Back in 2018, when it was reported that Atletico Madrid were looking to sign Giovanni Simeone from Fiorentina, it seemed that his famous father was not so keen on the idea.
“Gio has everything to play with me, but unfortunately it will never happen,” Atletico boss Diego Simeone said of El Cholito at the time. “It is very difficult to have a child in the dressing room, both for him and for the relationship he has with the other players.”
Fast-forward three years, though, and Simeone Sr. may now have to work out how to manage those relationships as his youngest son, Giuliano, edges his way towards the first team at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Like Giovanni and his other older brother, Gianluca (who plays for Club Deportivo Ibiza Islas Pitiusas in the fourth tier of Spanish football), Giuliano plays as a forward, rather than replicating the midfield role his father excelled in during his own playing career.
And after impressing during pre-season for the Rojiblancos, the 18-year-old finds himself on a path where playing under Diego’s tutelage in a competitive environment does not seem so far away.
Born in Italy while Diego played for Lazio, Giuliano actually began his footballing education in Argentina after the family moved back to their homeland when he was just four years old.
He was enrolled into the River Plate academy, but regularly travelled over to Madrid to spend time with his father, most notably when he was seen celebrating near the Atleti bench during a game against Getafe in 2015 when he was a ball boy.
Giuliano eventually moved to Spain permanently in 2019, though River maintained a percentage of his rights as part of the deal, and wasted little time on making his mark on the Atletico coaches, scoring five goals in his first five appearances in the club’s colours.
From there he formed part of the Juvenil A (Under-19s) side that won the league title in 2020-21, with Giuliano’s 13 goals enough to earn him a promotion to Atletico Madrid B in the Spanish third tier before the season was done.
After netting on his debut at that level against Poblense, he went onto score twice more, with manager Nacho Fernandez describing him as, “a young player, but already a footballer and who shows everything you would want on the field.
“He does not give up lost causes, he fights for everything, he creates, finishes and leaves everything out on the field. He is a player with tremendous potential.”
That is a sentiment echoed throughout the Atletico academy, with sources claiming that, “if he were not the son of who he is, he would already be in the first team.”
Giuliano’s potential has, then, been clear for some time, but it was not until the summer of 2021 that the majority of Atletico fans realised just what kind of talent they had on their hands.
Handed his unofficial first-team debut against Numanica in July, the teenager made an instant impact, winning the ball back by the opposition byline with his first action before laying the ball on a plate for Mario Soriano to score.
That sacrifice, mobility and tireless spirit saw Giuliano appear in each of Atleti’s four subsequent friendlies, playing more minutes than any other player, with his performances earning him a place in the senior matchday squad on four occasions since the start of the Liga campaign.
With Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix, Angel Correa and Matheus Cunha all vying for places in the Atleti line-up, Giuliano will have to go some to force his way up the pecking order, though his versatility may well help in that regard.
“Giuliano plays as a centre-forward, although he seems more like a No.7 to me,” Natalia Simeone, Giuliano’s aunt and agent, said of the youngster who wears the number 10 shirt for Atletico B.
He grew up watching Griezmann closely during his first spell with the club, while he has also taken inspiration from Lautaro Martinez and Roberto Firmino due to the selfless way that they interpret the role of the central striker.
As such, it is not yet known whether he will settle into becoming an out-and-out No.9 himself, or instead drop slightly deeper, or even play as a winger due to the speed and intensity he possesses.
What is for certain is that he has the right frame of mind to make it to the top of the game, with those who know him well saying: “He has the talent to get where he wants, as well as the right mentality to continue growing at this early point in his career.
“He is a boy with a hunger to always want more, but at the same time the humility to seek to learn every day and grow calmly at each stage.”
With a passion for the sea and his free time spent socialising with family and playing video games, Giuliano has also taken time to show his caring side by taking part in a charity event organised by the Atletico youth teams to raise money for those adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is on the pitch, though, where he truly wants to make a difference, even if there are some Atleti fans who may believe that he has already done plenty to improve the fortunes of the capital club already.
It was Giuliano, after all, who convinced Diego to take the Atletico manager’s job a decade ago.
“The call came from Atletico Madrid, saying they wanted to speak to me,” the 51-year-old told The Coaches’ Voice. “At the time, I was in Mar del Plata – a beach town in Argentina – to spend a few days with Giuliano.
“He was just eight years old, and we were sitting in a bar with our croissants and coffee (for me, milk for him), when I told him: ‘Look, a chance has come to go to Atletico Madrid and I don’t know what to do.’
“Giuliano thought about it. He responded: ‘Are you going to manage [Radamel] Falcao? Are you going to play against [Lionel] Messi? Against [Cristiano] Ronaldo?’
“The kid was saying all this to me. And I would say yes. And in between dipping the croissant in the milk, he said those words: ‘Dad, if you do well, you won’t come back’.
“There are two sides to that, of course. On the one hand it’s lucky, because I want to do well. But on the other hand it’s unlucky, because I don’t get to see my kids growing up.”
The rest is history, with Diego understanding that it was not an opportunity that he could turn down, despite what he would be giving up from a personal perspective.
Now he has the opportunity to potentially repay his son by handing him a debut at the highest level of the game, presuming he has come to terms with what is required when coaching someone so close.