Ronaldo to ‘transcend’ final, says Zidane

Milan (AFP) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he expects Cristiano Ronaldo to “transcend” the Champions League final on Saturday and lead them to victory over Atletico Madrid.

Real striker Ronaldo gave fans a scare when he limped out of training on Tuesday.

But not only is the Portuguese superstar fully fit and in a position to beat his own Champions League record of 17 goals in a season, Zidane believes he will feed off the intensity of the final to give fans a treat.

“He’s 100 percent fit and he’s playing a Champions League final, when you transcend yourself,” said Zidane, appearing in a first Champions League final as a coach after succeeding Rafael Benitez at the helm earlier this season.

As a player, Zidane hit an incredible volley that beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in Glasgow in 2002 to make amends for finishing runner-up twice in succession with Juventus in 1997 and 1998.

The French legend is now hoping to make his mark from the other side of the touchlines, and would be forgiven for feeling nervous.

Two years ago, Carlo Ancelotti led the Spanish giants to their historic ‘Decima’ — their tenth title from Europe’s premier club competition — with a 4-1 extra-time win over Atletico in Lisbon. 

“When the match starts, I’ll be a bit tense, but that’s part of the job and I like it,” he said. “I experienced it as a player, but as a coach it’s completely different.”

The recent statistics between Real and Atletico make grim reading for Zidane’s men.

In their 10 meetings since Lisbon, Real have won only once, giving Diego Simeone’s men the psychological edge at the San Siro on Saturday. 

“I think it will be a difficult game, but not tough,” added Zidane. “But we’ve had two weeks to prepare and now what the players want is for the ball to start rolling.

“They’ve done fantastically well, it’s the cherry on the cake for us.”

Captain Sergio Ramos, whose late leveller two years ago reignited their glory bid and broke Atletico’s hearts, said it’s time to forget past achievements.

“You can’t live in the past. This is a fresh final and I’m just as hungry and ambitious as before.

“Pressure exists in a final, whether you’ve won it before or not. It’s not that we want it less than Atletico… we want to win it again and keep on collecting trophies.

“We’re going to leave everything out there on the pitch.”

Ronaldo, meanwhile, will match his own record of 17 goals in a single season of Champions League action if he scores against Atletico.

If he scores more than once, the Portuguese star, on 16 goals already this campaign, will set a new benchmark.

Asked earlier this week about his new target, Ronaldo said: “It would be nice to equal or even pass the (scoring) record, but I am not obsessed with that because the most important thing is to win.”

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