There were two minutes to go and the most extraordinary story was about to be written, or so it goes. The football team from a tiny, unremarkable little town in Spain that had spent most of its history in the regional third tier and was playing its first Champions League campaign, a miracle in itself, had just been awarded a penalty. Score, and it would take them into extra time in front of their fans and against a side who were down to 10 men, bringing the final of the biggest competition there is within touching distance.

Vila Real has a population of 50,577. No place this small had ever had a team win a European trophy, and no one there ever really imagined that they would either. At least not until now. This moment was huge -- inconceivably so, one that shouldn't have happened in the first place and wouldn't happen again. The man on whose shoulders it lay knew that. You probably know what happened next: Juan Roman Riquelme's penalty was saved by Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and Villarreal's dream disintegrated.

Riquelme never watched it again, but he didn't need to and nor did anyone else; this was burned into their brains. In the stands at El Madrigal was an 8-year-old boy from the town, sitting with his mother and his brother. He had grabbed a man he didn't know when they got the penalty and hugged him; now, he broke down in tears.

Sixteen years later to the month, Pau Torres was there again, only down on the pitch this time. These days Pau -- "el xiquet del poble," they call him, "the boy from the town" -- plays for Villarreal. He's part of the team that, on Wednesday night, took them closer to reaching another Champions League semifinal than they have ever been since, by claiming a famous 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of their quarterfinal at El Madrigal. Except the stadium is now called the Ceramica, after the industries that surround the town, sustaining it and its club, too.

This was historic, a moment that might not happen again, which is precisely why Pau is still around. Last season, Pau, like every single one of his teammates, scored a penalty in an astonishing shootout as Villarreal won the Europa League. Before the game, coach Unai Emery had urged his players to do it for "Pau's town" and they had, becoming the smallest place ever to win a European trophy.

They had done it against Manchester United, the team with a ground big enough to fit the entire town in and still have almost 30,000 spare seats. Along the way, they defeated Arsenal, who beat them in the semifinal in 2006 and in the quarterfinal in 2009 -- some closure to go with the celebration. Those results had lingered in part because Villarreal only ever had one more season in the Champions League. In 2011-12, they went out at the group stage having lost every game.

Winning last year's Europa League brought them back again, and kept Pau at the club. In the summer, there had been offers from all over Europe -- offers that meant him quadrupling his salary and offers that Villarreal did not just accept, but welcomed. They would have sold; at a transfer fee of around €60 million, they would have gift-wrapped him. Not because they wanted to get rid of him -- they'd known him almost all his life, a lad it was impossible not to like -- but because that's the model, the way it has to be. There would have been pride in seeing him progress; one of their own out there in the big wide world.

The thing is, Pau didn't want to leave. The conversation was the opposite of how these things normally go: They listened to his arguments as to why he wanted to stay, not leave. A financial opportunity might be lost -- who knows if those buyers would be back again, if the offers would be the same -- but Villarreal accepted it, because how could they do anything else? How could they ever force him, of all people? And because they admired him, appreciating the kid they'd educated too, demonstrating that he had grown into the man they'd hoped he would be.