Rousing return for Real Madrid cup heroes

Real skipper Sergio Ramos holding the Champions League trophy on the balcony of the Madrid Autonomous Government's headquarters, as thousands of frenzied fans cheer during the celebrations.
Real skipper Sergio Ramos holding the Champions League trophy on the balcony of the Madrid Autonomous Government's headquarters, as thousands of frenzied fans cheer during the celebrations. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MADRID • Thousands of Real Madrid fans piled onto the streets of the Spanish capital and filled the club's 80,000 capacity Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Sunday, to welcome home their heroes after an historic 11th European Cup win.

An open-top bus emblazoned with the word "Campeones" (Champions) carried the team, who showed off the trophy to fans.

The Real players snapped photos of the raucous crowd from a platform specially erected at Plaza de Cibeles, before captain Sergio Ramos waved the large silver trophy for the cheering supporters.

Later after being greeted by Madrid Mayor Manuel Carmena and heads of local government, the team returned to a full Bernabeu for a spectacular light and fireworks show.

"To win two Champions Leagues in three years shows that our efforts have had their reward," said Ramos.

The football-mad Spanish capital of 3.2 million people had been dominated by the two club's crests and colours in a frenzied build-up to the final, which attracted a worldwide audience of 180 million people in more than 200 countries.

Praise poured in for Real, including from Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

"Epic final in the League of Champions," he tweeted. "Congratulations to all... for the 11th."

Just 500 metres away from wild scenes of celebration at Cibeles, the Neptuno fountain - where Atletico fans go to celebrate their triumphs - was empty.

Spanish daily sports newspaper Marca captured the mood, describing Real as "the king of Europe", adding that manager Zinedine Zidane had been "touched by a magic wand". "He was born to play for Real Madrid... and to lead them," wrote the paper.

"A supreme derby, exhausting, stifling," wrote the AS sports newspaper.

Spain's best-selling El Pais newspaper described the final as "unforgettable and gruelling", with an editorial arguing that Atletico have nothing to regret, saying that they were "far superior at the start, (and) must be gritting their teeth".

Match winner Cristiano Ronaldo said he will not play against England on Thursday and admitted that he needs a rest before joining the Portugal squad for Euro 2016 in France beginning on June 10.

Ronaldo scored the decisive penalty in Milan and the club's president, Florentino Perez, said he wanted the forward to play for the club until the end of his career.

The Portuguese, who had said before the final he still felt "like a kid" at 31, is determined to keep his career going for as long as possible.

Asked if he would be playing against England, he said: "No, come on! Let me rest my legs. Now is the time to rest and enjoy this moment. I then have six days to be prepared to play a good competition (at Euro 2016).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2016, with the headline 'Rousing return for Real Madrid cup heroes'. Print Edition | Subscribe