Champions League: Ranking The Top 10 Finals Of All Time

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Champions League: Ranking The Top 10 Finals Of All Time

Throughout its legendary history, the UEFA Champions League has given football fans many unforgettable moments and dramatic confrontations.

There have been many unbelievable comebacks and jaw-dropping moments of greatness in the competition’s previous knockout rounds, but the final hasn’t always met expectations.

Unfortunately, finals aren’t always entertaining due to the astronomical value of the prize.

While Manchester City did manage to join the exclusive group of clubs to win a European triple, they seemed frightened during the 2023 final against Inter Milan.

That doesn’t mean every final has been a bust, either. A number of the tournament’s most memorable matches have been motivated by the fight for club football’s highest prize in Europe.

Ahead of the 2024 Champions League final between 14th-time winners Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, we look at some of the best finals of all time.

Discover the most memorable Champions League finals with this comprehensive list.

Bayern Munich 1-1 (5-4 pens) Valencia, 2001

Bayern Munich 1-1 (5-4 pens) Valencia, 2001

Bayern Munich and Valencia played through a nail-biter in the 2001 final in Milan’s San Siro.

It went to a penalty shootout because, after a goalless extra half and an exchange of penalties in regulation time, the match became more exciting—especially for the onlookers.

READ MORE – Every Champions League Final Man Of The Match In The 21st Century

Bayern won 5-4 in penalties, despite Paulo Sergio missing their first penalty attempt. With three saves, goalkeeper Oliver Kahn almost gave Valencia the tournament victory.

The remarkable display of sportsmanship by Kahn, who had just beaten Mauricio Pellegrino to the ball, was to comfort Santiago Canizares, the goalkeeper on the other side.

Barcelona 2 – 1 Arsenal, 2006

Barcelona 2 – 1 Arsenal, 2006

Arsenal supporters were rocked when goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was shown the red card during the first half of their Champions League Final match against Barcelona.

However, as Sol Campbell scored the first goal for the Gunners 20 minutes later, this terror quickly transformed into exhilaration.

The skilled opposition eventually overcame a 10-man Arsenal, who held on to their advantage until the 70th minute.

After Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o tied the score, Juliano Belletti scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Real Madrid, 2002

Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Real Madrid, 2002

An unforgettable moment in Champions League history would have almost gone unnoticed if starting goalkeeper Cesar hadn’t been injured, allowing Iker Casillas to be introduced.

In any case, Zinedine Zidane handed Los Blancos a fantastic lead at Hampden Park, and Casillas produced a series of excellent stops to keep it.

No one could deny that Leverkusen contributed to a fantastic game, even if few predicted they would go this far.

Barcelona 3 – 1 Manchester United, 2011

In 2011, Barcelona thrashed Manchester United, and Lionel Messi was the star player.

After winning the Premier League for the fourth time in five years, Manchester United was no match for “the best team I’ve faced,” as Sir Alex Ferguson said.

While Wayne Rooney pulled one back for Manchester United just before halftime, Messi and David Villa put the game away for Barcelona in the second half after Pedro had opened the scoring in the 27th minute.

Chelsea 1-1 (4-3P) Bayern Munich, 2012

The 2012 Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea was scoreless for the most part, yet the contest will always be remembered fondly.

Breaking the stalemate in the 83rd minute, Thomas Müller seemed to have won it for Bayern Munich. However, Didier Drogba equalized only five minutes later with a header.

The contest proceeded to penalties after regulation, and overtime failed to produce a winner.

Even though Chelsea’s Juan Mata missed their first penalty attempt, David Luiz, Frank Lampard, and Ashley Cole all struck.

While Bayern Munich’s Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez, and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer scored, Chelsea gained the upper hand after saves from Ivica Olić and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

In a spectacular display, Drogba stepped up to score the winning goal.

Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool, 2018

The 2018 Champions League final failed to deliver the electrifying fusion of styles it had promised, as it lost maybe its finest player after thirty minutes.

Real Madrid slogged through big chunks of the match, Liverpool’s quiet reaction understandable, and a fog of awful goalkeeping obscured the rest.

Man United 1-1 (6-5 pens) Chelsea, 2008

Two English powerhouses, Manchester United and Chelsea, faced off in the 2008 final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

Midway through the first half, Manchester United took the lead thanks to a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo—the man with the most goals in Champions League finals—but Frank Lampard equalized for the Blues just before halftime.

A nail-biting penalty shootout determined the winner after a closely fought match finished in a 1-1 tie.

After Chelsea hired a data expert to help them prepare for penalties, Man Utd came out on top when John Terry stumbled and missed a penalty kick that would have won the championship.

Ajax 1-0 AC Milan, 1995

Two European giants, AC Milan and Ajax, exemplifying “football heritage,” faced off in the 1995 final in Vienna’s Ernst-Happel-Stadion.

While his side won by a score of 1-0, the match was marked by the technical masterclass of the renowned coach, Louis van Gaal.

After the first half ended scoreless, Van Gaal made two key substitutions: he sent in the high-energy Patrick Kluivert and shifted Frank Rijkaard deeper to give him more control of the ball.

The match’s lone goal came in the 85th minute from a combination of the two Dutchmen.

Even though Fabio Capello’s Milan squad was loaded with talent, they just couldn’t compete with this legendary Ajax squad; former World Cup winner Jorge Valdano nicely put it: “They are beauty and the beast.”

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich, 2013

At Wembley Stadium in 2013, another domestic event, an exciting all-German matchup featured Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

The Bavarians took the lead via Mario Mandzukic, but Ilkay Gundogan equalized for the Gundogans with a shot from 12 yards out midway through the second half. Bayern won 2-1 thanks to a late goal by Arjen Robben.

After losing the final to Chelsea in their Bavarian home stadium the previous year, Bayern’s victory was incredibly gratifying.

Dortmund may have lost in the end, but their dominant semifinal performance against their home rivals highlighted Germany’s rising football supremacy, mainly attributable to the game-changing strategy of pressing.

Liverpool 3-3 (2-3P) AC Milan, 2005

Back in Istanbul that evening… No one will ever forget the 2005 final at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium, a “miracle” in every way.

While AC Milan led 3-0 at halftime, a somewhat inferior Liverpool team pulled off an incredible comeback in the second half, scoring to draw the game, sending the match into overtime, and eventually winning on penalties.

This encounter is firmly etched in football lore as one of the greatest comebacks of all time, spearheaded by captain Steven Gerrard, who initiated the charge back to parity within ten minutes of the restart.

Any team may win in the Champions League final, regardless of their current standing.

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