Paul Clement: The best kept secret in English football revels in Real Madrid’s Champions League glory

Ancelotti’s coach Clement was ready for penalties before Bale struck final gold

Madrid

Real Madrid’s English coach Paul Clement had the list of penalty takers ready in the technical area of the Estadio da Luz on Saturday night when Gareth Bale headed past Thibaut Courtois and made sure the spot-kick running order was never needed.

On Sunday the two men celebrated on the streets of the Spanish capital with it still sinking in that they had managed to help deliver in just 10 months a 10th European Cup for Real Madrid, one which the club had been searching for over the past 12 years.

“We were both very happy and the only thing I needed to say to him [Bale] was ‘well done’ because he knows what a terrific first season it has been for us. It’s unbelievable – the stuff of dreams,” said Clement.

“In normal time over the 90 minutes, he probably had the best chances but then he arrives at the back post like that in extra-time; it’s a credit to his fitness and that physical strength that he has. It’s just been a great first year for him.”

The Welshman becomes only the third player in Real Madrid’s history to score in the final of both the European Cup and the Spanish Cup in the same season. Ferenc Puskas and Raul have both managed it before, so it was no wonder Marca’s match  ratings gushed: “He scored the winner in the Spanish Cup final; he scored the winner in the Champions League final. He is already a Real Madrid legend.”

Diaro AS added: “Marcelo and Ronaldo both scored afterwards but Bale’s was the winner because it was game over after that.”

 

Sergio Ramos equalised in injury-time for Real after Atletico’s Diego Godin had looped a header past an indecisive Iker Casillas.

Clement said: “I thought the five minutes added time was fair. We got the goal and as soon as the final whistle went I said ‘we’ve got to start playing again now’. We’d been really pushing and we had been a bit vulnerable at the back.

“Psychologically we had the advantage but there was still 30 minutes to play and  possibly penalties as well.

“I’d written the list out of the penalty takers. We were prepared for them. But now I can keep those five names to myself.”

Bale had said before the game he would be prepared to step forward in a shoot-out, but his header made it unnecessary. “It’s hard to describe what I felt like when the ball went in. Seeing all the fans and all the players run towards me to celebrate was an amazing feeling,” Bale said. “We had shown the character of the dressing room to come back.

“You have to dig really deep in those sort of circumstances and the way we did that  typified what we are all about. We believe in the football we play, we kept going and we came out on top.”

It was around 4.30am when the team touched down in Madrid on Sunday morning and the night was only just beginning. Ninety minutes later, after an open-top bus ride through streets filled with jubilant supporters, they took the trophy to the  Cibeles Fountain, finally, after a 12-year wait.

The Real Madrid team arrives at Cibeles square on Sunday The Real Madrid team arrives at Cibeles square on Sunday Casillas said the triumph was “even bigger than winning the World Cup”. He, along with Marcelo, had been in tears at the incredible turnaround and achievement.

For Clement the day had been made even more special (if that were really possible) by Queen’s Park Rangers – the team his father Dave played over 470 games for – winning promotion back to the  Premier League. “The perfect day” he said, having helped  mastermind Real’s third win this season over Diego  Simeone’s Atletico side.

“Every time I looked up at the clock in the second half the time seemed to have shot forward 10 minutes but that little moment of quality, a good cross and a fantastic  finish from Ramos, and we were saved. He was outstanding again; what a player.”

Asked if his incredible five years as Carlo Ancelotti’s No 2 meant it would soon be time to be a No 1, there was an admission that management would be the next step when the right opportunity arrives.

“I think it’s soon,” he said. “A few opportunities have come my way. But this is a difficult place to leave. It’s a great club, a great city, a great tradition and it gives you the opportunity to win things.”

Asked if he would take a couple of Galaticos with him he joked: “That’s what  managers do, isn’t it?”

Bale might just be out of bounds. Madrid supporters have been so delighted by his form that some have suggested the €100m man may even have been a bargain.

“The reason I joined Real Madrid was to play in  competitions like this and be able to win them,” Bale said.

Asked if Cristiano Ronaldo minded him taking centre-stage in the two finals, the former Tottenham man smiled: “We work well together. We enjoy playing our football and the whole team will tell you whoever scores we are all happy as long as we are winning.”

In just 10 months Bale has shown he can share the Fifa World Player of the Year’s  limelight. He has been the perfect supporting actor, taking the leading man role whenever necessary.

He has also been the catalyst for their most important European Cup win of all.

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