Atletico Madrid winger Simao Sabrosa believes reaching the Europa League final is a "well-deserved prize" for his side at the end of a season which for so long looked set to be an unmitigated disaster.
Atletico secured their place in next month's final against Fulham in Hamburg after knocking out Liverpool on away goals despite losing last night's second leg at Anfield 2-1.
Diego Forlan, whose first leg goal gave Atletico a 1-0 advantage to take to England, was again his side's hero after smashing home the decisive strike in extra-time.
That goal sealed the Rojiblancos' third successive away goals victory in the competition and means they are the only Spanish team left standing in Europe following Barcelona's Champions League demise earlier this week.
It also means Atletico have two cup finals to look forward to next month having also gone all the way in the Copa del Rey - something that would have been impossible to imagine earlier in the season as the Rojiblancos lurched from one problem to another.
Having suffered their worst league start in 56 years, Atletico were then dumped out of the Champions League group stages without winning a game, and have also been jeered off the Vicente Calderon pitch by their own fans on a number of occasions this campaign.
In the Primera Division they are still down in 10th spot and, in terms of points, closer to the relegation zone than the Champions League places.
Despite all that, Quique Sanchez Flores' men could end the season with two trophies, and Simao said following last night's game: "It was a very important game for everything that has happened this season. It's a well-deserved prize.
"To be the only Spanish team to play in a European final is a great joy. To get to two finals is the best thing that could have happened to us."
Forlan, the former Manchester United striker, was equally thrilled, adding: "It's a very great feeling to score the goal which put us through. To be in two finals is incredible, it's a tremendous joy for the whole squad.
"Now we need to celebrate, and soon we will focus on the game against Fulham.
"All this is the fruit of a lot of work. We've had three years in which, more or less, we've kept intact almost the whole squad and this is very important.
"First we got into the UEFA Cup, then the following two years into the Champions League and now we are in two finals. This is through the good work we've done."Reuse content