Madrid (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo was once again hailed as Real Madrid’s hero as fans crammed into the club’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium and streets across the Spanish capital to wildly celebrate a record 12th European Cup win on Saturday.
Whilst Ronaldo’s double sentenced Juventus to a comprehensive 4-1 defeat at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, nearly 2,000 kilometres away over 70,000 supporters congregated to watch the match of eight giant screens erected on the Bernabeu turf.
“Year after year he is showing he is the best player in the world, the best player in history,” said Real fan Raul Alvarez, 25, of Ronaldo whilst proudly drapping a Madrid flag on his back.
“Every year we are kings of Europe.”
As well as solidifying their status as the most successful club in the history of the competition, Madrid completed a first La Liga and Champions League double for 59 years and became the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.
Unlike in previous years, the Madrid players will hold off on their procession through the heart of the Spanish capital until Sunday evening.
However, thousands still poured onto the streets to celebrate around the Cibeles fountain in the city centre, a traditional meeting point for Real’s celebrations.
“It’s incredible, I’m dreaming,” said 64-year-old Teresa Decarlini, who had travelled from the southern Spanish city of Cadiz to take in the atmosphere.
“Two Champions Leagues in a row. We are unique.”
However, the festivities were overseen by a huge security presence with police shutting off traffic on the roads leading to Cibeles and searching bags before allowing fans through barriers.
Back at the Bernabeu, Real coach Zinedine Zidane was also washed with praise as the Frenchman continued his meteoric rise just 18 months into his first role in senior management.
Zidane’s sensational strike as a player in the 2002 final was greeted with the loudest cheer as all of Real’s goals from their 11 previous final wins were played before kick-off.
“Zidane was one of the best players to pass through Madrid and now he is showing that he knows how to manage the squad perfectly,” adds Alvarez. “He is showing he is the best coach in the world.”
“He made great substitutions,” said Jordi Perez, 27, as he supports himself on crutches, but didn’t contemplate missing out on watching the final at the Bernabeu.
“He knows how to change a game.”
Ronaldo’s opener to set another historic mark as the first man to score in three Champions League finals sparked euphoric scenes.
“People doubt him, but he is out of this world, he is a machine and, from those I have seen, the best in Madrid’s history,” said another jubilant fan Diego Torulano.
Mario Mandzukic’s spectacular acrobatic overhead kick to level seven minutes later temporarily silenced the Bernabeu.
However, Real and Ronaldo weren’t to be denied, as further goals from Casemiro, Ronaldo and Marco Asensio meant the final 20 minutes were played out to a carnival atmosphere with chants of “champions” and “viva España.”