The UEFA Champions League is without a doubt the crown jewel of club football silverware in the world, but what are the best finals ever played in this European competition? We selected a top five.
#5: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Real Madrid, 2002 (1-2)
Maybe not the best UEFA Champions League final, but arguably the greatest goal ever seen in a Champions League final as Zinedine Zidane scored a sublime left footed volley on the stroke of half time.
Real Madrid beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 for its third title in five years and ninth overall. Will they finally complete La Decima after twelve years?
#4: FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United, 2011 (3-1)
The greatest team of the last decade at the height of their power, with Manchester United being unlucky to be its prey. Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona side were unstoppable that evening at Wembley.
By the time David Villa delicately curled home the third goal, the whole world knew that we were witnessing a truly great team and one of the best footballing outfits in the history of world football.
#3: FC Barcelona vs. AC Milan, 1994 (0-4)
Fabio Capello’s all-conquering AC Milan side faced off against Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team‘ FC Barcelona. It promised to be an exciting evening.
But the excitement turned into admiration. Goals from Dejan Savicevic, Marcel Desailly and a brace from Daniele Massaro gave the Rossoneri an emphatic 4-0 victory. Many believe Milan’s performance in that final to be one of the best ever team displays in European history as they simply demolished their Spanish opposition.
#2: Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich, 1999 (2-1)
Boris Becker’s story tells everything. “Franz Beckenbauer and I left our seats in the 90th minute to get into position. As we walked into the lift, the score was 1-0. Everything was going absolutely fine. By the time we got out, the scoreboard read we were losing 2-1. “There must be a mistake, Franz,” I said. He looked at me. “No, Boris. There’s no mistake.”
Two goals in injury-time from substitutes Teddy Sheringham and then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw Manchester United overturn Mario Basler’s sixth minute opener and win a match they (judging by the stats) had no right to win. An English win in German style.
#1: AC Milan vs. Liverpool, 2005 (3-3 AET, Liverpool wins 3-2 on penalties)
For sheer drama, suspense, unpredictability, longevity, magic, shock and ambiance, the 2005 Champions League final between five-time winners Liverpool and seven-time winners AC Milan takes number one spot.
Milan raced into a 3-0 half-time lead with football so good that hopeless Liverpool fans left the stadium in embarrassment. Bad mistake as ‘six minutes of madness’ followed culminating in Xabi Alonso thumping home the equalizer after his penalty kick was saved.
In extra time, Liverpool-goalie Jerzy Dudek pulled off an incredible save to prevent Andriy Shevchenko scoring and cause the game to go to penalties. The Polish keeper continued his heroics in the shootout and denied Shevchenko for the second time to give Liverpool their fifth and unlikeliest of European Cup triumphs.