Cristiano Ronaldo hailed manager Carlo Ancelotti and teammate Gareth Bale after Real Madrid's 4-0 Champions League semi-final second leg win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday saw the Spanish giants through to a first European final since 2002.
Paired with Los Blancos' 1-0 win from their first leg, Real eased into the Lisbon final courtesy of doubles from Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos.
They will face either Atletico Madrid or Chelsea, who play in the second semi-final on Wednesday, throwing up a potential reunion with former boss Jose Mourinho.
However, following victory over Bayern, Ronaldo appeared to indirectly criticise the ways of the old Madrid regime under Mourinho, claiming Ancelotti has transformed the club. He told AS (h/t Football Espana):
Ancelotti deserves all the credit. He has changed everything.
He has changed the mentality of the players. [...]
We manage the team in the best way and that makes thing easier. The team was phenomenal and we are in the final, which is what we wanted.
Ronaldo also showed little interest in a potential showdown with Mourinho, now in charge at Chelsea, saying he did not care whether he came up against his old manager in the final on May 24, per Real Madrid's website:
"A final is always complicated. I don’t care if it’s Mourinho or another coach. It will be in my country and I want to win the Champions League.”
The two fellow countrymen have had a rocky relationship in the past, as outlined in Ben Hayward's piece on Goal.com.
At the end of the 2010-11 season, Mourinho's first at Real Madrid, Ronaldo criticised the manager's conservative approach and was dropped for his troubles.
Mourinho also publicly criticised his star player in early 2013, just days after Ronaldo had shown support for his manager on the back of fan criticism caused by the dropping of Iker Casillas, per Hayward's report.
No doubt a reunion between the two in Lisbon would cause sparks to fly and provide great entertainment.
The 29-year old reached a personal milestone with his first goal in Bavaria on Tuesday, becoming the highest goalscorer in a European Cup campaign, overtaking Lionel Messi per Opta:
15 - Ronaldo has netted 15 goals this season, the highest tally in a single European Cup or Champions League campaign. Record.— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) April 29, 2014
Sergio Ramos had put Real 2-0 up in the opening 20 minutes and Ronaldo's strike put the game completely out of Bayern's reach in the 34th minute.
He was set up for the goal by Welshman Bale, and the former Manchester United man was quick to compliment his teammate, per the Real website:
I was looking for it and I knew I needed one goal but I was not going to be mad if it didn’t happen. It was a great ball from Bale. The whole team helped me. I’m really happy to break the Champions League record but what I want is to win it and we’re very excited.
A second for Ronaldo from a late free-kick rounded out an almost-perfect evening for Madrid, the only negative coming from Xabi Alonso's yellow card, which sees him suspended for the final.
Despite this minor setback, Real will take a huge amount of momentum into the final in May and will be confident in their ability to overcome either Chelsea or Atletico.
They currently sit six points behind their table-topping city rivals in La Liga, but their form in the Champions League this season has been of the highest quality.
They are the competition's top scorers, per Real Madrid TV's Rhiannon Jones, and they will be confident in their ability to breach even the staunchest defence.
Real's desire for a 10th European title will add even more intensity to their final performance and with Ronaldo on top form they should be classed as favourites to take the title in Portugal.