Diego Simeone praised the development of Marcos Llorente after the midfielder helped Atletico Madrid secure a 2-1 victory over Granada.
Atleti extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to eight points thanks to Angel Correa’s deflected winner on Saturday.
Llorente provided the assist for Correa having opened the scoring himself with a neat finish in the 63rd minute, taking his tally of league goals for the season to seven.
The 26-year-old – signed primarily to play as a defensive midfielder in 2019 from rivals Real Madrid – scored his first goal for Atleti in a 2-2 draw with Valencia on February 14 last year.
He has now netted 13 times in all competitions in total for the club, while his tally of 10 league goals since getting off the mark puts him behind only Luis Suarez (16) for Simeone’s squad.
Llorente has averaged a goal every 237 minutes in LaLiga over the last 12 months, as well as providing 10 assists and creating 35 chances. Only Koke, who moved level with Tomas Renones for second place on the list for appearances in all competitions for Atletico, has created more (41).
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With his opener against Granada, Llorente became the midfielder in LaLiga with the most direct goal involvements so far this season, so it was hardly surprising when Simeone spoke glowingly of the Spain international’s desire to transform himself into an all-round attacking threat.
“As coaches, titles are wonderful, because they fill you with excitement and glory,” Simeone told a news conference.
“But when you work with a footballer and see his growth reflected, you feel more joy and more enthusiasm to continue advancing in this profession.
“When we see a footballer with the ability to do different things than what he had been doing in his career, we jump into it. It happened to us with Griezmann, with Saul, with Juanfran.
“Why is it happening? I would like to look for the images of Marcos training when he was not even playing, when in practice he scored a lot of goals, we joked that he was going to have to play higher [up the pitch].
“We put him up front and now I think in the middle is where feels more at ease.”
While Llorente delivered the goods on Saturday, LaLiga’s leading scorer Suarez had an off day in front of goal, landing only one of his four attempts on target, though he was unfortunate to hit the crossbar in the second half.
“We always ask all the boys who have played as strikers in our team for collaboration and effort for the team,” Simeone said.
“Luis, beyond what he generates with his goals, has a lot of intelligence. He knows where to apply pressure, where to bother the rival, generate doubts and we need everyone.”
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