Diego Simeone has nothing but praise for Neymar ahead of Atletico Madrid’s trip to Barcelona on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old received criticism for his lifestyle during the close-season, with some suggesting he was not committed enough to Brazil when he was seen partying during the Copa America.
Neymar responded on the pitch by guiding his country to Olympic gold in August, only to come under fire again last week for showboating during Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Leganes.
Simeone has no issue with the forward, however, and said at a news conference: “Neymar is a player I really like. He is extraordinary.”
The Atleti coach added: “He has a certain style of play that is his own. Every player has his own style and I like his style.
“He has been criticised and people have been commenting on his personal life. But he is just enjoying himself, dancing and singing. People will always continue to criticise him and he always responds when necessary.
“He has a strong personality and just won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics with Brazil after being heavily criticised.”
Neymar is among the favourites to win the Ballon d’Or – alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann. Simeone once again made a case for the Atleti star to claim the prestigious individual trophy.
“Journalists will vote for the Ballon d’Or, so it is in their hands whether Griezmann will win,” Simeone added.
“Hopefully he will win it because he has had an amazing season [in 2015-16] and has started this season on the same path.
“A lot of people criticised me when I played him as a support striker after he joined us, but I saw that his movement and pace made him right for the role.
“He has made a lot of progress and reads the game really well. He always solves any problems in the best way possible.”
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