Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone hailed Antoine Griezmann on Wednesday after the Frenchman became the first player in six years to net four times in a match for the Spanish club.
‘He’s a very talented boy and he makes the difference,’ Simeone told reporters following Atletico’s 4-0 victory over Leganes which moved them to within four points of La Liga leaders Barcelona, who they face on Sunday.
‘But the side have done some brilliant work to allow him to shine,’ Simeone added. ‘Look at the balls laid on to him by Diego Costa, Koke and Filipe Luis.
‘His level is extraordinary, the assists were all fantastic and with his talent he was able to finish off some brilliant team moves.’
Earlier this season there were doubts surrounding Griezmann’s commitment to Atletico after he publicly toyed with the idea of leaving for Manchester United.
That coincided with a poor run of form as rumours surfaced that he had agreed to join Barcelona next season.
The unease resulted in frustration between fans and the player, culminating in the 26-year-old angrily making a shushing gesture in February’s victory over Valencia when he decided against launching a counter-attack in the dying seconds.
‘I might have made mistakes, but not on what I’m doing on the pitch,’ Griezmann said.
‘I could have behaved better, I shushed the crowd but I was doing what I thought was right and that we should have control of the ball.
‘I’m happy with my performance, but the three points are most important.’
Atletico and their French maestro now go up against the La Liga leaders on Sunday.
His quadruple, fired off in 32 minutes either side of half-time, means Griezmann now has seven goals in two games following last weekend’s treble against Sevilla, and 12 in his last nine.
For comparison, Lionel Messi has hit five goals in the same period.
Atletico have also cut the gap at the top of La Liga to four points, before Barcelona play their game in hand at Las Palmas on Thursday. Leganes stay 14th.
But Griezmann will be the player in focus before the weekend, his form handed extra pertinence given Barca were forced last month to deny they had already struck a deal to sign the 26-year-old.
‘I’ve never scored at Camp Nou. I want to score and to celebrate,’ Griezmann said. ‘I want to do something big with my club and my opportunity.’
Griezmann was still guarded about his long-term future.
‘We’re all enjoying ourselves now,’ he said.
‘We need to continue doing so and also bringing smiles to the fans faces. Hopefully, I’ll have this kind of affection until the end.’
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