Sergio Ramos reflects on the UEFA Champions League win that began a new era of European dominance for Real Madrid.
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Sergio Ramos is one of the most celebrated players of the past decade, a serial winner for club and country, and an ever-present in the various all-star XIs. Strange to think, then, that back in 2014, aged 28, the decorated Spain defender was in danger of becoming a bit of a nearly man at club level, never quite able to get his hands on the trophy he coveted most: the UEFA Champions League. Now 34, the Madrid skipper recalls ending that wait in the most dramatic way imaginable.WATCH FULL RE-RUN OF 2014 FINAL
Real Madrid had lost three consecutive UEFA Champions League semi-finals before, in 2013/14, demolishing the stumbling block with a 5-0 aggregate win against Bayern thanks in part to two goals from Ramos.
It meant a lot to finally get to the final with Real Madrid after so many years battling [for this]. It was a dream come true to reach my first Champions League final and I was obsessed with trying to win it. It was really exciting for me.
Madrid’s opponents in Lisbon were city rivals Atlético, and it was the newly-crowned Spanish champions who struck first on 36 minutes as a half-cleared corner was headed back into the area and Diego Godín glanced it in.
We knew Atleti could really hurt you, especially from set pieces. We knew we had to defend well and not give them any opportunities where they were so strong. We weren’t nervous, but we were extra focused at set pieces, so conceding was a blow.
Atlético were renowned for their tenacious defending and duly dug in, with Real Madrid increasingly throwing caution to the wind as time ebbed away. Three minutes into added time Carlo Ancelotti’s men won a corner...
Time was running out but I’ve always been a very optimistic person and I keep battling until the end, holding onto that last sliver of hope. While it remained possible, while there was still time, I was going to keep trying. I told myself, “It can’t end like this.”
I remember thinking about my late grandparents. In those kinds of moments, I find ways to motivate myself. That kind of stuff helps me be the best person I can be. It makes me fight for every ball and try to get something out of every situation.
I think it was that hope that gave me the strength to head the ball into the perfect spot where [Thibaut] Courtois couldn’t reach it. It was a great cross from my friend [Luka] Modrić and I headed it with all my heart, desire and hope. But it wasn’t just me who scored that goal. That goal was scored by every Real Madrid fan.
There was only ever going to be one winner in extra time, goals from Gareth Bale and Marcelo and a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty sealing a 4-1 triumph and Madrid’s long-awaited tenth European Cup, La Décima.
[The equaliser] was a knockout blow, conceding in the 93rd minute when it seemed they were just about to become European champions. It was a really tough blow for Atleti and you could see that in extra time – they were out on their feet.
It’s the most important moment in my whole career: it didn't just change the history of Real Madrid but also my career. That happiness will stay with me forever. It will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first Champions League. Your first title always tastes that little bit sweeter.
That game ushered in a magnificent era.