How to win the Champions League… by the men who’ve done it

Twenty-five fascinating (and often hilarious) tales from the triumphant chaps who've lifted Ol' Big Ears down the years

25. Play golf

Hristo Stoichkov, Barcelona 1992

“We were in trouble against Kaiserslautern before Jose Mari Bakero’s last-minute goal. We won the first game 2-0, but we could’ve scored 14. We travelled there knowing we were a thousand times better than them, but we conceded early, then again and again after half-time. These things happen sometimes in football, but we were always confident we’d get the goal, even if the smallest player on the pitch scored a header!

“Then we gave Benfica a lesson and knew we were going to win. For the final against Sampdoria, it was no different. At 9am that morning, we were all playing golf with [coach Johan] Cruyff. We were very relaxed. We went to Wembley knowing we were better than them and would win. What did Sampdoria have? A good team, but... really. Mancini against Laudrup? I’ll stick with Laudrup. Vialli or Stoichkov? Well, Stoichkov [laughing]! I’m much quicker, for f**k’s sake!

24. If you’re a sub, watch like a hawk

Lars Ricken, Borussia Dortmund 1997

“In the 1997 final against Juventus I’d had 70 minutes watching from the bench and we’d noticed that [keeper Angelo] Peruzzi stood quite far out in front of his goal. We talked about what to do and I said: ‘When I get on, I’ll immediately hit a chip shot at goal.’ It was the fastest goal of my career, coming after 10 or 11 seconds, and only my second as a sub. I was just happy when the assistant Michael Henke called me.

“We’d been up 2-0 and Juve had pulled one back. I heard later that when the ball came from Andreas Moller, the famous TV commentator Marcel Reif screamed: ‘Now chip!’ I hadn’t even hit many balls in the warm-up, so luck played a role. The goal was a kind of burden, I was only 20 and though I was a decent player I didn’t belong in the superstar category. But it also meant I’d never have to chase the European title.”

23. Know your team-mates

Basile Boli, Marseille 1993

“I won’t ever forget a look Abedi Pele gave me just before the goal that beat Milan in 1993. We’d talked in training and the last thing he told me before we walked onto the field in Munich was: ‘At corner kicks, don’t just stay at the back post, try a run, cut to the near post.’ And [in the 43rd minute] when he went to take his corner, he gave me that look again, as if I was the only person in the stadium – that’s the way I felt it, anyway. So, I positioned myself at the near post… and scored.”

22. Crack open a cold one

Peter Shilton, Nottingham Forest 1979

“When we drew defending champions Liverpool in the 1978/79 first round, we won the first leg at the City Ground 2-0. The bus (for the away leg) left on the morning of the game. It was the biggest match of some of our lives. We were on the coach just outside Liverpool and Cloughie was wearing his rugby top. He gets up and says: ‘Anyone want a beer?’ It was noon! A couple of the lads had one. When we got to lunch, he said: ‘Anyone want a glass of wine?’ [First-team coach] Jimmy Gordon had to go around waking a couple of them up that afternoon! Instead of the lads sitting in their room fidgeting, they slept. We got the goalless draw we needed and went on to win it.”

21. Never give up

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern Munich chairman 2013

“In 2012, [losing the final on penalties against Chelsea having led with two minutes to go], I looked into the faces of thousands of disappointed fans and though: ‘Mama mia, what is happening?’ The shock was so big, how could we recover from that? Many were waiting for us to break down, to stop, but that wouldn’t have been very Bayern Munich-like. Over the summer holidays Jupp Heynckes and me discussed what we needed to change in daily 10am phone calls. We achieved the sports comeback of the year.”

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