Sam the man for Leonardo

Inter Milan manager Leonardo has reacted with disbelief at criticism directed at striker Samuel Eto’o.

Inter lost 1-0 at Juventus on Sunday, widening the gap between them and Serie A-leading city rivals AC Milan to eight points as a result.

Eto’o was the chief target of blame for the loss, but he was defended by his manager on Tuesday.

“I don’t know how someone can criticise Eto’o,” he said.

“It really takes some cheek. Eto’o has scored (24) goals this season. He sometimes might not time things right or have the space because he’s strictly marked, but it does not make sense to say that there is a problem with Eto’o.”

Leonardo and Inter are readying themselves for Wednesday’s trip to Fiorentina, who are undefeated in three games in February.

The Brazilian is under no illusions as to the task at hand.

“Well, we have played against many teams when they were in their best form: Napoli, Palermo and now we’ll be playing against Fiorentina,” Leonardo said.

“Maybe this is the destiny of a big team: to face teams in good form. I think that Fiorentina have started very well this year and have achieved a great win in the last match.”

“I think that our team has alternatives, but we’re a very compact side that has the ability to perform in the big matches.”

Leonardo also touched on the retirement of former national teammate Ronaldo, and was liberal with his praise of the ex-Inter striker.

“I think that Messi is playing so well, but as far as I’m concerned – after Maradona and Pele, who are two untouchable myths in the football world – comes Ronaldo,” he said.

“It’s like losing a fortune, I don’t know how to say it. I think he will be among the best players: after Maradona and Pele, there will be Ronaldo.”