NATAL, Brazil, June 24 (Reuters) - Diego Godin's winning goal against Italy on Tuesday, which sent Uruguay through to the World Cup knockout round, was the latest achievement in a superb season for the 28-year-old Atletico Madrid defender.
Godin's performances at centre back alongside Brazilian Miranda and a number of key headed goals from set pieces helped Atletico win their first La Liga title in 18 years and reach the final of the Champions League.
He headed the equaliser in Atletico's 1-1 draw at Barcelona that clinched the title on the final day of the campaign and another header against Real Madrid in the final of Europe's elite club competition put them 1-0 up until the dying moments before Real levelled and ran away with the game in extra time.
His 81st-minute goal against the Italians, which secured a 1-0 win and dumped the four-times winners out of the finals in Brazil, came when he jumped at a corner and the ball ricocheted off his shoulder and arrowed into the net past Gianluigi Buffon.
"I dedicate it to all my team mates because it's a goal for all the players and all the people of Uruguay who cheer for us," Godin told reporters.
"Our work rate was colossal and our level of confidence was amazing," he added. "We really bust a gut in the second half."
Godin's form has inevitably attracted the interest of Atletico's wealthier rivals but coach Diego Simeone appears intent on persuading him to stay.
"He is one of the most important players in the club," Simeone was quoted as saying in Spanish media on Tuesday.
"I would never let him go," added the Argentine.
"Godin has improved massively in all possible ways, as a footballer, as a leader and as a person.
"I appreciate him a lot and I hope he will carry on playing with us in the future." (Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Keith Weir)