Diego Simeone hailed the “extraordinary” Koke after he inspired Atletico Madrid to a 3-0 win over Granada on Sunday to ignite the Liga title race.
The 24-year-old opened the scoring from close range before setting up Fernando Torres to double the home side’s advantage at the Vicente Calderon, taking his tally to five goals and 13 assists in the top flight – more than any other midfielder this season.
Koke proved hugely effective when cutting infield from his starting spot on the right and Simeone hopes he can continue to wreak havoc in Atletico’s five remaining matches as they seek to overhaul Barcelona.
“He’s an extraordinary player and the more time he plays there, the more damage he causes,” said the coach. “Hopefully he can continue like that.
“Torres was like the rest of the team. After the break he improved, as did everyone.
“We were good until the goal, then Granada had their chances. The team was not in the game, but we spoke at half-time and in the second half we saw another chance, and that allowed a better team to emerge.”
Atletico ramped up the pressure on leaders Barca with their victory, but Simeone insisted that the demand for points will remain the same irrespective of whether the champions slip up again.
“We have the chance to have a good game in Bilbao [against Athletic on Wednesday], we want to compete well in the games we have left and it will be tough,” he added.
“But we’ll play in accordance with what the calendar asks of us: win, win and win.”
Simeone was, however, happy to have ensured Atletico’s automatic Champions League group-stage spot with the victory, which was sealed late on thanks to Angel Correa’s goal.
“I’m very happy – it was the objective for this year,” he added. “It’s a big joy.”