West Ham United defender Pablo Zabaleta has hailed Joao Mario for the midfielder’s impressive performance against Southampton in the Premier League at the weekend.
Mario joined the Hammers on loan from Inter Milan during the January transfer window, and has largely struggled to make an impact at the London Stadium.
The Portugal international notched his first goal for West Ham against Southampton, however, as the London club recorded a hugely important 3-0 success.
Zabaleta has lavished praise on Mario, claiming that the 25-year-old had his best game for the Hammers against Mark Hughes’ struggling outfit.
Zabaleta told West Ham’s official website:
“Joao Mario showed his outstanding quality for us on Saturday. He has great technique and works hard for the team.
“On Saturday he played his best game for us so far and we were all happy for him. He took his goal really well and this his cross for Arnie (Marko Arnautovic) was also fantastic.
“These moments are the difference in matches and Joao has the qualities to help us win more games, for sure.”
Mario, who is wanted by the majority of West Ham fans on a permanent deal, was linked with a move to Manchester United before ultimately joining the Hammers on loan for the remainder of the 2017-18 campaign.
The Euro 2016 winner managed five assists in 14 Serie A appearances for Inter in the first half of the season.