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Three-time Champions League winner Fernando Morientes played for both Real Madrid and Liverpool, winning the crown three times with the Spanish giants.
Yahoo Sport’s Jack Lang caught up with him and found out about his memories of club football’s biggest game and actually scoring a goal in it.
You won the Champions League three times with Real Madrid – in 1998, 2000 and 2002. Which was the most memorable?
They all have a special meaning. The first one, in 1998, was the first Champions League won by Real Madrid for 32 years. It was very special as a player, and as a Real Madrid fan, to see so many people happy. It a source of pride, this union with the fans, and we’re there to make them happy. I look back on that day as the happiest of my life. I was lucky to win two more, but that one was very special. Real Madrid as a club has had a special bond with the competition for so long, but had gone 32 years without winning it.
Scoring in the 2000 final must have been special as well?
When you’re wearing the No.9 jersey, you have to be looking to score goals, especially in big games. It’s always a special feeling, but doing it in Paris, against a Spanish side, to open the scoring… it was very special to me. We had already had the experience of beating Juventus two years earlier, but that one was very important too, because I scored the first goal. And lifting another Champions League trophy is the best way to end a season.
What was it like playing and scoring against Real Madrid for Monaco?
That was a unique moment for me. I had left Real Madrid on loan and decided to go to Monaco, because they could offer me more games. And as fate would have it, we ended up meeting Real Madrid on the path to the final. No one had thought about that [possibility] – not even me – but it was something very, very special. I was playing for Monaco, but Zidane, Figo, Raúl, Casillas, who had been my team-mates for so long, were on the other side. It was a great tie for us, winning in Madrid and reaching the final. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Are such successes going to become rarer with the dominance of a few big sides?
It’s clearly a lot harder for the small sides now. But the Champions League is different because it’s a knockout competition. Anything can happen; a big team can have a bad day, like Real Madrid did against Monaco, and concede three goals – something that is more unlikely in a league competition. You always have to look at the small details, because I team that is theoretically smaller can always win.
What is it about Real Madrid that makes them so effective in Europe?
The Champions League is something very special for Real Madrid; it’s in the club’s DNA. They’ve won lots of leagues, but knockout competitions are more in their DNA, and they’ve shown that throughout their history. It’s not easy to win 13 European Cups, and some of them came at times when things weren’t going well in La Liga. That demonstrates that the Champions League and Real Madrid are a natural fit. This is another of those years.
Was 1998 a psychological breakthrough for Madrid?
Without doubt, it was a key moment – one the club needed. We were fortunate enough to be the catalyst for the start of this winning cycle. It had been 32 years since Real Madrid had last won, and winning the Champions League lifted a weight. It’s like what happened with the Spanish national team at the European Championships and World Cup: many great players had never managed to win anything important, but then a spectacular generation comes along, wins, and lifts that weight. It was very good for Real Madrid to get that title in 1998, and since then they’ve won six more.
Did you always see Zinedine Zidane as a future coach?
No, no, no! He was a superb player, but very introverted, very quiet. I was always learning, but he wasn’t a typical leader in the changing room. At that time there was Fernando Hierro; Christian Panucci, who also had a big personality; Seedorf, who is also a coach now. But I think Zidane came round [to the idea of management] bit by bit, after thinking about the roles he could take to stay involved in football. But no one really thought he would become a coach – or be such a good one.
I don’t know, but I would like him to. He’s the right coach for the team: he knows the team well and was a player there, which is very important. He has a status that is above that of the players – except Cristiano Ronaldo, who is a special case due to his own achievements – and has the respect of every one. That’s fundamental when you’re the coach of Real Madrid; it’s not enough to just be a great trainer if the changing room doesn’t view you as a leader, as someone who has also achieved many things in football. Zidane has that personality, that status.
Morientes spoke to Yahoo Sport UK on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour presented by Heineken®. The tour has visited 26 countries across the Americas, Africa and Asia over the last 11 years, letting hundreds of thousands of fans who can normally only watch the competition on television, get close to the trophy and share the drama with some of the most iconic players of the game.