Tiago: Players would jump off bridge for Simeone
Published 24/05/2014 | 02:30
The Lisbon city-scape is famous for two impressive bridges across the vast River Tagus – one, the Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest in Europe – and, if Diego Simeone took his Atletico Madrid players along it and asked them to leap off, they would.
Who says so? The players themselves as articulated by former Chelsea midfielder Tiago Mendes ahead of the climax of this most extraordinary campaign for Los Colchoneros.
"For us, for all the club, he is like a god," Tiago said of Simeone, who has been such a charismatic, driven and demanding coach at Atletico where the Argentinian had two spells as an uncompromising midfielder and who he has now led to astonishing success culminating in this final against Real Madrid.
"He arrived at the club and he changed everything," Tiago explained.
"What he said to us has come true. We follow him – if he asked us to go and jump off the bridge, we jump.
"This is a special club. A club where people have a passion for the colours and very few clubs have that passion. I am Portuguese but I will be Colchonero all my life."
Simeone brushed aside the concerns over the fitness of Diego Costa, the powerful Brazilian-born naturalised Spaniard who has been struggling with a hamstring injury, and midfielder Arda Turan who has a damaged knee and there is an impressive assurance to his sense of belief.
Both trained yesterday but a decision as to whether they will feature in the final will not be taken until close to kick-off.
There were smiles from Costa, replacing the tears he shed in being substituted during last weekend's ultimately triumphant La Liga title-decider away to Barcelona, but neither he nor Turan extended themselves.
Simeone, who won silverware with Lazio in Italy and the double with Atletico as a player, but never fared well in the European Cup, is still deliberating who will replace Costa if he does not pass a late fitness test.
Diego Ribas, who got the goal at the Nou Camp that helped see Atletico past Barcelona in the quarter-finals, could be brought into a five-man midfield behind David Villa.
Real Madrid are sweating over the fitness of Karim Benzema and Pepe. Coach Carlo Ancelotti said he would see how the pair reacted to last night's training session before making a final decision over their participation.
Ancelotti is still undecided whether to replace the suspended Xabi Alonso with the inexperienced Asier Illarramendi or Sami Khedira, who has barely played since undergoing knee surgery last November.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)