MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid assistant coach German ‘Mono’ Burgos has fought off cancer, sung in a heavy metal band and was once suspended for 11 games for knocking an opponent unconscious and he will take centre stage again in Wednesday’s Europa League final.
With his colleague Diego Simeone serving a touchline ban, the former goalkeeper once nicknamed ‘the gorilla’ and now known as ‘the monkey’ will lead Atletico out in Lyon against Olympique de Marseille in pursuit of a first trophy since 2014.
Simeone appointed his old Atletico team mate as assistant at Argentine club Racing Club de Avellaneda in 2011 and brought him back to Madrid a few months later, tasked with returning the declining Spanish giants back to glory.
Within five months, the Argentine duo had won the Europa League and the King’s Cup and an unlikely Liga title soon followed. They have also reached the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016, losing both times to city rivals Real Madrid.
Burgos has compared his working relationship with Simeone to that of movie actors Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci, and rather like the gangster characters they portrayed, both coaches have a habit of losing their heads.
The Argentine famously punched Espanyol’s Manolo Serrano during a game for Real Mallorca in 1999, while as Atletico assistant he confronted then Real coach Jose Mourinho during a tense Madrid derby, shouting at the Portuguese: “I’m not Tito Vilanova, I’ll rip your head off”.
In another derby, Burgos had to be restrained by Simeone and then Real coach Carlo Ancelotti as he charged towards a referee.
Simeone is also no stranger to losing his temper and is serving a four-game touchline ban for insulting an official and improper conduct during Atletico’s Europa League semi-final first leg at Arsenal.
Rather like Simeone, Burgos seems to relish the tension of big games, once remarking that what he missed most about being a player was being insulted by opposition fans.
But there is more to the assistant than angry outbursts and punch ups. Inspired by his love for The Rolling Stones, he founded a hard rock band in Argentina called The Garb, recording several albums as lead singer.
In an interview with newspaper El Mundo last year, Burgos recounted his recovery from kidney cancer in 2003 and said people who have been diagnosed with the disease frequently come to him for advice. He continues to smoke, however.
Simeone has always spoken highly of his assistant.
“The best thing about our relationship is loyalty, something rare in football, and when you add to that his ability, it explains why things have gone so well for us,” he said after Atletico beat Arsenal 1-0 to reach the Europa League final.
Before the second leg against Arsenal, Simeone was asked by reporters if he was worried how the team would get on while he served his touchline ban.
He quickly dismissed the question by replying: “We have Burgos. We don’t even need to look at each other to know what we want.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by John O'Brien