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Legends of the Champions League – Part I

Football

Legends of the Champions League – Part I

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Legends of the Champions League – Part I

UEFA Champions League (UCL) started in 1992/93. Here’s a brief look at the format and a run-down of all the finals until now!

In season 1992/93, the competition that was previously called the European Cup became known as the UCL. A total of 22 clubs have won the UCL/European Cup title so far. Real Madrid have won the tournament the most times. A total of 14 teams have won it more than once. As of now, Cristiano Ronaldo is the lead scorer in the tournament’s history followed by Lionel Messi! But, what happened in all of the UCL finals and who were the stars of yesteryear?

A HISTORY OF UCL FINALS SINCE 1993

Marseille 1-0 AC Milan (1993)

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Four-time European champions Milan fielded a star-studded XI in the first-ever UCL final, but it was the young guns of Alen Bokšić, Fabien Barthez, and Marcel Desailly who won the first-ever ECL for Marseille. Desailly’s display earned him a transfer to AC Milan later that year.

Frank Rijkaard and Daniele Massaro failed to test a young Fabian Barthez with great early chances. Basile Boli then rose highest from a Marseille corner to score a beautifully precise header just before half time.

Jean-Pierre Papin had a great second-half opportunity for Milan, but Barthez was playing like a man possessed. The future France international threw himself at everything that came his way, to ensure victory for Marseille in a pulsating, end-to-end encounter!

AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona (1994)

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How did Milan win the 1994 Champions League without seven key players, including Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi, and Marco van Basten? They produced arguably the greatest performance by a team in the history of Europe’s elite competition! 

The Italians came out all guns blazing against the winning machine that was Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona. Milan’s Dejan Savićević left Miguel Angel Nadal on the floor to set up Daniele Massaro’s first, with his second coming before half-time. 

Another embarrassing moment for Nadal allowed Savićević to score an outstanding lob just minutes into the second half, before Marcel Desailly got in on the action to complete the rout. Cruyff’s revolutionary side were rarely handed heavy defeats and certainly didn’t expect to receive one on this occasion! 

Ajax 1-0 AC Milan (1995)

In an absorbing final between one of Europe’s greatest teams, AC Milan, the reigning champions in their third successive final, and an exciting young Ajax team, who had reached their first final since winning a third successive European Cup in 1973.

Marco Simone was the Italians’ best player. A sweetly struck volley was his best chance but he fired it straight at Edwin van der Sar, while Daniele Massaro turned and struck just wide.

The game looked destined for extra time until the moment that created a superstar. 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert came off the bench and received a pass from Frank Rijkaard that put him through on goal to score one of the most important goals in an illustrious career!

Ajax 1-1 (2-4p) Juventus (1996)

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Holders Ajax faced some task in retaining their European crown in 1996, having lost Frank Rijkaard to retirement, Clarence Seedorf to Sampdoria, Marc Overmars to injury and Michael Reiziger to suspension.

Reiziger’s absence forced a defensive reshuffle that meant the Dutch side looked more uncertain than usual, something that wasn’t helped by Fabrizio Ravanelli’s 13th-minute opener.

Jari Litmanen equalised before the break, but that was the end of the goals in a showdown that went all the way to penalties. Edgar Davids and Sonny Silooy were guilty of missing spot-kicks for the Dutch club, as they succumbed 4-2 in the shootout.

To be continued…

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