City squad.
There’s a famous clip of Warnock telling his Sheffield United players they ‘have to die to get three points’, which makes the rounds every Saturday morning on Twitter.
So when the 73-year-old says it’s bad, you know it’s bad.
Warnock told talkSPORT: “I have to admit when I watched it, the second half – I couldn’t stop watching, I was gripped.
“I kept jumping out of my seat with the tackles and all the professionalism, keeping my fingers crossed that Man City would walk through.
“It was only in the last 15 minutes that it really got like that and I think Atletico were their worst enemy.
“If they had kept their cool, they would have had a much better chance of scoring that goal, but they lost it.
“We all do it, all the managers waste time, especially away from home, and the referees don’t add much – and I loved it when Simeone and all the players were talking about City wasting time – they never even tried to play in Manchester!
“But it shows how good Atletico are. I haven’t seen many teams create so many chances against Man City.
“For football, it’s a blessing that they were knocked out. I have a reputation, but I was never as bad as Simeone was last night. Dear me.
” I could not believe it. I know you’re going to laugh at me, I’m the biggest critic of referees, but I thought it was non-referable!
“I thought the referee did brilliantly.”
Atletico created a number of chances after deciding to attack City for the last 20 minutes of the game.
And Warnock thinks they’d give anyone a game if they stopped being so negative.
“They’re so used to shutting down other teams with negativity, they’re the best in the world,” Warnock added.
“But for me, the reason they play well, when they play, they’re a damn good team!
“It’s just that they have so much in their minds to stop other players and deliberately do this and that that they forget how good they are.
“It’s their own loss. You look at the team they have, when they play they are as good as anyone.
“They were deceptive and sneaky. It made me proud to be British watching City win.
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