The day is May 24th, 2014, and time is running out for Real Madrid at the Estádio da Luz. Local rivals Atlético Madrid are about to pull off an incredible stunt. Real’s European curse seems to have struck again. Their elusive 10th Champions League, ‘La Décima’, which the club has been obsessively chasing for 12 years since Zinedine Zidane volleyed in thát goal in 2002, has never been this close. In the 93rd minute, 1-0 down, they get one more chance. Luka Modric hurries to take the corner.
“I was with the team before the game,” says David Herrera Mendoza, Publication Officer at Real Madrid. “I’ve never seen the players so nervous for any game in all my years at the club, it was really odd.”
Coming into the final, Atlético were arguably having their best ever season. They had already won the Spanish league, their first league title in 18 years. In the Champions League, they beat AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea on their way to the final, only their second Champions League/European Cup final ever. If they were going to win it, it would be now.
As for Real Madrid; they had been knocked out in the semi-finals of the Champions League for the three previous seasons, each one of them more traumatic than the other. Manager José Mourinho, who was brought to the club in 2010 to win the Champions League, had failed.
“I still think Mourinho deserves a lot of the credit for our [Real Madrid’s] recent successes,” Herrera countered.
“When he came to the club, he really underlined that every single employee at the club needs to do his or her job with the objective to help the team win trophies; whether that is the window cleaner or a player on the pitch. That mentality is still at the club now, and I think it’s one of the main reasons for our success.”
Mourinho left Madrid in 2013 and Carlo Ancelotti came in, as did record signing Gareth Bale. With the new ‘BBC’ (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano [Ronaldo]) attack, Madrid won the Copa del Rey, with Bale scoring that famous goal in the final. In Europe, they beat reigning champions Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals, including an incredible 0-4 win in the second leg. “Adiós, fantasmas!”, “Goodbye, ghosts!” the Spanish commentators yelled as Ronaldo scored the fourth in Munich.
“I Think Mourinho deserves a lot of the credit for Real Madrid’s recent successes”
A Madrid derby in the final. Needless to say, the atmosphere produced by the 60,000 fans inside the Estádio da Luz was incredible. For Atlético, the idea of winning their first Champions League while also denying their eternal rivals their historic 10th Champions League was a dream come true. For Real, there was an obligation to win. They had all the stars, the most expensive team and they had that arrogance about them.
The game started. Atlético invited Real to attack. Chances started to come. Bale was particularly dangerous on the right wing, driving into the box from the right and missing an enormous chance after half an hour.
A few minutes later, Atlético got their chance. A corner was initially dealt with but headed back in by Juanfran. Iker Casillas came out to punch the ball but completely misjudged it, getting caught in no man’s land as Diego Godin’s looping header went over him and into the net. ‘San Iker’, Saint Iker, the club captain and legend, might have cost his side the win here and he knew better than anyone what that would mean for the club.Embed from Getty Images
Nothing Madrid did was working, but they kept coming. Ángel Di María kept running at defenders like his life depended on it. Bale and Ronaldo kept firing at will. But it wasn’t working. Thibaut Courtois was putting in a tremendous shift in goal. Ancelotti was throwing everything he could at the game and the team was visibly growing desperate as five minutes of extra time were given. The curse, the ghost, seemed to have come back to haunt Real Madrid on that warm Saturday night. Would they ever win the Champions League again?
Two minutes into extra time. Di María fires a deflected shot into the box, Adrián bundles it over the line for a corner. Time is running out. Luka Modric hurries to take the corner…
Ramos single-handedly saved Real Madrid with that header. After full-time, Casillas ran over to him and kissed and embraced him, telling him “eres el puto amo,” “you’re the f****** best”. Casillas knew he would’ve been crucified by his own fans if not for his defender’s goal.Embed from Getty Images
It is quite possibly the most important goal in club history. It gave Madrid all of the momentum heading into extra time. Atlético had run out of gas, they were depleted. Bale eventually made it 2-1 in the 110th minute, Marcelo made it three and Ronaldo even made it four.
That Ramos goal didn’t just give Madrid the momentum in that game – it opened the floodgates for the years to come. With La Décima finally in the books, Real Madrid were liberated. They won three Champions Leagues in a row from 2016 onwards, something which had never been done before. They would’ve never had the confidence, the know-how of winning it, if not for that game in Lisbon. If not for that Ramos header. It all started there, in the 93rd minute of play. Luka Modric hurries to take the corner…
Featured image per El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video