The former midfielder is at a loss to explain why Barcelona would let such a prolific presence leave for a direct domestic rival
Atletico Madrid icon Milinko Pantic has named Luis Suarez as the best striker in the world by some distance as the Rojiblancos prepare to take on their cross-town rivals in a Spanish capital derby on Sunday.
Atleti sit at the head of La Liga before the match, five points ahead of El Clasico pair Barcelona and Real Madrid, although Diego Simeone’s charges have an additional game in hand.
There is real belief that Simeone’s side can go on to win their first domestic title since 2013-14 this season and with Suarez leading the line, Pantic believes his former club are in good hands.
What was said?
Asked by Goal to describe the Uruguayan in his own words, Pantic replied: “The best striker in the world, by far.
“When Atleti signed him I called Miguel Angel Gil and told him ‘you’ve signed the best and he’s going to give you a lot of goals’.
“It’s a great success. I still don’t understand why Barca got rid of him. He’s a cobra inside the box – you could give him two balls and he’d score three goals!”
Momentum in Atletico’s favour?
Atletico come into Sunday’s showcase match-up on the back of a 2-0 win, while Real could only must a 1-1 draw in their previous outing. Regardless, Pantic believes that form goes out the window when derby day rolls around.
“That does not matter,” he said. “In a derby, your position in the table has little influence because the players live for these games. It doesn’t matter what Madrid has done against Sociedad or Atleti against Villarreal. The players are extra motivated.”
What to expect
Asked where the game would be won and lost, Pantic stated his belief that it will be a close-run contest, with both head coaches set to call on their vast experience in order to get the edge over their opponent.
“We have seen some very tough recent derbies between the two of them,” Pantic went on. “I don’t think it will be a game with many goals or very showy.
“It will be very tactical. Both Zidane and Simeone have played in Italy. It will be very Italian.”
Win the derby, win La Liga?
Should Atleti emerge victorious, Pantic urged his old club not to get carried away as there is still plenty to do before they can consider the league title wrapped up.
“No, no,” he answered when asked if a win would guarantee a Liga crown. “There are still 13 games left. Both teams have difficult matches still to play but it’s an important week for Atleti.”