Simeone's Atletico starting to decline, Abbiati claims

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Atletico Madrid are a declining force under Diego Simeone, the club's former goalkeeper Christian Abbiati has said.

Atleti have enjoyed significant success since Simeone took charge in 2011, breaking the stranglehold of Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga.

Simeone guided the Rojiblancos to triumphs in the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Copa del Rey before hitting a high point in the club's history in 2014, claiming the league title and the Supercopa de Espana, as well as reaching the Champions League final.

Atleti again reached the final of Europe's top competition this year but suffered a second agonising defeat to Real Madrid, and their form seems to have slipped somewhat this term, with Barcelona knocking them out of the Copa del Rey, while they sit seven points off top spot in the league. 

A 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg stretched Atleti's recent run to three victories in a row, but, although he has praised those performances, Abbiati believes the cycle under Simeone is coming to an end.

"Simeone's Atletico are certainly on a declining phase," the former goalkeeper, who spent the 2007-08 season on loan at the Vicente Calderon, told Omnisport. 

"I was lucky to play for Atletico the first season after the club had begun on their new path. Simeone's cycle at Atletico could be close to an end, although they're still competitive in LaLiga and they regularly go through in European competition.

"Overall, Atletico are still on a very positive run."

Simeone has acknowledged he would relish the chance to return to Inter to take over as head coach, and Abbiati believes he would be ideal to take the project forward at San Siro.

"With all due respect to Inter's current coach [Stefano Pioli], who is doing really well, I reckon Simeone would be perfect for Inter," said the former AC Milan man. "If I'm not wrong, Simeone was a fans' favourite as an Inter player, and therefore Inter would be the right place for him."

Abbiati also praised Joe Hart's decision to move to Serie A on loan after falling out of favour under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

The England goalkeeper has performed well for Torino this season and Abbiati has backed him to stay at the club if he believes the experience has been encouraging.

"Joining Torino was the right decision for Joe Hart," he said. "He was no longer part of the plan at his former club, and he wanted to try a new experience, taking on a new challenge in Italy in a new league, and I think that overall he is doing really well.

"Each player has his own targets. He is on loan at Torino and I don't know how he feels now. If he feels this was a positive experience, he might stay.

"I know Torino very well. I believe he is very happy with the club, the fans, and the stadium."