LISBON: Angel Di Maria could not have wished for a happier return to the Benfica stadium than to be voted official Man of the Match in the Champions League Final writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The former Benfica forward was presented with his award by Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager.
Di Maria, who now heads for the World Cup with Argentina, said: “For me it’s fantastic to have won the 10th European Cup with Real Madrid. It’s a dream I had since I was a small kid and so we managed it and I’m extremely happy.
“This group of players have worked hard all year. We lost La Liga and, in fact, I think we could have won the three titles – including the cup – but I’m very happy that we managed to achieve what we wanted the most.”
Recalling his three years in Lisbon with Benfica between 2007 and 2010, Di Maria said: “When I was here in Lisbon with Benfica we did some great things in this stadium, all of which enabled me to end up not only playing for Real Madrid but coming back here to win the Champions League.”
The closing stage of the final saw Di Maria filling in at leftback with substitute Marcelo ahead of him. He explained: “I had some pain in the back of my leg by then and, since I couldn’t really run I decided to hold back and have Marcelo play in front of me.”
The 26-year-old from Rosario had no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo, despite his recent injury problems, will be revived in time for a possible meeting between Argentina and Portugal at the World Cup.
Di Maria said: “Cristiano was slightly injured before the final but the fact that he played all the game and had no problems during it means, I’m sure, that he will be ready and able for the World Cup.”
Brilliant for Bale
Gareth Bale, Real’s world record €100m signing from Tottenham last summer, said this victory “will live with me forever.”
He added: “It is what every footballer dreams of and it doesn’t come bigger in club football. The celebration of the crowd meant everything to me but the most important thing is we worked hard as a team and won the trophy and the 10th title for the club.
“I would have come here for a penny if it meant I could win the big titles.”
Bale, who missed a hat-trick of chances before heading Real in front in extra time, added: “I have learned from past experiences to keep going, forget the chances you have missed and to keep persevering and a chance will come.
“It was a close game, especially in normal time. We have played Atletico Madrid four times this season and every game has been close. They make it very difficult when they get a goal ahead and it’s hard to break them down.”