Memorable Moments of the XXI Century Champions League Finals
Some games are just different. It’s been a long time since club-level football has been presenting us with the best footie out there. The national teams unfortunately are eroding into a product for very young players. Several retirements after each World Cup and UEFA Euro show us that long gone are the days when players would be sad about their last call. Because they’re calling it quits before the national manager does it.
In the 90s, it would be rare to see players voluntarily retiring from international football, and when they did that, oftentimes the calls weren’t to be taken for granted.
Varane, for example, retired aged 27 after the last World Cup. But our goal here isn’t to discuss the schedule and why this is happening. We simply must admit that the UEFA Champions League play-offs and the final are the best quality of football out there.
If one is looking for technical quality, then the UCL final is probably the best game of the season in theory.
No wonder why every year we remember that day when we mark our calendars that special game, whether our loved teams are playing or not. Every final is historical by nature, but there’s more than an element of subjectivity in the nostalgia: what rings history to our hearts of football lovers depends on where we’re from, who we support, and of course, who we don’t really love club-wise. Our memories at the professional level of the stars are as full of emotion as our own personal weekend league teams, whether we play with great uniforms with custom soccer pins, or just with old jerseys of remarkable seasons of our loved teams that are now discontinued.
These are the most memorable UCL finals for this author, and hopefully, some of you also share the same memories and fondness for this special fixture.
2022: Vinicius Júnior Proves to Be a Mature Player Technically
If you score the goal that helps your team lift the UCL trophy, you’re ready, done, mature, and developed. Period. Vini Jr. has always been surrounded by so much controversy, but that goal was a game-changer and a milestone in his life as a footballer.
He started the 22/23 season a lot more confident and keener when finishing after that trophy, which together with the La Liga trophy of that season, crowned a generation of Real Madrid that proved to be resilient: even after losing Ronaldo, the midfield with Kroos, Casemiro and Modric proved to remain the backbone of their formation. Justice was done.
2021: Not The Glory Time Yet for Man City
Man City was wildly the favourite in the betting markets, and Chelsea simply had more tenacity and attention in that game. Sometimes when a club has lifted a trophy before, which was the case of The Blues, a lot of pressure ‘at the institutional level’ is neutralized. That seems to be the case, and the memory of this game will certainly affect the fixture of June 10th in Istanbul when City faces Inter Milan.
2018: That Bale Goal for Real Madrid against Liverpool
Gareth Bale was the man of the match, and scored perhaps the most beautiful UCL final goal ever, although some may prefer the one of Zidane in 2001. What else can we say? See it for yourself!
2014: First UCL Final with A Derbi Madrileño
Atletico Madrid certainly isn’t fond of the white side of Madrid. But imagining that derby in the UCL final sounded a bit like a pipe dream 10 years ago. But it happened twice. The first occasion was memorable for Madrid as an unprecedented match that stopped Spain’s capital for a couple of hours.
2008: Tragic Russian Evening for Terry
A captain of a beloved club, slipping when trying to shoot, in a UCL final shootout, due to a muddy pitch in Moscow, is one of those tales that a talented screenwriter couldn’t possibly come up with for a movie.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, Fergie and his Man Utd had better luck and brought to Manchester another UCL piece of silverware.
Poor Terry probably still has nightmares about that dreadful Russian evening.
2004: The Lusophone Starting XI of Porto
As someone who learned to love football growing up in Brazil, there’s one specific piece of information about that Mourinho Porto squad which always impressed me: all 11 players of Porto that started the match were native speakers of Portuguese. 8 Portuguese players, 2 Brazilians, and Deco, Brazilian-born naturalized citizen of Portugal. History will hardly ever see a similar story as squads are evermore multinational.
The love of Brazilians and Portuguese people for footie was crowned in a magical night that kicked off the brightest phase of the career of the man who would eventually be called ‘The Special One’ by the British media shortly after that during his first Chelsea spell.
2003: The Italian Battle
Trezeguet and Del Piero formed one of the most iconic attacking duo in the old era when the CF and the ST weren’t expected to pressure the defenders and could be ‘just attackers’.
But the tough game ended in a shootout that unfortunately for the bianconeri, didn’t end well as Buffon wasn’t enough to save them, and Trezeguet missed his shot.
2002: Last but not Least… That final when Zidane Made History
Before that Bale goal, Zidane’s volley in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen was arguably the most beautiful UCL final goal, and in the eyes and hearts of many, still is.
Zidane was the most expensive player in the world at the time as he had recently arrived from Juventus with a price tag of €65m, which was unthinkable at the time, but is pretty common 20 years later.