Zinedine Zidane has praised his players, calling Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema “f—ing great” after a 2-0 derby win over rivals Atletico put Real Madrid back in the race for the La Liga title.
Zidane’s job had been under threat before three consecutive victories against Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach and now Atletico left Real Madrid’s season back on track in La Liga and the Champions League.
“We’ve improved a lot,” he said. “We confirmed what we saw in the first two games, starting with Sevilla, going through against Borussia and today. … We haven’t won anything, it’s just three points but it’s a job well done.”
Zidane suggested that criticism of the team, and himself, after a poor run of one win in five games in all competitions had served as motivation.
“We know we can do good things as a team and today we showed everyone that Madrid know how to play,” he said. “There are things that hurt you, but they make you stronger. Criticism is a part of football, you have to deal with it. The players have character, that’s what this team has.”
Diego Simeone — whose Atletico team remained top of the table on Saturday night, three points ahead of Real Madrid, but could be overtaken by Real Sociedad on Sunday — accepted the blame for the defeat.
“They were better, you could see it,” Simeone said. “Today we played badly, the coach didn’t read the game well and the team didn’t do what was asked of it.”
Simeone also defended forward Joao Felix, who reacted angrily to being taken off after an hour.
“I was looking for someone fresher in attack, and more legs in midfield,” he said. “I understand the anger, I share it. When you’re taken off you want to give more.”