By Hugo Pietra
Striker Fernando Morientes has insisted that winning the UEFA Champions League with AS Monaco FC would mark a new high in his playing career. The 28-year-old, on loan from Real Madrid CF, has already scored eleven goals to make him the competition's top goalscorer but he has his eyes firmly focused on the title.
'The best feeling'
"If we win the cup it will be a wonderful season for all of us," he told uefa.com at an adidas presentation in Nice. "I am sure that will be very important for the club and for all the players. It is the best feeling a player can achieve in his career. It is the ultimate climax to a successful working season."
"This game has a special meaning to me," he added. "It is the main European trophy and it will be great to win this title for Monaco, as the club never achieved anything like this.
I have won the Champions League before but this is a special occasion to win something for my new club."
Indeed, Morientes has already won the title three times with Madrid, whose miserable season has been in stark contrast to the success the striker has achieved during his season in Ligue 1. "At the beginning of the season it was unthinkable that we would reach this stage," he said. "So it would be great if we can win this trophy."
Morientes was not making any predictions about the final at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, but heaped praise upon Monaco's opponents, FC Porto. "Porto have a great team and I know them very well," he said. They beat [RC] Deportivo La Coruña in the semi-finals and they have a compact team with lots of skill.
'Anything can happen'
"We have a 50-50 chance of winning this game. Porto are a more experienced team, with great European results [like winning last season's UEFA Cup]. Historically, they have a slight advantage but it is a final and anything can happen."
Some have suggested that, having beaten both Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais on their route to Gelsenkirchen, Porto have the measure of French opponents. However, Morientes disagreed: "That will not matter. They may have faced two teams from our league, but each side plays its own way."
Morientes did not claim to be overly familiar with Porto's style of play, but he was certainly well aware of their goalkeeper Vítor Baía. "He is a great goalkeeper," said the Spanish international. "I know him very well, when he played for FC Barcelona and he will be a hard man to beat."
Another player who has caught the striker's eye is playmaker Deco, who Morientes described as "a wonderful player, with great individual skills who can settle the outcome of a game suddenly, at any minute".
'A great honour'
Great opponents and a great occasion, Morientes is hoping that his team-mates can acquit themselves well in the final. "It's a great honour for us being in a final like this," he said. "It's always a different match, with a high amount of pressure. But on the other hand, the players will be more motivated than usual."
However, regardless of pressure, Morientes will go into the final without fear. "I won't feel the pressure of being the competition's top goal scorer," he insisted. "I will ignore the atmosphere of the final and I will do my best, like I always do."
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