Mauro Matos is 32 and got his first car just six years ago. He could not afford to pay for it himself, so his dad footed the bill. Back then, the striker was knocking around the Argentinian lower divisions, having been playing at amateur level in a Buenos Aires provincial league until the age of 24. Considering this backstory, it is not hard to understand the emotions that overtook the forward at the Grand Stade de Marrakech, where the late bloomer's extra-time goal sealed victory for San Lorenzo in the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014 semi-finals.
"It's amazing how many times I've pictured this sort of situation in my mind," Matos told FIFA.com, his face scrunched up as if holding back tears. "You struggle for a lifetime to reach a moment like this and the truth is that I still can't quite believe I'm here today, playing in a tournament that's the pinnacle of club football. This is the fruit of sacrifice, of staying humble and training hard day after day. I'd like to dedicate it to my family, who never let me give up."
The 32-year-old has a knack of coming up with crucial goals, dating back to his time at old club All Boys, whom he helped earn promotion to the top flight after a 38-year absence. Matos was also on the scoresheet in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final against Nacional in Paraguay and, this time around, he grabbed a priceless winner when things were not going according to plan. All the pressure was on San Lorenzo going into the game against Auckland City, but they were not at their best and unease had set in after the underdogs forced extra time.
"We were very anxious. We knew that we were favourites and the onus was on us to live up to that out on the pitch. There were a lot of nerves. It was our first match in the competition and it was a completely new experience for us; none of us had ever played on that stage before," the marksman acknowledged by way of an explanation for his side's below-par performance. "That's why we didn't play well, especially in the first half. It was very tough, but it's over now. Now we're feeling joy and relief."
When Matos's first-time piledriver from close range hit the back of the net in the third minute of extra time, it reinvigorated San Lorenzo. It was a strike that summed up his poacher's instincts, fighting spirit and ability to make the most of any opportunities that come his way. This is a man who was expected to be a bit-part player when he joined the club and ended up among their top scorers in the Libertadores - a man who in recent months has fed off scraps from the bench, with Martin Cauteruccio preferred to him in a lone striking role.
It was a similar story against Auckland. Introduced in place of Enzo Kalinski in the 77th minute, Matos made the difference. The super-sub credited his hard journey to the top for this impact, noting that the years spent working his way up through the divisions had taught him "to take advantage of the opportunities you get in football". As he put it, "I got my chance late on [in my career] and have tried to make the most of it."
On Saturday Matos will have what could well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a meeting against Real Madrid with a trophy on the line. "They're one of the top two teams in the world, if not the best, but it's 11 against 11 on the pitch. We know what we have to offer and we're going to believe in ourselves," he stated, adding that "Anything could happen".