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Champions League over La Liga for Madrid, says Morientes

Despite watching bitter rivals Barcelona retain their La Liga crown, former Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes insists the Champions League is the most important objective for everyone at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It was ultimately another disappointing domestic campaign for Madrid, who saw Barca successfully defend their championship by a single point – leaving Los Blancos without a title since 2011-12.

But as Madrid aim to clinch an 11th European crown at the expense of Atletico Madrid in Milan on Saturday, three-time Champions League winner Morientes told Omnisport that Europe’s premier club competition is what matters most.

“Champions League is the most important. For Real Madrid to win the Champions League, even if Barcelona won La Liga, it doesn’t matter because it will be a great, great season anyway,” said Morientes, who played for Madrid between 1997 and 2005.

“Not only for the fans, but for the players as well. If they can choose one title, they would choose the Champions League.

“It is the most important title for the club. For the players, the Champions League is what they want to win at the start of the season.

“While La Liga is important, the Champions League is an important prize for everyone.”

Morientes – who helped Madrid to Champions League glory in 1998, 2000 and 2002, scoring the opening goal against Valencia 16 years ago – added: “To win a Champions League is always a motivating satisfaction. Especially at Real Madrid. 

“To win a Champions League is very important so they can etch their name in history and add more silverware to the club.”

Saturday’s San Siro showdown is a rematch of the 2014 decider, which Madrid won 4-1 after extra time.

Since that triumphant night in Lisbon, Atletico have enjoyed bragging rights over their rivals, only losing one of the last 10 matches in all competitions.

Atletico upstaged Madrid at the Bernabeu in La Liga in 2015-16, but Morientes believes past results will count for nothing.

“Once you arrive in the final, everything you have done previously doesn’t count,” said the 40-year-old former Spain international. “It is an open match. Even if Atletico won in La Liga during the season, they have to prove themselves again against Madrid.

“The final two years ago has nothing to do with this final. So you just have to show you’re better than your rival. And this final is different because the teams know each other very well.”

Atletico have defied the odds to reach their second Champions League final in three seasons, stunning defending champions Barca and German giants Bayern Munich en route to Milan.

And Morientes had some advice for former team-mate Zinedine Zidane, now in charge of Madrid.

He added: “As a very offensive team, Madrid need an overall and complete team performance.

“Atletico have good players in attack with [Antoine] Griezmann and [Fernando] Torres. So Madrid must be very careful. Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Pepe have to be wary on the counter-attack.”

Sat 28 May, 2016
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