Club Atlético de Madrid captain Gabi informed hundreds of thousands of the team's supporters, "the best is yet to come," after Los Rojiblancos ended an 18-year wait for Liga success over the weekend.
Coach Diego Simeone's dream of seeing Madrid "dressed in red and white" came true as the newly-crowned Spanish league winners embarked on a victory parade through the streets of the nation's capital on Sunday night. Prior to adorning the Fuente de Neptuno – or Neptune Fountain – with an Atlético scarf and flag, midfielder Gabi informed the vast crowd: "This is just the beginning. This is an honour; it's our reward for all of the hard work and effort we have put in. The best is yet to come."
An estimated 200,000 fans lined the team's open-top bus route from the Estadio Vicente Calderón towards Neptuno. Making the trip for a fourth time since taking over as Atlético coach late in 2011, Simeone ended this season's journey with a brief dance on stage. "I'd like to thank the players, without whose efforts none of this would have been possible," the Argentinian said. "This is not just a Liga title – it's much more than that. What these players have shown is that if you believe, if you work hard, you can achieve anything."
After helping his team earn the all-important point in the 1-1 draw in Saturday's title decider away to FC Barcelona – Diego Godín cancelling out Alex Sánchez's opener – left-back Filipe Luis was quick to point out the role Atlético's coach played in the side's domestic success. "He just won't accept defeat and that attitude has put us where we are," the Brazilian explained. "Little by little, he put the idea in our heads that if you don't put limits on yourself, you can reach any goal. To win the Liga nowadays with a team as humble as ours is incredible [but we have done so with] hard work, faith and fight. Here's hoping we can win the [UEFA] Champions League to round off the season."
Echoing those sentiments, Spain defender Juanfran said: "We're eager to repeat this. This team will go down in history. We have competed throughout the year with Barcelona and Real Madrid [CF], with their players, squads, and their history. We know what these colours mean as we feel the same as our fans do." Looking ahead to what he described as "the most difficult game of the year," Saturday's UEFA Champions League final against nine-time European champions Real Madrid, Juanfran noted: "We are facing an incredible rival but we will go into the game filled with hope and belief."
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