The UEFA Champions League Final is considered the biggest game in club football. The glory it offers, the money at stake, the opportunity to go down in history is unparalleled. Some of the biggest names and teams in the history of football have basked in its glory. While some have also suffered unconsolable heartbreaks. It takes nerves of steel and impeccable character to shine on the biggest night to etch your name into history. The Champions League finals have produced many iconic moments in its history.
We are preparing for another final in the Champions League chapter. This time two English giants go head to head. Manchester City who are making their first-ever final appearance are going up against Chelsea who are eyeing a second Champions League triumph. The game promises plenty on the pitch as there is no shortage of flair on and off the pitch. This Champions League finals might also provide another iconic moments to be added in the list.
Over the years, the Champions League finals have produced some iconic moments. We at FootTheBall take you down the memory lane to visit 10 of the best Champions League Finals and its iconic moments.
10) OLE’S AT THE WHEEL
The Baby-faced assassin was a deadly super sub during his playing days. The current Manchester United manager made one of the best cameos in a Champions League final. With minutes to go Bayern Munich were leading 1-0 at the Camp Nou in the 1999 UCL final. Sir Alexander Ferguson threw on Teddy Sheringham and Solskjaer off the bench and the rest is history.
🔴🎵 Late in May 1999, Ole scored a goal in injury time… 🎵
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 26, 2021
Sheringham scored first after a mad scramble to equalize the game. Just when everyone thought the game was going into extra time, Solskjaer decided otherwise. He was at the right place at the right time as he tapped home instinctively from a corner to complete the comeback. The United dugout erupted as Manchester United complete a famous treble. ‘’Football bloody hell!’’ were Sir Alex Ferguson’s words after the thriller.
9) RONALD KOEMAN’S FREEKICK
Barcelona’s European supremacy began thanks to their current manager Ronald Koeman’s goal in 1992. The Dutch centre-back was a master of dead-ball situations and he delivered it on the biggest stage. The legendary Johan Cryuff managed the Barcelona ‘Dream Team’ that had the likes of Pep Guardiola, Hristo Stoichkov in their ranks. They met Sampdoria in Wembley in quest of their first-ever continental crown in 1992.
The game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes of sparring from both sides. In the second period of extra-time with 8 minutes remaining the Catalans were awarded a free-kick. Koeman known for his power free-kicks was up to take it. He didn’t hit it directly as the ball was rolled up for him comfortably by his teammates.
Koeman unleashed a pure hit from his right foot to the far corner of Sampdoria’s goal. Gianluca Pagliuca the Sampdoria keeper had no chance even though he was at full stretch. The goal gifted Barcelona their first European Cup/Champions League title and was key in overcoming a mental block for the Catalans.
8) KAHN STOPS
The legendary German shot-stopper had ice in his veins in the Champions League final in 2001. Bayern defeated Valencia on penalties to win the title in what is known today as the all penalty finals. The match was fell fought and tied 1-1 after 120 minutes as both sides won and converted penalties early on in the game.
Kahn spared Bayern’s blushes as they missed 2 penalties in the shoot-out. The keeper made a record 3 saves in the shootout as his side won 5-4 on penalties. His first save was a dive to the right to keep the score level at 2-2. He dove to his left and tipped the ball onto the crossbar to save the next one to still keep the score at 2-2. When Bayern were leading 5-4 he knew this save would win the title. Kahn guessed and dove to his right to keep a tame effort from Mauricio Pellegrino to secure the crown for the Bavarians. He was rightfully awarded the man of the match.
The match is also remembered for a touching gesture from Kahn afterward as he consoled Valencia goalkeeper Sergio Canizares who had performed exceptionally well.
7) OH NO TERRY
Manchester United met Chelsea in a fierce all-English affair in the 2008 Champions League final. Chelsea had already lost the Premier League title to United on the domestic stage and had taken the fight to the next level on the European stage. A fiery encounter ended 1-1 after 120 minutes as Frank Lampard’s goal canceled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s header midway through the first half.
Chelsea made a perfect start to the penalty shootout as they converted all 4 of their penalties. Ronaldo’s tame penalty was saved by Petr Cech as United looked dead and buried. Mr.Chelsea himself John Terry stepped up to take the fifth penalty after Didier Drogba had been sent off in extra time.
The captain felt the pressure and slipped at the end of his run up and sent the ball agonizingly wide of the right post. The miss came back to haunt him as United went onto win the shootout 6-5. Terry would later win the title in 2012 again, although he would miss the final due to suspension
6) ZIZOU’S VOLLEY!
Zinedine Zidane is one of the best managers in the world today. Even in his playing days, he was the best in the world. The French midfielder’s skill and finesse on the ball was otherworldly. He has produced many magical moments in his career but one from the 2002 Champions League final stands out.
#OnThisDay in 2002, Zinédine Zidane scored THAT volley…
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 15, 2018
Real Madrid faced Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow for the European title. The game had a fast start as both sides scored in the opening fifteen minutes. Things were level heading into halftime at 1-1 when Zidane scored one of the best goals in a Champions League final. He received a high cross from the left-back Roberto Carlos on the edge of the box. He wonderfully volleyed the ball with his left foot into the top corner of the net past Hans Butt. Real Madrid held onto the lead to become the kings of Europe again for the 9th time.
5) THE GOLDEN GENERATION
Louis van Gaal was revolutionizing football in his native Netherlands with Ajax in the 90s before moving to bigger clubs. He built a team of young and hungry players who played fast-tempo football and had a never-give-up attitude. This team would soon come to be known as the Golden Generation of Dutch football. They made their way to the first European final in 22 years with the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Frank Rijkaard, Edwin van der Sar, Marc Overmars, Edgar Davids, Frank de Boer, Clarence Seedorf and Danny Blind.
Standing in their way were the ruthless Italians, AC Milan. The defending champions were coached by the mastermind Fabio Capello and had the fearsome, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Marcel Desailly in their team.
Ajax took the fight to them as the game was heading towards extra time without a goal. Patrick Kluivert broke the deadlock as he got a Frank Rijkaard pass under control and slotted it past the keeper. He became the youngest goalscorer in the Champions League finals aged 18 years 327 days. The Golden Generation fulfilled its potential as they won the 4th European crown for Ajax.
4) FLYONEL MESSI
Stadio Olimpico was the venue for a gladiator fight between a young Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. Barcelona, spearheaded by Pep Guardiola, had been unplayable all season. Manchester United entered the final as defending champions. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were dreaming to become the only side to defend their Champions League crown till then.
They had a reality check with Samuel Eto’o scoring early on in the game to give Barca the lead. They hung on to the lead as the game entered the final quarter when United’s keeper Edwin van der Sar scuffed his clearance straight to Barca.
Xavi recycled the possession and lobbed a cross into the box. Lionel Messi outjumped Rio Ferdinand to reach the cross and sent a looping header across the goal past a hapless van der Sar. The goal showed Messi’s incredible athleticism as he leapt so high. He could really be called Flyonel Messi eh?
3) VAMOS RAMOS FOR LA DECIMA
92:48 this is not just a time or a number, it means a world of joy for Real Madrid fans. The event unfolded in the craziest of matches as Real met Atletico for a Madrid derby at Lisbon in the 2014 Champions League final. Carlo Ancelotti’s Real were in the hunt for the La Decima (10th title).
Atletico Madrid took a surprising lead through Diego Godin in the 36th minute. Los Rojiblancos who already toppled Madrid in the league earlier were threatening to do it in Europe again. They were heading to a shock 1-0 victory when Madrid were awarded a corner in the 93rd minute. Luka Modric swung in a corner which found its way to the war dog Sergio Ramos who headed it past the outstretched Thibaut Courtois on the stroke of 92:48. The Spanish international’s equalizer broke Atleti’s hearts and forced extra time.
Real Madrid played with renewed energy and blew away a stunned Atleti. Goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo secured a 4-1 win and the coveted La Decima in the Champions League. The La Decima in the Champions League finals has been one of those legendary iconic moments.
2) REAL MADRID’S THREE-PEAT
Winning it once is fine, defending the crown is great but winning the Champions League three times in a row is the stuff of legends. Zinedine Zidane who won the champions league as a player returned to his club as a manager and guided them to history. His Madrid team was oozing with world-class talent on the pitch in every position.
Right from the back to front, they had legends like Keylor Navas, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. They won the Champions League back to back in 2016 and 2017, defeating Atletico Madrid and Juventus respectively. Madrid were determined to win it for the third time in a row.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) May 26, 2018
A high-flying Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp was in their way. Kyiv was the venue for an eventful final that had so many talking points. Sergio Ramos was involved in a tackle with Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah which ended up with the Egyptian leaving the field injured. This changed the momentum in favour of Madrid as Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius gift-wrapped a goal to them. He distributed a routine throw straight onto Benzema as the ball bounced into an empty net.
Sadio Mane equalized for Liverpool. Gareth Bale who came off the bench score one of the best goals of the finals. His overhead kick gave Madrid the lead which was enough. He went on to add one more long-range effort which would’ve been a routine save if not for another Karius error. It was later found out that the German goalkeeper had a concussion during the game.
The 3-1 win completed Real Madrid’s incredible three-peat as they won the 13th title in the history of the Champions League. Real Madrid are well and truly the kings of Europe.
1) THE MIRACLE OF ISTANBUL
The brightest of stars shine in the darkest of times. If you ever feel hopeless, if you ever feel there’s no way back just think of Liverpool and Steven Gerrard. The English midfielder produced the best individual performance in a Champions League final as he dragged his Liverpool side back from the dead and crowned them as champions. The final against Milan in 2005 in Istanbul would always be known as the Miracle of Istanbul for Gerrard and his adventures.
Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool were struggling domestically but made their way to another European final. They faced a rampaging Milan side that had world-beaters like Paolo Maldini, Allesandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko. The names on the opposition team sheet were enough to drive daggers through any team’s hearts.
Liverpool entered the game as massive underdogs and relied on their captain the young Steven Gerrard for inspiration. Milan started the terror right from the first minute as Maldini scored before 60 seconds were on the clock. Liverpool came close to equalizing but to no effect. Crespo scored twice before half-time and thought he sealed the victory as they went into the tunnel with a 3 goal lead.
🇹🇷 The Miracle of Istanbul. 16 years ago today 🙌
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 25, 2021
Steven Gerrard who was phenomenal in the first half was inspiring his troops to mount a comeback. He did it by example as he headed in John Arne Riise’s cross at the 54th-minute mark. This inspired Liverpool to give their all as Vladimir Simcer rifled a long ranger at 56 minutes. Gerrard won a penalty on the hour mark and Xabi Alonso converted the rebound after his initial penalty was saved to complete the comeback.
That spell of 6 minutes stunned everyone in the world and sent the red sea of fans at the stadium into a frenzy. Both sides made sure that there won’t be any more goals as the game headed to penalties. Jerzy Dudek the Liverpool custodian made a hero of himself as he saved two penalties and Liverpool won the match 3-2 on penalties.
The Champions League finals will always be a cacophony of drama and unrivaled pressure and produce iconic moments.
This year’s final between Manchester City vs Chelsea is expected to be epic. Not just the rivalry between the English Premier League clubs is legendary but also the continued match-up between the manager Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel.