Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho praised Michael Essien's commitment to his new team's cause after the on-loan Chelsea midfielder again filled in at left-back during the routine 5-0 La Liga win at Real Mallorca on Sunday night.
With Real's first-team left-backs all currently unavailable, the Ghanaian has been deployed in defence by Mourinho for the last three games, a decision questioned by some in the local media. After Essien had again impressed against Mallorca, the coach lauded his player's enthusiasm, while revealing he had taken a pay-cut to join Madrid on loan for this season.
"Essien plays where I want, and he does not mind," Mourinho said. "He shows the same attitude and mentality as when he decided to come to Real Madrid and play, while making less money than at Chelsea. I do not give any credit to what the media say."
Madrid took control of the game at Mallorca with early goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo. With the injury-hit Balearic Islanders offering little opposition, both players grabbed a second after half-time and substitute Jose Callejon completed the scoring late on.
Mourinho, critical of his players' attitude earlier in the season, said the focus within the group was now right, as their results were showing.
"Since the match in Seville we have been winning matches," he said. "Although we are still not playing as great as we did for virtually the whole of last season, it was enough to win comfortably. We scored our first chance and that made the match easier. Sometimes we need lots of chances but we scored the first, and the second, and things got easier."
It was important to keep winning to try to close the eight point gap to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the Primera Division table, Mourinho said.
"It was important to win at a difficult ground and against a tough opponent. We have to continue and win as many points as possible. You have to keep cutting the lead to the direct competition. Our competition are also Atletico because they have got a good head start on us."
The one blemish on the performance for Los Blancos was a fifth league booking of the season for key midfielder Xabi Alonso, who is now suspended for next Saturday's La Liga clash with Real Zaragoza at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Mourinho said this was a blow given the club's injury situation but did mean he could rest someone else in Madrid's Copa del Rey last 32 first-leg game at Alcoyano on Wednesday evening.
"It is a problem because we have injuries and suspensions which complicate things for us," he said. "But on the other hand he is available to play on Wednesday and another player who will have to play will get a rest."