Diego Simeone has suggested Atletico Madrid are limiting Antoine Griezmann's minutes in order to avoid activating a purchase clause in the forward's loan deal.
Griezmann is midway through a two-year loan spell from Barcelona, but Atleti must reportedly make the France international's stay permanent should he play over 45 minutes in the majority of their games.
While Griezmann made 21 league starts for Los Colchoneros last season, scoring three goals and adding four assists, he has been reduced to a bit-part role at the outset of the new campaign.
The 31-year-old has impressed during his three substitute appearances this season, scoring twice, but has only played 82 minutes in LaLiga.
Asked whether his management of Griezmann's playing time was dictated by club policy, Simeone said: "They have known me for 10 years. I am a club man and always will be.
"We must try to make them [the players] understand that entering 30 minutes well is more important than playing 60 badly.
"Everyone wants to play more minutes and that is why the coaches look for the best situations for the team."
Grizzi pic.twitter.com/KNc9vHF3CN— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) August 31, 2022
Atleti were relatively quiet in the transfer market, bringing in Nahuel Molina, Axel Witsel and Sergio Reguilon, while Renan Lodi's loan move to Nottingham Forest represented their most high-profile outgoing.
Simeone blamed their lack of activity on an inability to generate funds in recent years, adding: "We have been on vacation since May, June is complicated, in July we settled in and August was complicated again.
"It seemed that four could go, three come in... but I think the pandemic crisis has a lot to do with it. We have not been able to sell in recent years and that creates difficulties."
Atleti travel to Real Sociedad for their fourth outing of the season on Saturday, having claimed six points from their opening three games in LaLiga.
Griezmann, who began his career with La Real, has recorded a goal contribution on each of his last three league visits to the Reale Arena (two goals, one assist).