'The happiest day of my life' - How heartache turned to joy for Cristiano Ronaldo after penalty miss in 2008 Champions League final

Goal.com is publishing exclusive extracts from Luca Caioli's new book, Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection. This sixth segment looks at another high-profile spot-kick failure
Goal.com is publishing exclusive extracts from Luca Caioli's new book, Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection, which charts the Portuguese forward's spectacular rise from a poor childhood in Madeira to superstardom with Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and Real Madrid

It’s 21 May 2008. The two English superpowers, Chelsea and Manchester United, are meeting in the final of the Champions League at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, after a nail-biting finish on the final matchday of the Premier League. In the 26th minute, Paul Scholes went past a Blues defence, Wes Brown crossed and Cristiano Ronaldo put a phenomenal header past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.

At 23 years of age and after five seasons with the Red Devils, the boy from Madeira has become a visionary. And that’s not all. He has retained the playing style he had as a kid: the run-ins from the touchline, the tricks, the games, the back-heels, the ‘sombrero’ chips. He has also expanded his repertoire: he shoots with both feet, from free kicks, from headers … he is a better team player. This Champions League final at a former Olympic stadium could be the perfect chance to cement his champion status.

"In order to be the best in the world I have to win titles like the Premier League and the Champions League," he says before the match, all too aware of the opportunity at stake. "I’m a winner, and this season I’m dreaming of a double. Why not?"

It seems as if his dreams are on track. Cristiano is on fire on the wing and has already opened the scoring. But a few seconds before half-time, a long shot from Essien deflects off two United players and Frank Lampard doesn't waste an opportunity. With a little bit of luck, a double deflection and a slip from Van der Sar, the score is level once again. The equaliser has given Chelsea a confidence boost and now Makelele, Lampard, Ballack, Cole and Essien are on the attack. Cristiano cannot get free and the chances are coming thick and fast from the Avram Grant camp, the Israeli coach who has taken over from Jose Mourinho.

Happy ending | Cristiano claimed the Champions League in 2008 despite missing a penalty

Thanks to Drogba and Lampard, the final is transformed into a heroic and agonising match. After 120 minutes nothing has changed and the game goes to penalties in the pouring rain. Carlos Tevez is first up and he makes it 1-0 to United. Next it’s Ballack: 1-1. Both Michael Carrick and Juliano Belletti convert theirs to take it to 2-2. The third penalty falls to Man United’s No. 7. Ten days earlier on 11 May, Cristiano scored from the penalty spot, punishing Wigan and winning their 17th league title in the process. Earlier in the season he missed one in the Champions League semi-final against Barca at Camp Nou. But the English TV commentators haven’t forgotten the one he converted in Gelsenkirchen in the summer of 2006 which knocked England out of the Germany World Cup.

The Portuguese has scored 42 goals in a single season. He is the crowd favourite and everyone is focusing intently on what he’s about to do. It’s the best player in the world against the best goalkeeper in the world, say the pundits. Ronaldo kisses the ball and places it carefully on the penalty spot. He puts his hands on his hips as always, lowers his head, takes a deep breath and waits for the referee’s whistle. He takes his run up, opting for the Brazilian-style ‘paradinha’, the little stop intended to confuse the keeper. But Cech anticipates the move and still manages to block the shot.

Cristiano buries his face in his hands and slowly walks away, devastated. Many great players have missed penalties at crucial moments. But that is little comfort to the boy from Madeira

"Saved!" screams the commentator into the microphone. Cristiano buries his face in his hands and slowly walks away, devastated, while Cech steps aside for Van der Sar. Many great players have missed penalties at crucial moments – including Roberto Baggio, Raul, Michel Platini and Zico to name but a few. But this is little comfort to the boy from Madeira.

"After I missed I thought we were going to lose," says CR7. "I thought it was going to be the worst day of my life. But despite my mistake, my team-mates still believed we could win." And they do, thanks to Hargreaves, Nani and Giggs, who all score, and Van der Sar who saves the final shot from Nicolas Anelka.

Chelsea captain John Terry has the chance to secure the win but he slips on the waterlogged pitch and misses, gifting United the victory. The Blues’ centre-back ends the game with tears of frustration, while Cristiano is finally able to cry tears of happiness. His team-mates rush towards the goal like madmen, where Van der Sar is already celebrating. Cristiano is on the edge of the box, crying with his face pressed into the grass. He wants to be alone to savour the most beautiful moment in his footballing career so far. "In the end it was the happiest day of my life," he says later.

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With every extract published, Goal.com will be giving away one copy of Luca Caoili's new book. To have a chance of winning an ebook or hard copy of Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection, answer the following question: How many goals did Cristiano score for Manchester United in 2007-08? Send answers to competitions@goal.com - the winner will be announced in next Friday's extract.

Last week's winner: Murrali Ramasamy