Leonardo - Leave off Eto'o

Inter boss defends striker after criticism following Juve misses

Eto'o: Attracted criticism

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Inter Milan coach Leonardo has leapt to Samuel Eto'o's defence after the striker's below-par display against Juventus.

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The Cameroon captain was heavily criticised in some quarters after missing a sitter from five yards - hitting the bar with an open goal to aim at - while the striker also completely missed an attempted volley as Inter rallied late on in Sunday's 1-0 Serie A defeat.

Despite failing to find the net, the Inter boss believes Eto'o is a class act, with 27 goals to his name already this term.

Leonardo said: "It takes a brave man to criticise Eto'o, he's scored 27 goals.

"It can happen that in one second he doesn't find the right space or contact but talking about an Eto'o problem that doesn't exist, I can't believe someone can get knocked down for something like that.

"It seems to me as if it's an attack against Inter, as if they (the critics) were waiting for us to lose a game."

Close gap

The defeat left Leonardo's fourth placed side eight points behind leaders AC Milan with a game in hand.

They have another chance to close the gap in the away game to Fiorentina on Wednesday - a clash which was postponed in December due to the champion's participation at the Club World Cup.

Leonardo added: "Everything is still open, no-one can claim to have won (the title).

"We're playing well and we're the best team in the world. I can't get involved in these dramas, either accept me as I am or leave me alone."

The Inter boss has won seven league games and lost just two since taking over at the club, while also winning a pair of cup matches.

"Often people exaggerate, I'm asking for a bit of coherence. I defend the team, talking about me won't change much," he said.

"It makes me angry to hear people talk about this team as they have been, there's no (Diego) Milito issue or Eto'o issue or an issue with anyone, I can't accept this.

"I don't intend to hide a problem, we struggled also against Palermo but look at the numbers.

"I would sign on the dotted line for seven wins in our next nine matches, I'd like to see where we will be and where the others will be."

Leaky defence

The Brazilian has been criticised for his side's leaky defence but Leonardo defended his style of football, which has also seen Inter score a lot of goals.

"My idea of football is to always try to win while playing good football," he said.

"At home and away it's always 11 against 11, always on the same pitch, there's no influence on a team this strong.

"We just need to play and try to hurt our opponents, we don't need to play less like we know how, all we need to do is play to hurt our opponents and we have the quality to do that."