Cristiano Ronaldo Talks Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Champions League

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 29:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid FC celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium on March 29, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo has spoken ahead of Real Madrid's Champions League final showdown with city neighbours Atletico.

The Portuguese star, who won't be lifting this year's La Liga title after Real's late-season slump, believes he has improved since joining from Manchester United:

"I've changed for the better, or course," he told the Spanish club's official website. "I won the Champions League with Manchester United and now this is my fifth season with Real Madrid. I've always dreamed of winning this competition with this club."

Ronaldo also addressed the pressures of being a Real Madrid player. The club's pursuit of La Decima—a 10th European crown—dominates much of the side's ambition.

Having not won the Champions League since 2002, when Zinedine Zidane stroked a sumptuous volley into the Hampden Park net against Bayer Leverkusen, pursuit of the landmark trophy has become something of an obsession. Ronaldo explains the sense of pressure now Real are so close:

It is a trophy we have spent years trying to win. As a result, from the very first day we arrive at the club we feel a positive kind of pressure geared towards winning the Champions League. This year it feels like we are just one small step away from doing it.

Ronaldo broke the record for most goals in a Champions League season with his brace during the semi-final second-leg tie against Bayern Munich. His tally currently sits at an incredible 16 in 10 matches throughout this year's elite competition, six more than nearest competitor Zlatan Ibrahimovic, per Yahoo Eurosport.

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 23:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid shoots during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match between Real Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 23, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Mike
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The Portuguese star indicates his team-mates have helped "a lot," propelling him to great heights throughout the campaign. He says, "in terms of teamwork Real Madrid has shown itself to be an excellent side and one that deserves to win the trophy," but he admits the Lisbon final "will be decided on the smallest of details."

Ronaldo has a dramatic history in Champions League finals. He scored a terrific header and missed a penalty in the shootout during Manchester United's 2007-08 win over Chelsea, and received a late booking one year later in the Red Devils' loss to Barcelona. Never one to remain on the periphery, he can be expected to define any Real success during his third final on May 24.

Similarly, Ronaldo's presence at the 2014 World Cup could yield great results for Portugal. The 2013 Ballon d'Or winner was recently confirmed to appear in the competition after overcoming injury, per BBC Sport:

United supporters hoping for a Ronaldo return shouldn't get too excited. Ronaldo confirmed he is "going to try and win as much as possible" with Real, saying, "this is my favourite club." He appears committed to the cause, and having signed a new contract in September, he is ready to progress into his 30s at the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo's place in Real Madrid folklore will be underlined if Los Blancos can win this year's Champions League. To break the competition's goalscoring record in the season La Decima is achieved would be truly remarkable, a one-off in the history of football.