Diego Simeone has opened up over criticism of Mario Mandzukic and the comparisons with former Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.
Mandzukic [pictured] was bought from Bayern Munich last summer to replace the Chelsea-bound Costa, yet has come in for some flak in certain sections of the media for his performances towards the end of the season.
However, Simeone has sprung to the 28-year-old’s defence and insists it is unfair to compare him with the Spain international.
“It’s normal for Mandzukic and he’s open to criticism because he’s a different guy with a big heart,” the Argentine told Onda Cero.
“Up until February he had scored 20 goals and he’s suffering because he’s angry with himself.
“He has made the effort but it hasn’t happened. In terms of commitment, work…I’d give him an 11 [out of 10].
“He plays to give everything for us and has a lot respect. I look for whatever benefits the team.
“However, you can’t compare him to Diego Costa. He needs to have support, 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. If I’m being critical, since February he has not given what I wanted.
“With Costa he didn’t want to play up front as he felt more comfortable as a second striker. However, I told him he makes the best diagonal runs I’ve seen in my life and that in Spain all the defenders play in a line, so he’d get sick of scoring goals.
“In his last game against Real Zaragoza he scored two goals and told me ‘boss, I’m going to get tired of scoring’.