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Madrid poised for run at crown

Updated: 2013-09-17 07:26
By Associated Press in London (China Daily)

With the world's two most expensive players, Real Madrid thinks it's in position to spoil Bayern Munich's attempt to become the first team since 1990 to defend its European Cup title when soccer's top club competition resumes this week.

Having signed Gareth Bale from Tottenham this summer for a world-record fee of 100 million euros ($132 million), Madrid can compete on all fronts this season and will be bidding for a first Champions League trophy since Zinedine Zidane scored the winner against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 final.

Since then, Madrid's fierce rival Barcelona has won the trophy three times and Madrid is confident it can end the Catalan's side dominance this year with its formidable pairing, although playmaker Mesut Ozil left for Arsenal.

Bale had an immediate impact at Real, scoring on Saturday in his debut in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal, and Ronaldo signed a new contract that will keep him at the Spanish club for the next five seasons.

"Madrid, with its history, has always tried to bring in the best players and that has worked well," said Ronaldo, who won the Champions League with Manchester United in 2008.

Madrid poised for run at crown

"As far as winning the European Cup, we could have won another title these years but sometimes it's just not possible. I don't have doubts that sooner or later the 10th European Cup will arrive and I am convinced that it will be this year."

Ronaldo's new contract will keep him on the club until 2018.

The 28-year-old ended months of speculation surrounding his future by inking a deal with club president Florentino Perez that extended his former commitment to Madrid through 2015 by three more years.

"It's a very special day for me," Ronaldo told a packed media hall.

"I'm very grateful, above all to the president and to my fans who always support me. It's for them that I will continue on here until what could be the end of my career."

Ronaldo's deal - which reportedly includes a large salary increase - came shortly after Bale displaced him as the world's most expensive transfer.

Madrid did not disclose financial details of the new contract.

Ronaldo has scored more than 50 goals in each of the last three seasons with Madrid after joining in 2009 on a then-record transfer of 93 million euros from Manchester United.

"In life there are more important things than money," Ronaldo said at the signing ceremony. "It's importan, I won't lie. But the project the club has for the future was more important.

"The club wants to sign the best players, and I feel included in that. I will be integrated in this project."

Madrid, which begins its Group B campaign at Galatasaray on Tuesday without injured midfielder Xabi Alonso and defender Raphael Varane, lost in the semifinals of the lucrative competition over the past three years, last season to Borussia Dortmund.

To boost its chances of renewed success, Madrid has also parted ways with former coach Jose Mourinho to hire Carlo Ancelotti, who won the European Cup twice with AC Milan.

"Real Madrid has not made it into the final of the Champions League since 2002 and that's amazing when you think about it," Ancelotti said.

"I think it's been too long for a club of Madrid's stature."

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the only two teams in Spain to have a perfect start to the league season with four wins in as many rounds.

(China Daily 09/17/2013 page23)

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