Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres believes Saturday’s Champions League final meeting with Real Madrid is the “most important” game of his life.
The Spaniard, 32, won the trophy with Chelsea in 2012 and has also won the World Cup and European Championships.
But since making his debut in 2001 and returning last year, Torres has never won a major trophy with Atletico.
“This is different, this is special,” said Torres. “It’s what I wanted when I was a kid, more than I dreamed.”
“Without any doubt it’s the most important, special and lovely game of my life,” added Torres, whose Atleti loan deal and contract at parent club AC Milan expire at the end of the season.
“Anything I can do with the club that gave me the chance to start my career, the team I was a fan of since I was five years old, is different to anything else I’ve won.”
Torres, who left the Vicente Calderon to join Liverpool in 2007, missed Atletico’s spell of success from 2010 to 2014 where the club claimed two Europa League wins, the Spanish Cup and the La Liga title in 2014.
He has managed 12 goals for Diego Simeone’s side this term as they finished third in La Liga and booked a place in what is a re-run of the 2014 Champions League final.
Fit and chasing his own record
Before Real Madrid’s 4-1 extra-time win in Lisbon in 2014 Los Blancos were sweating on the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo while their city rivals lost talisman Diego Costa after nine minutes of the game.
There have been doubts over Ronaldo’s fitness again this time around but he has declared himself fit as he chases a third Champions League success.
“Cristiano always appears in the games that matter,” he told reporters. “I’ll be at 100%. On Saturday, I’ll be in better form than I was in Lisbon.”
Ronaldo has scored 16 goals in this season’s Champions League – as many as the entire Atletico Madrid squad – and could break his own record of 17 in a single campaign.
But despite finishing two points above Atletico in La Liga, Real’s recent record against Simeone’s side boasts just one win in six competitive meetings.
Simeone ‘loves it’
Simeone has dragged Atletico into Europe’s elite since his appointment in 2011.
Los Rojiblancos finished ninth in La Liga in the season before he arrived but have since placed fifth, third, first and third on two more occasions.
Resolute displays to eliminate Barcelona and Bayern Munich in reaching the final drew praise and the statistics back up the often well-documented organisation of Simeone’s side.
They have conceded just seven goals in their run to the final and just two in their last nine games of the season.
“It’s down to stability, balance, work, enormous competitiveness, internally and externally,” said Simeone, 46. “That has put us where we are and the only way to keep that going is to keep winning.”
But while they have closed the gap to Real domestically, Saturday’s meeting in Milan’s San Siro will see Atletico chase a first European Cup in their 113-year-history as Zidane’s side seek their 11th.
“I love having 113 years of history on my shoulders, I love it,” added Simeone.
‘We are ready’ – Zidane
Zidane has suffered just two defeats in 26 matches since succeeding Rafael Benitez as manager in January – one of those came against Atleti.
Should he guide them to another title, Real would sit four clear of AC Milan in the list of clubs to have won Europe’s most coveted trophy on the most occasions.
“I don’t think it’ll be a failure if we lose,” said Zidane.
“Failure can come from a bad attitude and if we cannot replicate what we have done in the past that would be a failure, but it’s a game of football.
“All I can say is we are very ready for the game, ready is the word.”
Source: BBC Sport