Real seek to embellish incredible record
Milan, May 27
Cristiano Ronaldo insists personal goals will be put to one side as Real Madrid seek to embellish their incredible European record with victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday.
Ronaldo, a three-time world player of the year, has never scored a goal at the San Siro but has the chance to match and surpass his own record of scoring 17 Champions League goals in a season. Yet two years after Real defender Sergio Ramos levelled at the death to inspire a stunning, extra-time comeback and secure a 10th triumph in Lisbon, the Portuguese superstar insists winning an 11th crown is far more important than who hits the net at the San Siro.
“It would be nice to equal or even pass the (scoring) record, but I am not obsessed with that because the most important thing is to win,” Ronaldo said when asked about adding to his 16-goal tally in the competition this season. Victory would see Real Madrid embellish their reputation as the most successful club in Europe having won the inaugural edition, the European Champions Clubs’ Cup, in 1956 when Argentinian Hector Rial struck the winner in a 4-3 victory over fallen French giants Stade Reims in Paris.
Atletico’s achievements may pale in comparison, but the threat from Diego Simeone’s men, who have restricted Real to only one win in their past 10 meetings since 2014 final, is real.
Before winning two Europa League titles in 2010 and 2012, the ‘Rojiblancos’ last continental trophy was the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1962. Yet only two years after Lisbon, Simeone’s men are back having stunned Barcelona in the quarter-finals, and ended the hopes of the Catalan giants’ former coach Pep Guardiola when they ousted his Bayern Munich side on away goals in semi-finals.
Real fans may have the history, but Zinedine Zindane’s men have beaten Atletico only once in 10 meetings since their 4-1 victory in Lisbon two years ago. Unsurprisingly, Simeone is bullish ahead of a clash that Ronaldo says will settle which side rules the roost in the Spanish capital. “We’ve already played two of the top three teams in the world and now we’re facing the third in the final,” Simeone told UEFA.com.
Whoever wins, says Ronaldo, will earn the local bragging rights: “We will see who is the best. I am positive. I think Real are better than Atletico, but we have to show it on the pitch.” But Real have plenty of reason to be wary. Two years ago, Atletico were a whisker away from avenging their European Cup final defeat to Bayern Munich in 1974 (4-0) after Diego Godin gave Simeon’s men a 36th minute opener.
Ramos’ 93rd minute leveller, however, pushed the match into extra time and, with the fresh momentum, Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo, from the spot, struck to compound Atletico’s misery. Now, it is Ronaldo, Bale and French striker Karim Benzema who could have their work cut out, while Ramos and Pepe, Zidane’s preferred centre-back partnership, will be wary of a repeat of recent history.
Atletico have recorded 35 clean sheets in 56 games this season, including shutouts at home to Barcelona and Bayern Munich when they were dumped out of the competition. They also managed a 1-0 win at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu to inflict Zidane’s only La Liga defeat in four months in charge when the sides last met in February.