ABU DHABI: Real Madrid were crowned world club champions for a third time in four years after South American title-holders Gremio of Brazil 1-0 in the final of the FIFA tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Inevitably, world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo struck the lone, winning goal, after 53 minutes. Ronaldo was also runner-up to Madrid’s Croatia playmaker Luca Modric as player of the tournament. Madrid also won the fair play trophy. Earlier Pachuca of Mexico beat local UAE club Al Jazira 4-1 in the third place play-off.
Ronaldo’s 53rd-minute strike gave Real their second world title in a row, the third in the past four seasons. The Portuguese then cheered the club’s supporters further by admitting he wanted to end his playing career at Madrid.
He said: “I would really like to, but things don’t depend on me. What depends on me is what I do on the pitch. I am not the one who runs the club, that is for those in charge.”
Ronaldo, 32, signed a new deal until 2021 with the club just over a year ago, but sparked speculation over his future after leading Madrid to the Champions League in June because of his apparent discontent with the club’s lack of involvement in a tax case brought against him by Spanish prosecutors.
But Ronaldo picked up his fifth Ballon d’Or to match Barcelona rival Lionel Messi’s record mark earlier this month and Florentino Perez, the Madrid president, hailedthe player as the heir to club legend Alfredo di Stefano, who led Real to win the first five European Cups.
Coach Zinedine Zidane, asked if Ronaldo should be rewarded with another contract extension, said: “Obviously, but at the right moment. For us it is fundamental Cristiano stays. He is at his club, his home and no one can do what he keeps doing, so hopefully he stays here until he retires.”
Ronaldo has smashed Real’s club records since joining from Manchester United in 2009 and is way out in front as Madrid’s all-time top scorer with 434 goals in 414 appearances.
“He is the best without doubt,” Perez told Real Madrid TV. “His effort, his leadership, it is difficult to find players like Cristiano. Not just for his talent or his technique but his ambition.
“I watched Alfredo di Stefano from when I was a kid, he is the successor to him. This is a different Madrid, but Cristiano has marked an era.”
The European champions, enjoying the backing of most neutrals at the Zayed Sports City stadium, dominated as expected, with 20 shots on goal to Gremio’s one, but the much more limited Brazilians still made Real’s lives uncomfortable.
Overall, it was the Spanish club’s sixth world title as they also won the old Intercontinental Cup three times. Real also extended European dominance with 10 wins out of 13 since the club cup was started in its current form in 2005, reflecting the region’s financial dominance in the sport.
Gremio survived the first half with their goal intact thanks to some resolute, last-ditch tackling. Pedro Geromel cleared Daniel Carvajal’s shot off the line with goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe beaten, Isco and Luka Modric both fired shots wide and Walter Kannemann made a last-gasp saving tackle on Ronaldo as he was about to shoot.
Edilson had Gremio’s best effort with a long-range free kick that dipped and swerved just over the bar – their only shot of the match.
Madrid broke through after Ronaldo won a free kick 20 yards from goal then thumped a low shot through the wall and inside Grohe’s near post. Ronaldo had another goal disallowed for a tight offside decision. After that Modric burst through the midfield and fired against the post and Grohe made more saves from Ronaldo and substitute Gareth Bale to keep down the score.