Cristiano Ronaldo reflects on a remarkable 12 months for club and country – "possibly the best of my career" – and explains why Zinédine Zidane and Pepe deserve special praise.
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How does last season rate in the context of your career?
In terms of trophies it was possibly the best of my career. After winning the Champions League, winning the European Championship with my country capped an extraordinary year. The same goes both collectively and individually, because I was top scorer in the Champions League and had a good European Championship. It really was a top-drawer, excellent season for me.
Looking back at last term's UEFA Champions League. What kind of emotions come to mind when you think about the final?
It was an amazing experience. Once again [as in 2014] against Atlético Madrid, who are an excellent side and also deserved to win the Champions League ... but Real Madrid were better. We had a bit of luck in the shoot-out because penalties are always a lottery. It was the pinnacle of a difficult season for Real Madrid in which we were ultimately able to win the biggest trophy in club football.
What impact did Zinédine Zidane have on the squad after his appointment in January?
Zidane was key. He's a great professional, a great person and, in my opinion, his biggest quality is his ability to give his players a sense of calm. That's what we needed and after he arrived the team went from 0 to 100. We were 12 points behind Barcelona and we ended up just one point adrift. In the Champions League we did what we had to do – and went on to win it. What more could you ask? Zidane deserves a lot of credit.
Then there was the EURO, when Portugal made history by winning the competition in what was an epic final. What was that experience like?
Before the EURO we expected Portugal to have a good European Championship, get through the group stage, get through the quarter-finals and from there we saw everything as a bonus. To be honest I didn't think Portugal could win the EURO. But match by match I started believing it was possible. In the end we deserved it, we played as a team and our players are to be congratulated.
And what about your [club and international] team-mate Pepe, whom you've known for a long time. What qualities does he have and what does he bring to the dressing room?
I'm happy you asked me this question so that I can say that, in my book, Pepe was extraordinary this year. It was possibly his best season. He was undoubtedly Portugal's best player and one of Real Madrid's best players in the Champions League. I'm delighted he was selected in the Team of the Tournament at the EURO – in my opinion Pepe was the best player at the EURO.
This will be your 14th season in the UEFA Champions League. What does this competition mean to you?
It's an honour to play in the Champions League, the most important competition. And being the leading scorer in the competition's history makes it even more special for me. This tournament is special for me, it's special for Real Madrid, so we will try to win it again this season.
Ronaldo is vying with Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann for the 2015/16 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. The winner will be announced during Thursday's group stage draw in Monaco.