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Back in the UEFA Champions League final for the first time in 12 years, Real Madrid CF captain Iker Casillas is keen to savour every moment in Lisbon – as long as the evening ends with him holding the trophy aloft again.
Part of the Madrid team that claimed their eighth and ninth European Cup successes in 2000 and 2002, Casillas has had a long and frustrating wait for the chance to claim 'La Décima', and that experience means he will approach this year's decider in a new frame of mind. "When you don't win what you think you should have, that's when you see how important what you have already done is," the goalkeeper explained. "It was marvellous in 2000 and 2002 but it was a bit like we were used to winning back then – since then it's been very hard for us. When you're not in the final, it's difficult to accept.
"When you're 19, 20 years old, perhaps you don't realise how important these titles are, both for you as a player and for Real Madrid," Casillas, 33, added. "
When you haven't been in the final for a long time, you appreciate it a lot more – and the joy is immense. As you grow older, you realise the privilege you have in making thousands of people happy. We want to go back to Madrid as European champions."
It may have been 12 years since Madrid last graced the final but, like his goalkeeper, Sergio Ramos knows the biggest stage well. "I have lived some very special moments, but I've never had the chance to play in a Champions League final," said the defender, a world and European champion with Spain. "In football, you don't really get the chance to enjoy these situations, it's almost like a dream. That's why we have to give everything and a bit more; for this club, whether we like it or not, the Champions League is a different competition and the fans want to have this moment of happiness again. We have to do everything to bring that."
He may be a UEFA Champions League final novice yet Ramos is adamant what must be done to overcome a Club Atlético de Madrid team buoyed by last weekend's league title triumph. "We need the right attitude and motivation – that can decide the match," the 28-year-old said. "Motivation has to be there, plus the sacrifice and humility that's brought us here.
This is the reward for what we've done this year; now we have to give everything and a bit more. It's about going home with your head held high and, if we're motivated, we're going to give Atlético a very hard time. This is a unique opportunity for us."
Casillas arguably knows differently, though he agreed that their presence in Lisbon is reward for Madrid's efforts over the course of the campaign, especially after three successive semi-final defeats. "We're a young group who have tried to go as far as possible. In previous years we didn't make it through, but all that has served as experience – so not thinking of the final but focusing on the games we had to play first," he said. "The group is more mature and now we have a lot more experience. All the hard hits we've taken have made us stronger; after all these years where we almost made it to the final but didn't, let's hope we can win this one."
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