Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has come to the defense of striker Mario Mandzukic, whose first season in Spain has come under criticism from sections of the Spanish press.
After the Croatia international arrived from Bayern Munich and Diego Costa departed the Spanish capital for Chelsea, it was inevitable that Mandzukic’s performances would be compared to former Atletico striker.
Last season, Costa scored 36 goals in all competitions for Atletico Madrid while leading the club to its tenth La Liga title.
Atletico won more games during the 2013-14 season by one-goal than any other team in Europe – seventeen matches (seven by scores of 1-0) – and Costa accounted for 33% of the teams goals, while having double the amount of the club’s second leading goal scorer, Raul Garcia (17).
With that said, Mandzukic’s combative style and tenacious play endeared himself to the fans at the Vicente Calderon and the striker hit the ground running following his transfer from Bayern Munich.
The 28-year-old had 20 goals for Atletico by February before fitness problems began taking a toll on the Croatian’s season.
During an interview with Spanish radio, Diego Simeone dismisses comparisons between the two strikers and came to the defense of Mandzukic.
“It’s normal for Mandzukic and he’s open to criticism because he’s a different guy with a big heart,” Simeone told Onda Cero.
“Up until February, he had scored 20 goals and he’s suffering because he’s angry with himself.
“He had made the effort but it hasn’t happened. In terms of commitment, work…I’d give him an 11 [out of ten].
“He plays to give everything for us and has a lot of respect. I look for whatever benefits the team.
“However, you can’t compare him to Diego Costa. He needs to have support, be supplied with the ball and have people helping him.
“His best goal tally at Bayern was 24 and we’ve not been able to improve on that, despite him scoring 20 by February, but it’s harder to score 20 with Atletico than 24 with Bayern.
“It was difficult to find another Costa, with all that power. But we wanted Mandzukic for his character, his aggressiveness, and his 20 goals helped when [Antoine] Griezmann was not at his best.”
Atletico Madrid are currently in third place in La Liga and could secure that position with a draw against Granada on Saturday.
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