Magic moment arrives for Gareth Bale
Welsh winger finally reaches significant stage in career that he has craved since joining Spanish club
On the final day of the Premier League season in May last year, Gareth Bale produced the latest in a series of wonder goals to hand Tottenham Hotspur a 1-0 win over Sunderland.
On Saturday night, Bale will play in white against a side in red and white stripes once more in his last game of the season, but in different circumstances as Real Madrid meet Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
A Spurs victory was not enough that day to seal a Champions League berth, as they lost out once more to north London neighbours Arsenal for fourth place and set in motion an anxious summer for Bale as he tried to force through a move to the world's richest club.
Finally, on September 1, a deal was officially announced with the Welshman reportedly becoming the most expensive player in world soccer in a move to the Spanish capital.
That summer stress and early criticism of his time at Madrid as he suffered from niggling injuries has now been long forgotten as Bale has the scene he craved waiting for him at the Estadio da Luz.
"These are the reasons why you come to Real Madrid, to the biggest club in the world, to play in finals and try to win trophies and I am obviously looking forward to it," said the Welshman as he faced more than 300 media personnel at Real's open day ahead of the Lisbon final.
"I always dreamed of playing a Champions League final. It was always the target and now it has come around. We have one more step to go and hopefully we can win the 10th title."
Real have been waiting 12 years for that 10th European Cup. The search for "La Decima" has seen the club spend over €1 billion (HK$10.6 billion) in player transfers alone to recreate the night when Zinedine Zidane's sensational volley handed them a ninth European crown against Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow.
"I remember watching it. It was in Scotland at Hampden Park. It was a great moment for Real Madrid and hopefully we can repeat that," adds Bale.
"I don't think we feel the pressure, or at least any added pressure. There is obviously pressure on anyone for a Champions League final, for any player and any team, but we are all very excited to have the opportunity and hopefully we can put a great performance in to lift the trophy.
"I don't think it is an obsession. If you ask any player in world football it is a dream to win the Champions League and that comes with its own pressure for ourselves, but one we can live with and conquer."
Bale has already written himself into club history with his 50-yard dash and finish that won the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona last month.
But he insists it does not matter if it is he, World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, or anyone else scores the winner as long as the famous trophy with the big ears is decorated with white ribbons come full-time tonight.
"I hope I can score the winner again because that means we will win.
"Cristiano is a fantastic player. I can't say much more because he is so great. He has proved it season in, season out what a world class player he is and it is obviously an honour and a privilege to play with him. Hopefully we can put together one last game and win this title."