Antoine Griezmann should be considered a leading contender for the Ballon d’Or due to his performances in the last few months, according to Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone.
Griezmann continued his supreme run of goalscoring form in 2016 with a brace as Atleti thrashed Sporting Gijon 5-0 in LaLiga on Saturday.
Fernando Torres came off the bench to net his first double since returning to the club and Kevin Gameiro was also on target, but it was France international Griezmann in particular who caught Simeone’s eye, tipping him to rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the running for the Ballon d’Or.
“For me, last year Griezmann was the best player in Europe,” Simeone said at his post-match press conference. “I have no doubt about what I say.
“He reached the finals of both the Champions League and Euro 2016, scoring many goals, and scored many goals in LaLiga too. The consistency he has makes him stronger.
“I hope he is up there for the Ballon d’Or, as he is in great form and will get even better if he continues like this.”
Atletico’s attacking performance impressed Simeone as his side recorded a fourth successive clean sheet in all competitions.
“The truth is we are very happy with the collective performance of the team,” Simeone said. “They interpreted very well the start we needed, surprised them with a lot of people going forward.
“We played that from the start thinking that we would have the chance to find space behind them, with the pace of Griezmann and Gameiro up front. We did that very well.
“Kevin is doing very well, working hard, makes an effort. He has had chances in all his games.
“We’ve been making chances in all our games, [Kevin] Gameiro, Fernando [Torres], Griezmann have had pretty clear chances to score.
“That is normal, this is football, it happens. Today, quickly, the team found the way to goal.”
Simeone announced on Friday that the length of his contract has been reduced by two years and the Argentine insisted the decision has the backing of his players.
“It was emotional, it confirmed what I feel [for this club],” said Simeone, whose deal is now set to expire in June 2018.
“When someone goes with what their heart wants, they almost never make mistakes. And [I] have a squad and fans who support the decision.”