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Griezmann one of the world’s top three – Simeone

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Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring during the UEFA Champions League semi-final, second-leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in Munich, southern Germany, on May 3, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / LUKAS BARTH

Atletico Madrid’s French forward Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring during the UEFA Champions League semi-final, second-leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in Munich, southern Germany, on May 3, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / LUKAS BARTH

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone hailed star forward Antoine Griezmann as “one of the best three players in the world” as Atletico prepare to face local rivals Real Madrid in next Saturday’s Champions League final.

Griezmann has enjoyed his best ever goal-scoring season with 32 goals in all competitions.

However, the French international has been particularly effective in the Champions League as his double against Barcelona in the quarter-finals and vital away goal at Bayern Munich in the last four allowed Atletico to upset the odds and reach a second final in three seasons.

“He has worked very hard, pushed himself and knows how to listen,” Simeone said on Saturday.

“The best way to improve in any job is to listen. Without doubt he is one of the best three players in the world.”

The majority of the stars will be on Real’s side as Atletico aim to avenge their defeat in agonising fashion in the final two years ago by winning the competition for the first time in Milan next weekend.

Simeone’s men were on course for victory in Lisbon until Sergio Ramos headed Real level deep into injury time and Los Blancos ran out 4-1 winners after extra-time.

Yet, despite the presence of three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most expensive player in Gareth Bale and the likes of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, Simeone expects the Real to play on the counter-attack.

“In the Champions League that is clearly the route they have chosen,” added Simeone.

“I expect an opponent that will wait for their opportunity. The presence of Casemiro in midfield has given them a lot of power defensively and in the Champions League they have played on the counter-attack.”

Real’s route to the final has been a much easier one on paper than Atletico’s treacherous course past Dutch champions PSV before dumping out Barca and Bayern.

Los Blancos brushed aside Roma before squeezing past Wolfsburg and Manchester City.

However, Simeone also reserved praise for how Zinedine Zidane has revived Real’s fortunes since taking over as coach from the sacked Rafael Benitez in January.

“He has recovered the confidence, intensity and the speed of their attack,” added the Argentine.

“He has a more concrete style to make the most of the three strikers.

“To get to a Champions League final is an important demonstration of his work.”


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