Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Gen Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan’s column is written with the istance of European ball correspondent Andy Mitten.
I have never been in a Uefa Champions League final, but I have played in some huge ball s: the Copa America final, Europa League final, Copa del Rey final, European Super Cup and a World Cup semi-final.
I also played in the Champions League semi-final with Manchester United and Villar. Had Bayer Leverkusen’s Diego Placente not saved a s off the line in the final minutes of the 2002 semi-final, I would have played in a Champions League final too, but ball is full of what ifs.
The Real Madrid and uventus players who will compete in Saturday’s Champions League final in Cardiff are all hugely talented and experienced but they will have different ways of containing any pre-match nerves.
It is normal for a player to feel anxious before a huge , but not too much. If nerves undo you then you are unlikely to make it as a top baller.
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But for the ggest s you know that everyone is talking about it and preparing to it. That adds pressure and I would find it difficult to properly before those matches.
Before a g match my head would be full of too many thoughts, I would be playing the in my mind; I struggled to get any . It did not help me, so I changed my pattern to a way that did.
I would stay awake until two or three in the morning the night before the match and then wake up at 8am.
I would then be tired enough to have a for an hour or two — an hour was the minimum I needed — on the afternoon of the .
I did other things, too, like not read spapers or look on social media. That was not going to help me in any way and could wait until after the .
With experience, I became better at preparing, but I would still get butterflies in my stomach before the match. You have that confidence from playing well, like Cristiano Ronaldo or Paulo Dybala have now, but minor doubts, too.
I would try to suppress them, but by the time any baller gets to May he is likely not to be 100 per cent fit.
He will have picked up niggles, muscle ss or knocks from tackles.
It is p of the wear and tear of being a baller, but you cannot focus too much on any minor injuries, especially during the . If you do that, the will p you by. The 90 minutes pes ly enough as it is.
One of the ggest s I played in was the 2010 Europa League final, the st of a spell that saw Atletico Madrid winning trophies.
We played Fulham in Hamburg and our preparations were disrupted by an Icelandic volcano erupting, causing havoc all over Europe.
That meant we left a day earlier and that was a blessing as we were away from Madrid, where all the talk was of the .
We were isolated, away from the centre of Hamburg, free to , rest and relax and concentrate on our s. It ed.
I did not think too much about who I would be playing against in the ggest matches because you already know they are going to be top quality.
Better to focus on your own , but it is sometimes easier said that done.
I have looked around the dressing room before all the ggest s I have played in. The players have to be at a high level to be playing in such s, but maybe the inexperienced ones are nervous.
I advise players to st the with a simple p to help get their confidence up, not to try to hit a cross-field p with a greater risk of losing possession. Do that and you are chasing your confidence from the st.
You can gain confidence from other players. It was raining in Hamburg and the pitch was slippery, fast.
In the minutes of the someone s the ball and it was going high towards David de Gea’s goal. It was a difficult ball and he was in a good position to catch it.
It would have been easier to touch the ball over and send it out for a corner. De Gea jumped ly high and the ball with both hands.
In that ent, from the other side of the pitch, I k that we were going to be all right with our goalkeeper, and we were. When the sts, your enjoyment all depends on the result.
There is no such thing as feeling good after playing well but being on the losing side.
Confidence, winning and enjoyment are intertwined. In Hamburg I scored both our goals as we won in extra time.
I got man of the match, too.
Of course I d that night, as I did when Uruguay won the Copa America and I scored.
Losing in the Copa del Rey final and the World Cup semi-final were not great nights.
You would rather have not been there than lose, even though it is an achievement to reach a final.
I will be eagerly ing the in Cardiff. It would be wonderful for Gianluigi Buffon to close his eer with a European Cup and I do feel that this uventus team deserves the trophy after missing out in 2015.
Football is a ruthless iness, it’s not about sentiment and Madrid have all the motivation they need in trying to become the team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era. I hope they all well on Friday night.
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Updated: une 1, 2017 04:00 AM
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