Lars Ricken: 'It was simple in theory, putting it into practice was the hard part'

Super-sub Lars Ricken talks FourFourTwo through his Champions League-clinching chip against Juventus in 1997...

From the occasion (club football’s biggest match) and opposition (the best team in the world at that time) to the audacity and strike itself, Lars Ricken’s 30-yard chip to clinch the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund is one of the competition’s most stunning goals.

Ricken, just 20, had been on the pitch for 16 seconds when his spectacular first-time lob made the score 3-1 and doomed the mighty Juve. It was instinctive, spontaneous... or was it?

“I’d been sitting on the bench for 70 minutes, studying the game,” super-sub Ricken recalls to FFT, “and I noticed that Angelo Peruzzi was always positioned far from his goal.

"I turned to [team-mate] Heiko Herrlich and said: ‘If I come on, the first thing I’m going to do is shoot, no matter where I am.’ That stayed in the back of my mind.

“It was simple in theory, putting it into practice was the hard part. Eight or nine attempts out of 10 wouldn’t have gone in. But this one did – and that’s what it’s all about in big games.”

Ricken scoring was inevitable – fate, even. “I wasn’t happy when Ottmar Hitzfeld told me I wouldn’t be starting,” he recalls, “but man-management was his great strength and he told me the evening before the match that I would play an important role regardless. He said my chances of seeing action were great. So I was fired up for the final, even though I was on the bench.”

It helped that the youngster had a reputation for scoring crucial goals. “I had scored the winning goals away at Auxerre in the quarter-finals and Manchester United in the semis. When [defender] Jurgen Kohler was asked before the match about the Golden Goal rule, which was then in effect, he said: ‘If anyone scores a Golden Goal in the final, it will be Ricken.’”

The stage was set. With 20 minutes remaining, Ricken’s number came up. “Now Ricken comes on!” announced one German radio reporter. “He’ll score the third goal – or so we hope.” And he did. 

This article was originally published in the February 2015 edition of FourFourTwo.