Ben Davies is hoping to become only the fifth Welshman to stride off a pitch as a European champion on Saturday night when the eyes of a continent focus on Madrid.
The Wales defender may have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench when Tottenham face Liverpool in the Champions League final, but the chances are he will replace Danny Rose at some stage – as has happened 10 times this season.
On he came against Ajax in the semi-final with eight minutes remaining and Spurs on the brink of going out of the tie – 3-2 on aggregate, despite coming back from 2-0 down to be level at 2-2 on the night.
With 12 seconds left on the clock, Davies made a crucial lunge with his left foot to win back the ball and spark the move that ended with Lucas Moura’s incredible hat-trick goal that sent Spurs through to the final on away goals.
Davies recalls: “The ball was bouncing around, I went in for a tackle, Sonny (Heung-Min Son) picked it up, Moussa (Sissoko) knocked the ball up and we prayed for something to happen.
“Fernando (Llorente) got to it, Dele’s (Ali) pass is perfect into Lucas’ path and at that point, I just thought ‘target, target’ and it went in so slowly!
“After that, I didn’t know what to think. It was unbelievable. It was a reward for all our hard work. The way we did it… frightening!
“As I’ve said, players standing up to be counted. Lucas has come in and delivered every time he’s played, he’s been top, top drawer and that moment couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.”
Now, Davies stands just one match away from joining Joey Jones, Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale as a European winner. Two Welsh women have also taken that honour – Jayne Ludlow and Jess Fishlock – meaning Neath-born Davies, a former Swansea City left-back, would become the seventh Welsh footballer to claim it.
But it was not just the semi-final in which Davies has saved Spurs’ bacon in Europe this season. Back in the group stages, Mauricio Pochettino’s side were on the brink of elimination when they played PSV Eindhoven at Wembley.
Needing a win to stay in the competition, Spurs were drawing 1-1 when Davies struck a magnificent cross in the 89th minute that enabled England captain Harry Kane to head home.
“These are the moments that can define seasons,” says Davies.
“It’s funny. We probably played better in the group stage last season, we were flying, but this has been about grit, determination and players have delivered moments of quality when we’ve needed them. You need that in a cup run.
“We knew we had to pull something out of the bag in that match against PSV. It was a stop-start game. We conceded early and we knew from there they would put 10 behind the ball and try to defend.
“Thankfully, we got there. I crossed from the left, Harry met it, a couple of ricochets and we’d won.”
Davies’s Spurs teammate Christian Eriksen has admitted Tottenham have been lucky to reach their first ever Champions League final.
In all, Spurs have been within 10 minutes of being knocked out of the competition on five separate occasions this season.
Their passage through the previous two rounds has been particularly dramatic; Raheem Sterling’s winning stoppage-time goal for Manchester City in the quarter-final was ruled out by VAR, before Moura’s second-half hat-trick in the semi-final second leg against Ajax rescued Spurs from 3-0 down on aggregate.
Reflecting on Spurs’ passage to the final, Eriksen said: “I don’t know if it’s destiny. I think at the moment we’ve just been lucky.
“First of all, with the City game, with Sterling, I thought we were out. Gone. Then Ajax was a bit different because it was during the game. There was no waiting or standing around. It was just Lucas pops up at the right time.
“It was nerve-wracking and it was dramatic. We’re just happy we were on the right side.”
Eriksen’s 80th-minute winner against Inter Milan also saved Spurs from a group-stage exit in November, but he was responsible for gifting the ball to City, allowing Sterling to score what he thought was a dramatic winner in the quarter-final.
“It was weird. I passed the ball away and they went through and ended up scoring. It would have been a disaster,” explained Eriksen.
“For a few minutes, it was about trying to get back in the game because there was still a few minutes to go.
“In the end, it was lucky they changed it and it fell our way because it would have been very, very painful.”