Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos says his first Champions League final -- against Atletico Madrid in Lisbon on Saturday -- is a reward for the hard work and sacrifice put in over the years.
Ramos, 28, has won three La Liga titles, three Copas del Rey and three Spanish Supercopas with Madrid, as well as two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup with Spain.
But he has not yet experienced a Champions League final in his career, with Los Blancos having fallen at the semifinal stage in each of the last three campaigns.
The Andalucian told his club's official website that playing in the biggest European club game of the season would be a "unique" and "amazing" experience.
"This is a unique experience," Ramos said. "It is a reward for all the hard work and sacrifice over so many years. Although, we look it from the perspective of the group, this is the payoff for the work the team has put in throughout the last few years, during which time we hadn't been fortunate enough to reach the final. At last the time has come to experience this amazing moment."
Having Carlo Ancelotti, who has won the trophy twice as a player and twice as a coach, on the Madrid bench was a big boost, Ramos said.
"Apart from being the boss, the skipper, the captain of the ship, he's a friend and he understands us perfectly," he said. "That makes the job a lot easier and it lifts your self-esteem and confidence.
"In this sense he's one of the main reasons behind the great season that Madrid has had, fighting for the league until the end, winning the Copa del Rey and now having the chance to play in the Champions League final".
The former Sevilla player has scored five goals in last six games, after previously going 41 games without scoring for Madrid or Spain.
"It's always great to end a season in a very good state mentally," Ramos said. "Physically I'm also in very good shape and, in front of the goal, if I can contribute and add things for the team, then all the better.
"But although we all excel individually, what's important is our teamwork, and all this will help us go into the final at our best."