Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone insisted he will defend off-colour star forward Antoine Griezmann “to the death”, as long as he remains an Atletico player, after Saturday’s 0-0 draw against local rivals Real Madrid.
Griezmann turned his back on interest from Manchester United to sign a new contract after Atletico lost an appeal against a transfer ban in June.
However, the French international, who has been Atletico’s top scorer for the past three seasons, has netted just three times so far this campaign and not at all in his last eight games at club level.
Despite his poor form, Griezmann has continued to be linked to other clubs, including Barcelona, and he was jeered off by large sections of the Atletico fanbase when he was substituted by Simeone 15 minutes from time.
“As long as someone is in my family, I am with them to the death. I have always been that way and I’m not going to change at nearly 50,” said Simeone.
“All the players have to show up and not just Griezmann.”
Atletico were again left to rue their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal as Angel Correa and Griezmann’s replacement Kevin Gameiro passed up the best chances of a tightly-contested derby.
“I am never going to speak badly of a teammate and even less of Griezmann,” added Atletico right-back Juanfran.
“The issue is he has set the bar so high over the past two years.
“If Correa’s or Gameiro’s chance goes in we are talking about how well the team played and not Antoine.”
However, a stalemate left Barcelona the big winners of the day as the La Liga leaders moved 10 points clear of both Real and Atletico with a 3-0 victory earlier on Saturday over Leganes.
“Ten points is a lot but that will change for sure because Barca will not always win and we will be in the running,” insisted Real boss Zinedine Zidane.
“The only thing we lacked was a goal. I can’t criticise the players for anything tonight because we deserved more.
“We need to be patient because we are on the right track.”
Real, though, were dealt a further blow as captain Sergio Ramos had to be replaced at half-time with a suspected broken nose.
“It is a fracture. He has a cut and I think it is broken,” added Zidane.
“We still don’t know how long he will be out.” – Agence France-Presse