By Mike Collett
LISBON, May 23 (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid's players have so much respect, faith and belief in coach Diego Simeone that they would jump off a bridge if he told them to, midfielder Tiago said with a smile on Friday.
The Portuguese international, addressing a news conference before Saturday's Champions League final against Real Madrid, joked that it was difficult to say what he really felt about the club's coach as he was sitting next to him on the podium.
But, overcoming any doubts he might have had, he told the world's media packed into the press room at Benfica's Stadium of Light: "For us, for all the club, he is like a god. He arrived at the club and he changed everything.
"What he says to us comes true and we would follow him. If he asked us to go and jump off a bridge, we would jump. He knows so much about football, we follow him and we are very proud to have him as our coach."
Atletico have had a stunning season, winning La Liga for the first time since 1996, and are now attempting to lift the European Cup for the first time in only their second appearance at this stage of UEFA's elite competition.
The lost to Bayern Munich on their debut in the final in 1974 after a replay but believe they can get the better of Real on Saturday as they did by winning La Liga last week.
"We have shown all through the season we know what we have to do in every match. That is where we draw our strength from and we will try to do the same tomorrow," said Tiago.
"It's true we are (La Liga) champions and we did a fantastic job in our league. Now it's a different game," added the midfielder who spent two seasons at Benfica a decade ago before stints with Chelsea, Olympique Lyonnais and Juventus.
"It doesn't matter if we are underdogs or not. We have a dream and we want that dream to come true. It's easy to be motivated, it's a Champions League final.
"I think it's the dream of every player. It's easy to focus because what we did in this Champions League was very special and we have not been beaten and we want to end with the title."
Simeone, bidding to become the third non-European coach to lift the European Cup following his Argentine compatriots Luis Carniglia (Real Madrid 1958 and 1959) and Helenio Herrera (Inter Milan 1964 and 1965), was equally positive about his players as he attempts to end Real's quest for a 10th European Cup success.
"Sometimes words are not enough to express thanks," he said. "These players have allowed us, as the coaching staff, to transmit the ideas we have about football. You can play well or badly, but you have to give everything, show passion, humility, commitment and that's what these players have done." (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Ken Ferris)