Champions League Final Heroes
Champions League Final Heroes
Image by photoplanet via dreamstime
The Champions League final is the pinnacle of the European club football season.
It is the ultimate match for a club footballer.
Over the years we have witnessed some mesmerising individual performances, goals, saves and inspirational pieces of brilliance.
The players who have produced these memorable moments are our Champions League final heroes. They deserve a special place in the history of the game.
In 2018 Liverpool and Real Madrid will each try to produce their own magic. Below are 10 CL final moments created by the Champions League Final Heroes:
The Heroes of the Champions League Finals
A Whole Team in 67
It may seem strange to suggest that a full team of eleven players should be classed as heroes but having achieved what Celtic did in 1967, they deserve the accolade.
The Scottish champions arrived in Lisbon to play two-time winners, Inter Milan in the final. Having gone 1-0 down early in the match, Celtic, under legendary manager Jock Stein, fought their way back. Goals from Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers saw them win the match 2-1 and lift the Champions League.
Nothing remarkable in that alone. But when you consider that each of the eleven players who started the match for Celtic were born within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow, the city where Celtic are based, the fact they won the Champions League takes on extra significance.
Can you imagine a team winning the Champions League today by only using players from a 30-mile radius of their city? It’s a stunning success story and one which will never be repeated. That’s why, especially in Scotland, The Lisbon Lions as they are fondly known, are each regarded as being a hero and rightly so.
Video by British Pathé
Life beating death
Just one year later, the European Cup final was played at Wembley. Fantastic performances from Sir Bobby Charlton, who scored two goals and Bill Foulkes, saw Manchester United overcome Benfica 4-1.
Seeing Charlton lift the famous trophy was a moment of football history never to be forgotten. Both he and Foulkes were involved in the Munich air disaster ten years earlier, which saw eight Manchester United players killed.
Manager, Sir Matt Busby recovered from life threatening injuries to manage the club to the top of European football. Although George Best’s great goal took many of the headlines, Charlton, Foulkes and Busby were the real heroes of that game.
In the words of Charlton, as he climbed the steps to lift the trophy:
“I knew there was an understanding that something was over, something that dominated our lives for so long.”
To witness Charlton with the cup in his hands, after everything that happened, was a hugely significant and special moment in the history of the Champions League final. The English midfielder proved to be an inspiration for many players in the future.
Video by British Pathé
4 Goals in a final
Before moving forward, we must take a brief step back to 1960 and pay homage to Ferenc Puskas. The Hungarian forward scored 4 goals as he and Real Madrid demolished Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the final at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.
There was a crowd of 127,000 people in attendance to witness Puskas score his 4 goals between the 45th and 71st minute. It was a stunning display of powerful and clinical finishing, which rapidly took the final away from the German team.
Puskas is the only player to score 4 goals in a Champions League final. He will always be remembered for his performance in the final of 1960. Will his record ever be broken?
Video by RMadrid CR7
The unforgettable penalty stop
In 1970, the first Champions League game to be decided by a penalty shootout took place between Everton and Borussia Monchengladbach. But it wasn’t until 1984 that the final was settled using penalties. The first two penalties were taken, with Liverpool missing and Roma scoring.
Then, as Bruno Conti stepped up for Roma’s second spot-kick, Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar began behaving oddly. He stood on his line, with his back turned, biting the goal net. Conte promptly missed his penalty, hitting it over the bar.
That wasn’t the end of the bizarre behaviour however, as when Francesco Graziani stepped up for Roma, Grobbelaar’s legs appeared to turn to jelly and his legs were wobbling about as Graziani set himself to take the penalty. He to hit the ball over the bar and Liverpool went on to win the shootout.
Grobbelaar’s antics remain legendary and it’s one of the most iconic goalkeeping moments in Champions League final history.
Video by Nathan Burrows
From goalkeepers to goal scorers and the greatest goal ever scored in the history of the Champions League final is something which attracts much debate. Having already covered George Best and Ferenc Puskas, we move to another great of the game, Zinedine Zidane.
The 2002 Champions League final was contested between Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen. The match was tied at 1-1, when something extraordinary happened. With 45 minutes on the clock, Real Madrid left-back, Roberto Carlos, sent a high looping ball into the air, which was dropping near the edge of the Leverkusen penalty area.
There, waiting for the ball to come down was Zidane and it was as if time stood still, as the Frenchman unleashed a stunning volley, which curled beyond Hans-Jorg Butt in the Leverkusen goal, beating him at his near post. Technique, flair, and audacity, the goal had it all and it was the perfect way to settle a Champions League final.
Video by Quan Pham
However, if we are talking moments of individual brilliance, good enough to settle a Champions League final, step forward Felix Magath.
The 1983 Champions League final was contested between Hamburg and Juventus. The Italians were hot favourites to lift the trophy thanks to their abundance of Italian world cup winners, plus Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek. However, the German’s shocked Juventus and a tight match ended 1-0, thanks to a special long range strike, from Magath.
The midfielder picked the ball up and cut in from the left side, before unleashing a swerving, dipping shot beyond Dino Zoff in the Juventus goal. It only takes a second to score a goal but Magath’s strike was one which will live on forever.
When the discussion for the best goal in the Champions League final surfaces, his name is at the top of the list. What a special Champions League final moment.
Video by Scannavacche
A True Captain
Goals win games but sometimes it takes more than that and a player can put in a performance which drags his team from despair to delight. In the 2005 Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan, there appeared to be only one winner as the teams went in at half-time.
AC Milan were leading 3-0 and with the likes of Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo firing on all cylinders, there seemed little Liverpool could do to get back in the match.
However, with 9 minutes of the second half played, Steven Gerrard arrived in the penalty area to head home a glorious goal for Liverpool and start a comeback of epic proportions.
The captain ran back to the centre circle, gesticulating to both the Liverpool players and fans, wanting them to give more and they responded. So too did Gerrard, as he began picking up the ball and driving forward but it was also his running off the ball which proved crucial.
With Vladimir Smicer reducing the deficit to just one goal, the England international burst into the box and latched onto a knock-down from Milos Barros, only to be fouled before he could get his shot away. Penalty to Liverpool and although Xabi Alonso missed from the spot, the Spaniard was there to put away the rebound and make it 3-3.
The Liverpool fans went wild, their team were level in unbelievable circumstances and in the biggest match of their careers they had turned it around. There was utter disbelief around the stadium and Milan were in shock.
Leading by example
Steven Gerrard has picked his teammates up off the floor, not only by motivating them verbally but through leading by example.
In extra-time, Gerrard was forced into the right-back position. He kept Serginho quiet down the flank, making several well-timed challenges, interceptions and blocks, before pushing his team forward.
Liverpool went on to win the match on penalties but if there was ever a Champions League final which is to be remembered for one player, it was the 2005 Champions League final.
Video by Rebecca Tackett
Drama at its best
Whereas some Champions League final heroes are remembered for their overall performance, such as Steven Gerrard above, others are remembered for one moment in particular and that’s scoring a late, decisive goal.
In 1999, Manchester United were 1-0 down as the final against Bayern Munich entered injury time and Teddy Sheringham popped up with a dramatic equaliser.
For many onlookers, that was enough drama but Manchester United were not done and in the 93rd minute, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored from close range, to seal the most spectacular of late wins, in the biggest club game of all.
The Norwegian striker wrote his name into the history books and became a Champions League final hero, thanks to one kick of the ball. Is there a more emotional, climatic moment in Champions League final history then the one produced by Solskjaer in 1999?
Video by AleGole
The Scoring Defender
Step forward Sergio Ramos. The Spanish central defender has always been a danger from set-pieces but little did he know what impact he would have on the Champions League final in 2014. It was the first Champions League final between two clubs from the same city and Atletico Madrid had taken the lead on the 36th minute.
They held on to that lead until the 93rd minute, when Ramos met a Luka Modric corner to send the final into extra-time. This was not a winning goal on the scoresheet, but mentally, for both sets of players, it was a winning goal.
Real Madrid pushed on in extra-time to seal the win, with Atletico Madrid clearly deflated and unable to recover from the sensational late equaliser from Ramos. The Spanish defender will always be remembered for the time he saved the Champions League final for Real Madrid and condemned their local rivals to defeat.
Video by Adriano Leite
The Ivorian Power
Another player who will go down in Champions League final history, thanks to his late goal, is Didier Drogba. Chelsea were taking on Bayern Munich in the German’s own backyard in the 2012 Champions League final.
They were given little chance of lifting the trophy. Bayern dominated the match and could easily have been ahead by the time they took the lead in the 83rd minute.
However, with the deadlock finally broken, there was no way Chelsea were going to get back into the match. Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba, had other ideas. The Ivorian powered a tremendous header beyond Manuel Neuer in the 88th minute and took the match into extra-time.
He then conceded a penalty, which Petr Cech saved and this provided the platform for Drogba to be the hero in the penalty shootout which followed. Drogba stepped up to slot home the winning penalty and win the Champions League for Chelsea, having already saved them from defeat in the dying moments of normal time.
It was to prove to be his last kick for the club, until he made a return to Stamford Bridge in 2014.
Video by K-DC
Each Fan has its Champions League Final Heroes
For fans of clubs who have been good enough to reach a Champions League final and win it, you will undoubtedly have your own Champions League final heroes.
Whether it be an all-conquering display, like that produced by Steven Gerrard in 2005 or a masterclass in clinical finishing as delivered by Ferenc Puskas in 1960, players have stamped their authority on Champions League finals.
There have been wonderful goals scored to settle the match, like those scored by Felix Magath and Zinedine Zidane. There have been late goals which have changed the course of the game, such as those scored by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Didier Drogba and Sergio Ramos.
Who Will be the CLF 2018 hero?
The Champions League final is made for teams and individuals within those teams to step up and make a name for themselves.
The players listed above have done just that and will remain as Champions League Final heroes for the rest of time. The question is, who will be the next player to join them? Will it be Ramos or Cr7? Mo Salah or Mane? Or maybe the young Alexander-Arnold? We’ll find out on in Kiev May 26, 2018.