LISBON (Reuters) - Saturday’s Champions League final at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light is going to be a very special one for Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo who will be making a rare club appearance in his homeland.
The 29-year-old Portuguese national captain, who has scored a season-record 16 goals in the competition, is delighted to be facing Atletico Madrid in his own capital city where he began his career with Sporting.
He has praised world record signing Gareth Bale and team mate Karim Benzema for taking Real to within 90 minutes of their long sought “decima”, their 10th European crown.
In an interview in the match programme, Ronaldo said the relationship between the three men, so crucial to Real’s attacking potency was excellent.
“The connection we have is nearly perfect,” he said.
“Karim and Gareth are excellent players and both are enjoying good spells.
“I’m happy to be playing alongside them. Things are going well and that’s important for the club.”
There was huge media speculation that Ronaldo would not take kindly to Bale’s arrival in Madrid last year.
The 86 million pounds ($145 million) fee Real paid to Tottenham Hotspur set a new world record transfer record, breaking the previous mark of 80 million pounds they paid to Manchester United for Ronaldo in 2009.
That, however, was never the case and Ronaldo has plenty of praise for the Welshman who has scored 20 goals for Real this season - 15 in La Liga and five in the Champions League.
Ronaldo said he made an immediate connection with the devastatingly quick midfielder who has settled well in Madrid after a slow start.
“Of course Gareth speaks English. Not all of the players here do, but I do. So we have a good connection. We have become close. I like him as a player and I like him even more as a person.
“As a player, it doesn’t need saying, but he’s also a very calm person.”
Ronaldo has scored 50 goals in all matches for Real this season and his 16 strikes in the Champions League broke the previous record of 14 shared by Jose Altafini of AC Milan and Lionel Messi of Barcelona.
He is also third on the all-time European Cup/Champions League scoring chart with 66 goals behind Raul (71) and Messi (67) but is now focused on helping Real lift the European Cup for the 10th time.
“It will be special at Benfica’s ground,” said the player developed at Benfica’s rivals Sporting before moving to Manchester United as a an 18-year-old.
“It’s a legendary stadium for everyone in Portugal and for me. It’s in my country, and I am very happy for that.
“Perhaps they won’t be supporting Real Madrid, but that’s fine.”
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Editing by Ed Osmond