World Cup winner Lloris can now make history with Champions League crown
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Tottenham’s captain talks his bond with Mauricio Pochettino, why you don’t ‘play a final’ and charts Spurs’ development in Europe
Spurs captain Hugo Lloris is on the brink of greatness and will conclude an extraordinary year if he gets his hands on the Champions League trophy in Madrid.
The national team skipper helped France win the World Cup in July and 11 months down the line is 90 minutes away from clinching another massive prize.
Only nine players have secured victory in a European Cup final and in a World Cup final and just Franz Beckenbauer has done it as captain of club and country.
Yet Lloris could follow his lead if he can help Tottenham Hotspur get the better of Premier League rivals Liverpool and it would cap an incredible period in his life.
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It has not been all highs since he lifted the World Cup trophy with France, but a lot of the lows would be forgotten if Spurs can triumph in this final.
Lloris said: "This is what you are working for every day and you never know what will be the next opportunity in front of you.
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"It was the case after the final of Euro 2016 when we lost. We were so bad because we lost at home in France and at this moment we could not expect that two years later we would win the World Cup.
"Even after the World Cup, I could not expect to be involved in the Champions League final one year later. This is the beauty of football. Sometimes it can be cruel and sometimes it can be the best. It's just about the balance."
Tottenham and Lloris' journey to this point has not been simple, especially in this tournament and going back to previous editions.
Mauricio Pochettino helped the club qualify for the Champions League at the end of the 2015/16 season, but they were knocked out in the group stage the next term.
A lack of experience in the elite competition in Europe was clear to see in that 2016/17 campaign and the following year too.
While Spurs blitzed through a difficult group - beating holders Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and APOEL along the way - they fell short in the round of 16.
Despite dominating for lengthy spells against Juventus in the two legs, they lost 2-1 at Wembley to go down 4-3 on aggregate.
This season, Tottenham's time in the tournament looked close to over after a 2-2 draw away to PSV on matchday three.
But with Pochettino still full of belief, they came back to win 2-1 against the Eredivisie side back in England, saw off Inter Milan and held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw.
It was enough to progress into the knock-out phase where they stunned Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and then Ajax in Amsterdam on that famous night.
"From the start, we've believed that we will be ready to compete against any club, any team in Europe," Lloris insisted.
"One thing that you cannot buy is experience and you need to go through different situations and through different games to learn as a team and then we can see step by step we improve the level.
"To be four times in a row in the top four is a big achievement for the club if you compare with the last 25 years.
"It's kind of consistency at a high level and then in the Champions League, the first season was not really good. We were knocked out in the group stage and then there was the round of 16 against Juve.
"We were so close, but at the same time so far. We had to learn and deal with this experience and this season is completely the opposite because last season we had a great group stage.
"This season we struggled a little bit in the beginning. After three games we were nearly out of the competition, but we stayed positive, we kept the belief and we made it.
"Now we are in the final of the Champions League and it is a massive, massive opportunity.
"It's already a big achievement, but you don't play a final, you go to the final to win it. This is our approach and it's been the case the last few weeks, in terms of preparation, to be ready the day of the final to make everything possible to win."
Spurs have needed many things to go for them to make it this far and Lloris has been involved in some huge high points and also a couple of lows.
He received a red card away to PSV not long after rushing off his line to concede against Barcelona at Wembley.
Yet the World Cup winner has recovered and been pivotal to this run to the final with a string of high-class stops in the victories over Dortmund.
An early penalty save to deny Sergio Aguero changed the whole complexion of the quarter-final tie with City and he impressed in the second leg too.
Lloris was also crucial against Ajax, both home and away, with key stops in Amsterdam to allow Lucas Moura his last-gasp moment.
Following high-profile errors in the Premier League - and his drink-driving charge - some managers may have discarded the Frenchman.
But Pochettino has always recognised his quality both as a footballer and as a person and they have a special bond; everyone makes mistakes.
"I think in life or in your career there is always some amazing meeting in terms of person and it's been the case with Mauricio," Lloris said.
"You know we are all ambitious and we are all working every day in the club to make history. We could not do it before in the Premier League, but we've done very well the last four years to reach the top four and we have a fantastic opportunity in the Champions League.
"It's the biggest trophy that you can win and when it's in front of you, you must do everything to get it and it's even more when you do it with people that you really want to do it with, like Mauricio, so it would mean even more."