Tuesday 24 April 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo takes a swipe at 'jealous' critics

Real Madrid 1 Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid win 5-3 on penalties AET

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring during the penalty shootout to win the UEFA Champions League final. Photo: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring during the penalty shootout to win the UEFA Champions League final. Photo: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos celebrates with the trophy after the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco celebrates after scoring for Atletico Madrid. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Real Madrid's Marcelo

Jason Burt

Tellingly Cristiano Ronaldo was ready with the statistics: more than 50 goals scored in a season (for a sixth successive campaign); top scorer in the Champions League again (16 goals); more minutes on the pitch for his club than any other Real Madrid player - and now three Champions League winners' medals to his name, more than anyone else from his country, Portugal.

He deserved, he said, the praise, the congratulation even and adulation.

"Only the jealous don't feel that," Ronaldo added. "But I don't care about that. I always keep the people who love me. So this Champions League is for them, the guys who support me all the time, my fans in Portugal and around the world."

It was 2am deep in the San Siro and Ronaldo was dog-tired as he conducted his final media interview before the Real squad, staff, the officials and families boarded their flight back to Madrid to begin the celebrations proper at the Plaza de Cibeles, the square in the Spanish capital with its famous fountain where the players and supporters head once a trophy is won to party until dawn and beyond.

"The fans are waiting for us," Ronaldo said. "It is a famous night."

It was a famous night. Real had won the European Cup for an 11th time and for a second time in three years they had achieved it by beating their city rivals, Atletico Madrid, and done so, a little fortuitously, when it looked like the trophy was slipping away from them.

They had even inflicted a rare doubt in the mind of Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who said he would now reflect on whether he had taken the club as far as he could.

And it had to be Ronaldo, who struck the winning penalty in the shoot-out after extra-time when players were so cramped up and sapped by the stifling humidity in Milan that each movement appeared drenched in pain, and after a final in which he had been a peripheral half-fit figure who had missed chances.

"An unbelievable night," said Ronaldo, who will not now feature against England in Thursday's friendly.

"To win my third Champions League, penalties again, is unbearable. I was the top scorer in this competition again, I am so proud. We worked hard during the season to win this amazing trophy."

It was interesting that Ronaldo himself raised the fact that he was this season's Champions League top scorer, as he was with a record 17 goals the last time Real won it.

He mentioned it more than once because he knows that, aged 31, with rumours that Real have considered selling him rather than renewing his contract, there has been a debate about whether he is the player he was, whether his powers are waning, that questions are being asked that have never been countenanced before.


"It is what it is," Ronaldo, who has finished as the competition's top scorer five times, said.

"My seven years (actually six) when I'm scoring more than 50 goals, but I am asking more. I am always in the top level. I just want to maintain.

"I still feel good, I still feel fresh, not tonight, and I want to carry on like that. I feel good and I love to play for Real Madrid. I want to carry on.

"I have more than 4,000 minutes (on the pitch this season). I was the number one in the team, again, for most minutes. That means a lot to me. It means I am still good, I still feel good physically, mentally. If you ask me if I feel tired - tonight, of course. A lot of minutes in the legs but I am still there, I am always there.

"I showed the team I am there for the good moments and the bad moments. This is what makes me feel proud."

Typically Ronaldo grabbed the greatest moment. He had told coach Zinedine Zidane that he would take the fifth penalty in the shoot-out which meant that, with Atletico's Juanfran having struck a post with his kick - the only player to miss - the Portuguese would win it if he scored. Ronaldo did.

"I was confident I would score," he said. "I saw Zidane before the penalties and told him to put me as the last taker because I feel I am going to score the winning goal. This is what happened. I am so proud to score the winning goal and win the Champions League again: great."

Ronaldo will now have six days off before meeting up with the Portugal squad ahead of Euro 2016.

"No, come on. Let me rest my legs," he said when asked whether he would play at Wembley before he hobbled off with the party about to begin.

Gareth Bale, meanwhile, will meet up with the Wales squad as early as tomorrow, having said that he intends to add the Euro 2016 trophy to the Champions League that he won for the second time in three years.

Bale's declaration was made with the broadest of smiles, but he said that his country would benefit from his club's triumph.

"My confidence is high, especially after winning, so I am looking forward to going to the Euros," he said.

"I obviously have celebrations tonight (Saturday) and tomorrow, and then one day's rest and meet up with Wales."

Bale suffered badly from cramp in the humid conditions in Milan, but reassured Wales that he will be fit when the tournament kicks off.

"There's four or five days between each game, so it's normal," he said. "We play every two or three days with our clubs, so I'm confident everyone will be fit and firing and hopefully we can … you never know [smiles]. Two trophies in a matter of months."

Bale is such a talisman for Wales that you never know how far they can go, although the first - and achievable - target is to progress from a group that includes England, Russia and their first opponents, Slovakia.

The Welshman (26), the world's most expensive player after joining Real from Tottenham Hotspur for an £86 m fee three years ago, created Real's goal and was among the scorers in the shoot-out.

"You want to win Champions Leagues," Bale said. "We just have to try and build on this now."

The added incentive for Bale is that next year's final is at the Millennium Stadium. "I would love to play [the final] there," he added.

Simeone, meanwhile, said he would consider his position as Atletico Madrid coach after losing his second Champions League in three seasons.

"No one remembers the team that loses and it's a failure, that is the only way to look at it. We will just have to go home and lick our wounds. And I need to go home and think," said the beaten coach. "It's a moment for me to think about things. When you give everything and it's not enough, it's hard.

"These have been three wonderful years but I am not happy tonight. I do not know which hurts more - this final or the last one. I just feel for the people who have come to watch us."

When asked: "Are you thinking about leaving?" He replied: "I am planning to think about it."

The Atletico Madrid manager refused to blame bad luck for the defeat. He said: "I don't believe in injustice in football. Real Madrid were better than us albeit in the penalty shoot-out.

"The players were tremendous," he said. "I told them not to cry after the game because when you give everything, there is no need for tears. We have to congratulate Real Madrid."

If Simeone feels he might have reached the end of the road, Zinedine Zidane spoke like a man only just beginning. "I am happy with what we have all achieved. It is not easy to win this trophy. We had cramp at the end but we came through," he said.

Asked if he would have believed he could lead the side to a Champions League when he was managing the B-team at Christmas, he said: "It something I dreamed about. This is the club of my life - the one that has helped me to excel in everything." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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