Barcelona links not distracting Antoine Griezmann, says Diego Simeone
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone denied Antoine Griezmann is distracted by continuing reports linking him with Barcelona after the star attacker scored in Saturday's 1-1 La Liga draw at home to Girona.
He also defended his players and his substitutions after a late defensive slip saw a potential win slip away.
Simeone said he could not say what Griezmann's personal reaction was after Barcelona felt the need to issue a statement denying local media reports that claimed an agreement was already in place for a transfer next summer.
"Today he played a very good game, scored the goal, participated in very good attacking moves with Costa and [Angel] Correa," the Argentine said.
"External things are difficult to know, as I am not inside his [head]. But he always shows up for us, and is our best player to connect midfield and attack and cause a lot of danger."
Atletico seemed set for the three points when Griezmann finished emphatically into the empty net after Diego Costa had bravely out-jumped Girona goalkeeper Bono and perfectly set up his strike partner.
Simeone had already withdrawn Griezmann and Costa when uncharacteristic mistakes by substitute Koke and centre-back Stefan Savic allowed in Portu for a Girona equaliser with 20 minutes remaining.
That followed Atletico letting slip a lead in Wednesday's 2-1 Copa del Rey quarterfinal first leg defeat to Sevilla.
Simeone accepted at the postgame news conference that his previously rock-solid team were not used to losing leads but rejected the idea they were not playing well at the moment.
"I think we played a good game, we had it under control and then the goal came in a difficult situation," the Rojiblanco coach said. "Their goal appeared in a strange way. It is something we are not used to, and they took advantage of it. These situations happen in football, sometimes favourable, sometimes unfavourable.
"We have the feeling we let two points out of our grip. It happened against Sevilla the other day too. But I feel we played well today, made chances, their goalkeeper was their best player. According to you [the media], we are very playing badly, but I say we are playing very well."
There were whistles at the Wanda Metropolitano at full-time, and Simeone was asked to explain why he had taken off his two best attackers with the game still in the balance.
"People look at the result, and have their feelings," he said. "Costa had an adductor issue since the first half, and we wanted to take him off so he did not get injured. With Griezmann we felt the game was under control, and bringing on Koke, one of Spain's best players, would give us a hand in the centre. That did not happen. Those [fans] are angry as things did not go as they wanted."
Atletico will drop to third should Valencia win at Las Palmas later on Saturday, and will be 11 points behind Barcelona should the runaway La Liga leaders win at Real Betis on Sunday evening. Simeone suggested that his team's position within the Champions League qualification spots meant they were meeting expectations.
"We are relaxed about things, we just go game by game looking for the objectives set by the club," he said.