In an Interview with UEFA.com, Cristiano Ronaldo discusses Saturday’s final opponents Juventus, what it means to have scored 100 UEFA Champions League goals and working with Zinédine Zidane.
UEFA.com: How has your 14th season in the UEFA Champions League been? How are you looking forward to your third final in four years?
Cristiano Ronaldo: It’s always special to compete in a Champions League final. I’ve had the opportunity to do so four times and this will be my fifth, so it’s going to be a very special moment. We’re going to be up against a great team. We know it’s going to be a very difficult match, but we are Real Madrid, which is why we have a good chance of winning. I obviously hope that we win because that would be extraordinary.
UEFA.com: What do you think are the key things about your UEFA Champions League final opponents, Juventus?
Ronaldo: They’re an excellent team. They aren’t in the Champions League final by accident. They’re definitely a tough opponent. We know it’ll be a very hard match. In a final the chances are always 50-50.
They like to stay close to their opponents, just like Atlético Madrid. They may have a great back line, but as good as their defenders are, there is always a weak point in any defence. So we’ll have to try to figure out their weak points, capitalise on the space that Juventus are going to give us, and take advantage of that to score.
It will be very similar to our last two finals against Atlético. Both teams will try to take advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. The team that makes fewer errors will probably win. I hope Real Madrid will be the team that makes the least mistakes.
UEFA.com: How much are you enjoying your football at this moment in your career?
Ronaldo: I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can and I feel fit. Obviously the team have helped a lot. It’s what I love to do.
I think my position will always continue to be the same. Obviously what I want the most is to play more freely up front, and that is the opportunity Zinédine Zidane has been giving me as a No9. I play freely. I play on the wing, down the middle – I play whenever I think I should.
In the last couple of years I would be very tired when it came to the final part of the league and Champions League season, so this season I was rested for a couple of matches. However, I am still the player who has played the most minutes in the team. I’ve played a lot of matches, but obviously I feel much better in this final phase than in previous years.
UEFA.com: Real Madrid have had 20 or 21 regular players this season. Has this been a key factor in the team going so far?
Ronaldo: In my opinion, yes. I think Zidane has been managing the squad very intelligently. It’s not easy, because all the players want to play a lot. He has been able to use all the players. He has been able to rest key players who are normally starters.
When Zidane came in last year, we had sensible expectations. Nobody put too much pressure on him because we were a long way behind the league leaders. This season he started from square one and he’s been showing just what a good coach he’s becoming.
I already admired him as a player, and now I admire him even more as a coach because he’s a very positive person – a hard worker and very respectful towards the players. I don’t have any doubts that the success the team have had is down to Zidane and the excellent job he’s been doing. All the players are pleased with him.
UEFA.com: Does being the first player to reach a century of UEFA Champions League goals mean a lot to you?
Ronaldo: Yes. It was a milestone I wanted to reach. I always believed I would be the first player in Champions League history to score 100 goals – and I did it. It was a goal I set myself at the beginning of the season and, thank God, I achieved it.
I am aware of the fact that what I’ve done in football has already left and will continue to leave a mark. I haven’t broken so many records by accident. That’s not an obsession for me, but I do like breaking them. They are there to be broken. It motivates me to train and play better and better. I have that ambition to always improve and be at the highest level possible.
UEFA.com: Are you excited that Real Madrid could become the first side to defend their title in the UEFA Champions League era?
Ronaldo: It is a target every Real Madrid player wants to achieve. We want to go down in history and we know that if we win this Champions League, we will be the first team, in this new Champions League format, to retain the trophy. It’s another objective for us, it’s an ambition and it’s also a dream for us. Fingers crossed!