when Real Madrid play rivals Atletico in the Champions League final
- Ronaldo returns to the city where he made his name with Sporting
- Real star hopes to make up for heartache of losing Euro 2004 final in Lisbon
- Portugal star calls on countrymen to get behind Real in Champions League final
Cristiano Ronaldo will have home advantage on Saturday night in the Estadio da Luz as the Portuguese capital gets behind Real Madrid’s attempt to win their 10th European Cup final.
‘I hope the Portuguese supporters will be backing Real Madrid,’ said Ronaldo this week. ‘I hope they become Madrid fans for myself, Fabio Coentrao and Pepe. Supporters win games so I hope they are behind us.’
He really didn’t need to ask. Those home fans still remember his tears on the pitch 10 years ago after that Angelos Charisteas’ goal earned Otto Rehhagel’s Greece side a 1-0 win in the European Championship final denying Portugal a famous win on home soil.
Home sweet home: Cristiano Ronaldo looks out on to the city of Lisbon
The early years: Cristiano Ronaldo as a youngster at Sporting Lisbon
Back home: Cristiano Ronaldo lands in Lisbon as he bids to win his second Champions League
The message is clear: Ronaldo posted a picture on Twitter with the message: In the biggest game against our closest rivals, there is only one option
Star of the show: Ronaldo is the main man for Real
But win on Saturday in the same stadium would be a dream. Leonardo Veliz, who coached Ronaldo at Sporting Lisbon, says: ‘Cristiano wanted to play for Real Madrid because that is where his hero played. Luis Figo was at Madrid and Cristiano had his shirt at the end of his bed. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his idol.’
Ronaldo is a national hero having given Portugal their third Ballon d’Or after Eusebio and Luis Figo and you would be hard pressed to find a Portuguese football fan who does not want to see Ronaldo crying tears of happiness on Saturday rather than the tears of despair he shed a decade ago.
Portugal became the first host nation to lose a Euros final in 2014 but Lisbon has otherwise been lucky city for Ronaldo. He first visited the Portuguese capital in 1987 after representatives of Sporting, including then coach, Leonel Pontes, had travelled to Madeira to convince him and his father to come for a trial.
Centre of attention: Ronaldo talks to the media ahead of the final
Home comforts: Ronaldo hopes to triumph in Lisbon
Watching the young Ronaldo train with 13-year-olds at Sporting, Pontes was convinced the still 12-year-old boy wonder from Nacional was worth signing and Sporting’s then owner Aurelio Pereira paid around €22,000 to bring him to the club.
That summer his mother Dolores signed his first contract for three years and packed her son off to Lisbon where he developed into one of the best young players in Europe attracting the attention of Inter, Arsenal and ultimately Manchester United.
Veliz remembers: ‘His skill on the ball was the first thing you noticed. He was a wiry boy and yet to develop the powerful muscular frame we now associated him with.
In tears: Ronaldo cries as Portugal lose to Greece in the Euro 2004 final
Starting out: Ronaldo began his career at Sporting Lisbon
‘The way he built himself up to become such a superb athlete just shows you how dedicated he is. His mental strength and determination has what has made him the best player in the world.’
Velíz remembers the friendly performance that persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to sign him. He says: ‘He played so well in that game it’s no wonder the big United players at the time urged their manager to sign him.’
And it was playing for Sporting in a friendly against Manchester United that he sealed his move to Old Trafford. The United fans still sing his name and the Sporting fans still have him down as one of their own.
They and the rest of Portuguese football will hope he gets his second European Cup winners’ medal on Saturday night.
Source : Daily Mail