The excitement ahead of this year’s Champions League finals is building up as there are around 2 months until the final match. It was worth the wait! The 2020-21 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals have been drawn and revealed exciting fixtures – the most outstanding match is probably the Real Madrid against Liverpool FC that will be played on 6 and 14 April 2021.
The match between Real Madrid and Liverpool is practically going to be a rematch of the 2018 final – the Reds are likely to be looking for revenge. This season, both clubs have struggled, with Liverpool much lower down the Premier League table (sixth) than Real Madrid. Either way, it will be exciting! At least the Blancos have won all of the last three encounters… But watch out: the only knockout encounter between the two clubs so far was won by the Brits in 2009 with a score of 5-0!
In the other three matches, Borussia Dortmund is facing Manchester City, FC Porto will play against Chelsea after they knocked Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus out of the competition and Bayern Munich will face French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
We will have to wait less than two months to find out about this year’s Champions League final teams, but until then, to ease the wait, in this article we want to take a look back at the history books of the UEFA Champions League and share the 10 best Champions League finals of all time, stay tuned.
10. Borussia Dortmund – Juventus Turin – 1997 (3:1)
The 1996/97 UEFA Champions League final saw then defending champions Juventus Turin face German underdogs Borussia Dortmund. This was the first appearance of Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final and the second time they met Juventus in a major European final.
The players from Borussia Dortmund were determined to win against Juventus the second time around, after being beaten 1:6 by the Turin side in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup final. In this match, Juventus were the firm favourites and this was their chance to become the first team in the history of the competition to repeat a title win the following year since the competition was renamed the Champions League.
For a number of players, including Julio César, Jürgen Kohler, Paulo Sousa and Andreas Möller, it was also their second consecutive final, though with the key difference that this time they were wearing the other team’s jersey. These four were part of the Juventus team that had defeated Borussia Dortmund in the 1993 Cup final and were now playing in the Dortmund jersey.
Having avenged their crushing 6-1 defeat to Juventus in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup final, Borussia Dortmund came out on top in their 3-1 victory in front of 60,000 spectators at the Olympiastadion in Munich. Throughout the match, Borussia Dortmund’s team managed to keep their opponents frustrated, preventing Juventus’ Zinedine Zidane from making much of an impact, and went into half-time with a 2-0 lead after two goals from German striker Karl-Heinz Riedle, which came from a counter-attack.
Alessandro Del Piero’s wonderful, back-heeled goal briefly brought Juventus back into the game, but hopes of a comeback faded when Dortmund substitute Lars Ricken scored with his first touch of the ball to give Borussia Dortmund a 3-1 lead. This is considered the fastest goal scored after a player was substituted. The win gave Borussia Dortmund its first and only UEFA Champions League title to date and is considered one of the best underdog victories in the history of the highest-ranked international club competition.
The 2001/02 UEFA Champions League final was played between Spanish side Real Madrid and German club Bayer Leverkusen. It was Bayer Leverkusen’s first appearance in a Champions League final and remains their only one to date. Leverkusen came into the match in fantastic form, after finishing second in both the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal, behind only Borussia Dortmund in the league, while they made it to the DFB-Pokal final but lost there to FC Schalke 04.
The Bayer Leverkusen players was committed to winning Europe’s biggest prize and ensuring they didn’t finish second behind Real Madrid again. This was Real Madrid’s third UEFA Champions League final, with them winning each of the last two finals. After winning the Copa Del Rey in 2001/02, Real Madrid came into this match as clear favorites to take home the trophy.
The Real Madrid team defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland to win their third UEFA Champions League title in front of a crowd of over 50,000. While Bayer Leverkusen were the better team for the entire match as they created more chances than their rivals, it was Real who managed to show their class and pull off a deserved win. Finally, Real Madrid made the most of their chances in the first half when Raúl scored after 8 minutes to take the lead.
Germans had equalized within minutes through defender Lúcio’s header, though what came next was simply stunning. Zidane scored one of the finest goals in the history of the competition when he hit a spectacular left-footed volley from the edge of the box that flew into the top corner and sent Real into the break with the lead.
Real Madrid managed to control their opponents in the second half to eventually emerge victorious. This match will forever be remembered as the game in which one of the greatest players in history scored one of the best goals in football history. This was the third time Bayer Leverkusen had to admit defeat as runners-up that season, earning them the derisive nickname “Vizekusen”.
The next match in our list of the best Champions League finals ever is the first all German final in the UCL history.
The final of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munich was the first all-German final in the entire history of the competition. The match was crucial for Bayern Munich as it was the first time in the club’s history that they had the chance to win the treble after they had already been crowned Bundesliga champions and DFB-Pokal winners in 2012/13.
While an injury kept him out of the final, this was also to be Mario Götze’s final match as a Dortmund player before he moved to FC Bayern Munich in the summer. Bayern had finished first in the league with 91 points, while Borussia Dortmund had finished second with 66 points, just one point ahead of Bayer Leverkusen.
Bayern Munich defeated their rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in front of a crowd of around 86,000 that filled the new Wembley Stadium in London to its capacity. The match was hard-fought and in the end decided by Arjen Robben, who scored the winning goal in the 89th minute to break the hearts of the Dortmund fans.
The game was even until then, with FC Bayern Munich having the bulk of the possession, however, they failed to break down a stubborn Dortmund defence until the 89th minute, before a moment of individual brilliance from Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben put the Bavarian side ahead. The goal gave Bayern victory in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League.
It was an astonishing display of two contrasting styles of play, in which both sides passed the ball back and forth with incredible accuracy and showed unimaginable cohesion in their attacking play. The game was proof that German football was on the rise again and had a bright future ahead of it. More importantly, FC Bayern Munich clinched their first treble in their entire club history and silenced the critics who saw them as a team that would falter at crucial moments.
The 1960 European Cup final took place in front of an incredible 135,000 spectators at Hampden Park in Glasgow, where Real Madrid, the team that had dominated this competition since the first edition five years earlier and won every time, faced Eintracht from Frankfurt. Typically, the most remembered matches are tightly competitive games played with tenacity, but this final stands out for the sheer dominance of one side.
At the time, Real Madrid was arguably the best team in Europe, as they had won all four European Cups up to that point. For their fifth consecutive final, therefore, they were the firm favorites and that did not turn out to be a misjudgment.
At first, Frankfurt surprisingly took the lead through Richard Kress, but the goal awakened the fighting spirits of the Royals. In the next hour, Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano together scored seven goals for Real Madrid and left the crowd’s jaws dropped. Di Stefano scored a hat-trick and Puskas even surpassed him with his four goals that left the German team hopeless.
Until today, the Hungarian is the only player to score four goals in a European final. Frankfurt scored two more goals, but Madrid’s dominance in this match is something not to be seen in a major club final for a long time.
The debate over the best line-up in football history would go on into the night, but it would definitely not be without consideration of the combination of Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano and Francisco Gento at Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup final. “Every man in our team is an attacker and we have the quality in our ranks that is envied by many British teams,” bragged Puskas before the final against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park, and he was about to be proved right.
The Eintracht Frankfurt did indeed have the audacity to snatch the lead through Richard Kress, but by the time Erwin Stein had scored Frankfurt’s second goal after 72 minutes, Real had already scored six goals, a dominant performance so sublime that it will probably never be surpassed on such a grand stage.
In the end Real won 7:3, Puskas scoring four goals and Di Stefano three. Frankfurt had scored 20 goals in six games on their way to the final but was without a chance in the final against perhaps the greatest club team ever.
The 1993/93 Champions League final between AC Milan and FC Barcelona seemed to have obvious signs, with FC Barcelona going into this match as overwhelming favourites. With Johan Cruyff having led the Dream Team to their fourth consecutive Primera Division title, his team played revolutionary football on the pitch. AC Milan, on the other hand, despite having triumphed as Italian champions, came into the final in the worst possible form, having not won any of their last six league games.
In the final, AC Milan was without injured striker Marco Van Basten and defenders Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta, which made their chances of victory far from certain. All the signs pointed to a Catalan victory.
But the scenario was different. What followed was an hour of total Milan dominance, the Rossoneri shooting from all guns blazing and scoring four goals in less than an hour. Goals from Dejan Savicevic, Marcel Desailly and a double from Daniele Massaro sealed the Catalans’ fate, and Barcelona’s fans were left stunned and the joy on the Italian side had no bounds.
In hindsight, it is easy to forget that Milan were the seemingly hopeless underdogs in 1994 final. Barcelona was the “Dream Team”, with some of the best attacking football Europe had ever seen under coach Johan Cruyff. Here is an official UEFA highlight video.
The Rossoneri went into this match without hope; while they had been crowned Serie A champions, Fabio Capello’s side had not won any of their last six league games, and Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta were out through suspension. On top of that, Marco van Basten and Gianluigi Lentini were out through injury.
But in the end, it was the Milan team, who had been dismissed by all the analysts and had won Serie A with only 34 goals in 34 games, which destroyed the dream team on the pitch in the most important final of the year. With a generation of young fans falling in love with the Italian game, this final deserves sixth place in our list of the best Champions League finals of all time.
In this final of the 1961/62 season, the only two teams who had tasted European glory up to that point were playing in the seventh European Cup final. Real Madrid had won the first five finals, while Benfica had won the cup the previous year in the final against FC Barcelona.
To this day, the Real Madrid team is known as the “Galacticos”, this year they were no longer at their absolute best but still boasted the almost heavenly combination of Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, while Benfica were last year’s young contenders and defending champions. The match was billed as a clash of the titans, a battle to decide whether Madrid’s crown could finally be snatched away by the royals.
However, Benfica’s hopes of repeating their feat suffered a heavy blow at the start. The Hungarian maestro Ferenc Puskas scored two goals to put his side 2-0 ahead.
With Benfica having equalised in the interval with goals from Jose Aguas (25th) and Domiciano Cavem (34th), Puskas scored again in the 38th minute of the game, sending Benfica into half-time a goal behind. However, they turned up the heat after the break thanks to young Portuguese sensation Eusebio, scoring three goals without Real Madrid’s players having anything to counter.
At only twenty years old, Eusebio scored two of them, first a penalty (65th), which proved to be the game-winning goal, and finally added another to make it 5-3 (68th). It was a spectacular victory for the Portuguese side. Since then Benfica has not been able to repeat this European success, while their opponents Real Madrid have won the title many more times so far and stand alone as record winners of the most prestigious international club competition.
Having won two successive European Cups under the guidance of Hungarian coach Bela Guttman, Benfica were to leave the club shortly afterwards as they disagreed over salary. “Not in a hundred years will Benfica ever be European champions again,” Guttman predicted at the time. It is now around 60 years (and eight finals appearances) and so far Benfica has not been able to shake off that curse.
The victory of Benfica in this final heralded a changing of the guard in European club football, and the fabulous performance of the young talent Eusebio, and the comeback after half-time, make this one of the best finals of all time and deserves our 5th place in the ranking of the greatest European finals in history.
The next match was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last appearance in a CL final and it happened to be one of the best Champions League finals of all time.
In the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League, it was the second time in three seasons that FC Barcelona and Manchester United had met in the final. The two sides’ previous match, in the 2008/09 final of the same competition, ended in a 2-0 win for Barcelona, giving them their third win in the competition and making them the first Spanish team to win the treble and also preventing Manchester United from becoming the first team to defend the title since the competition was renamed.
The two teams came into the game having won their respective leagues and remained unbeaten in the Champions League, in which Barcelona scored a whopping 27 goals in 12 games. This was Manchester United’s third Champions League final in four years. They hoped to win their third UEFA Champions League trophy here.
However, Pep Guardiola’s team managed to defeat their English opponents one more time here as they wrapped up a comfortable 3-1 win in front of 90,000 spectators at a packed Wembley Stadium in London. Barcelona outclassed Manchester United for long stretches and dominated possession to frustrate their opponents. It was Pedro who deservedly gave Barcelona the lead in the 27th minute when he beat United goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar from close range.
The match looked like it could be a long and painful 90 minutes for United, however, against the run of play, Rooney scored to draw the match and both teams went into the break tied.
However, Barcelona picked up where they left off in the second half. Messi’s 54th-minute goal secured the lead for Barcelona for the second time before David Villa put a stunning hooked drive into the net in the 69th minute to clinch FC Barcelona’s third UEFA Champions League title. There was such a quality to Barcelona’s performance in the final that Manchester United coach, the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, said it was the best team he had ever played against during his career as a manager.
The next match in our ranking of the best Champions League finals ever is one of the finals that we cannot simply forget about it.
Manchester United and FC Bayern München played in the final of the 1998/99 UEFA Champions League. The two clubs reached the final having won their domestic league titles. It was the first time in the club’s history that Manchester United had the chance to win the treble. Meanwhile, both Manchester United and Bayern Munich were meeting for the third time in the competition, with their last two matches ending in draws when they met in the group stage of the competition.
Manchester United was unbeaten in the knockout stages of the Champions League. And this was Peter Schmeichel’s last game in a United shirt, who also captained the side in the absence of Roy Keane.
In one of the most dramatic finals in the history of the competition, Manchester United defeated FC Bayern München 2-1 at a packed Camp Nou in Barcelona. The first goal was scored by Bayern Munich through a Mario Basler free-kick in the 6th minute. The first 90 minutes of this match saw nothing extraordinary in the main, but the drama that would unfold in injury time would more than make up for it.
The remainder of the game saw plenty of chances for both sides, however, no one was able to find a way to force a finish for long periods of time. Manchester United’s attack forced Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn into a series of saves, while Bayern twice hit the post of the United goal. In the end, when Bayern fans almost thought the game was won, substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær entered the pitch.
Sheringham first scored in the 1st minute of injury time with a rumbling kick off a rebound from a corner, and when it looked like the game would go into injury time, Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored the winning goal in the last minute of injury time to break Bayern hearts.
United claimed victory with an incredible comeback in stoppage time after failing to score for 90 minutes to celebrate their first UEFA Champions League triumph and win the treble for the first time. Bayern Munich’s players were completely caught off guard and they could barely believe what they had just witnessed. Arguably the best example of how a football match is never over until the final whistle blows.
Ferguson’s men had fought to the last minute and had secured the most dramatic victory imaginable. It was heartbreaking for Bayern and definitely one of the top spots among the most exciting Champions League finals of all time. We ranked it 3rd in the list of the best European finals in football history.
Which match do you think has ranked the number two in our list of best Champions League finals ever? Stay tuned to read about it.
In 1956, the first final of the newly formed European Cup was played between Real Madrid and Stade de Reims and it was an instant classic. What was the 1956 European Cup Final served as the first final in the pan-European football competition, known today as the UEFA Champions League, which was played in front of 38,000 fans at the Parc des Princes in Paris on 13 June 1956.
First times are always special, so the first European Cup final was an instant classic, a tense and even affair between the stars of Real Madrid and the dominant French side Stade de Reims, which had beaten the mighty Hibernians of Scotland in the semi-finals. Part of the fame of the match was the impressive performance of Raymond Kopa in his last game before moving to final opponents Real. What a rollercoaster of a game it was and the final result didn’t seem certain until the final whistle actually blew.
The French team stormed to a quick 2-0 lead within 10 minutes. However, Madrid came back into the game when first Di Stefano and then Hector Rial tied the score at 2-2. In the 62nd minute, Stade de Reims took the lead again through Michel Hidalgo, but the Spaniards had the last word in the end and Marquitos and Rial’s goals in the 67th and 79th minutes secured the cup victory for Madrid. Real Madrid thus won the first European Cup in history and secured an eternal place in the hall of fame of club football.
Real Madrid went on to win the first five European Cups, including a second victory over Stade de Reims in 1959 final. There is no doubt that this first final deserves a place in our Top 10 list of the best Champions League and European Cup finals of all time, and we consider the match to be in our number 2 spot mainly because of its historical significance.
Now get ready as we want to reveal the best in the Champions League finals of all time.
Liverpool FC met AC Milan for the first time in a UEFA Champions League final in 2004/05. This was Liverpool’s first appearance in a Champions League final since the new format was introduced, whereas AC Milan was already in their fifth final. The two teams had lost two games on their way to the final. The favourites, Milan, were looking to win their third Champions League title.
FC Liverpool managed to beat AC Milan dramatically on penalties at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul to surprise the crowd of 69,000 and claim the team’s first UEFA Champions League trophy. Liverpool got off to the worst possible start when Paolo Maldini scored the fastest goal in a Champions League final for AC Milan after just 52 seconds.
Liverpool attempted to get back into the game but was twice denied by Hernan Crespo on the counter-attack, leaving Milan with a 3-0 lead going into the break. While most might have thought that the game no longer offered any hope for the England team at this point, it is worth remembering that a football match never ends before the final whistle.
In just 6 minutes Liverpool scored 3 goals dramatically to level the score at 3-3. No more goals were scored for the rest of the match and the game went to penalties. In the shootout, Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was the hero as he saved two penalties, giving Liverpool the Champions League trophy and one of the best comebacks of all time.
That greatest of football comebacks involves that element of inevitability, that mystical sense that the players have no power over the final outcome of the game, regardless of how hard they try. With Liverpool seemingly destined by the football gods to still win this match at Selhurst Park, they seemed to have fate on their side. The 2004/05 season Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan is perhaps the best club game of all time, the fans at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul witnessed something truly magical on 25 May 2015.
This is the end of our list of the best Champions League finals of all time, the match between Liverpool FC and AC Milan is for us the greatest Champions League final yet.
What do you think about these matches? Do you remember watching any of them? Do you have any other Champions League finals that you think could’ve been on the list? Let us know in the comments section below.