Stories

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

Peter Schmeichel 1999 Bayern Munich

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

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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! 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 thought: ‘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.”

20. Fall into a pond

Paddy Crerand, Manchester United 1968

“The mood was very confident, we knew Benfica’s players and how they would play. We were well prepared and well rested in our Egham hotel, which was more like an old Tudor mansion, with drapes on the walls and four poster beds. The only bother was with Brian Kidd, who was playing with a frog one day near one of those mossy pools you get in old places. Of course he fell in, and came back to the room covered in green slime. He still scored in the final, though.”

19. Forget the chalkboard

Paco Gento, Real Madrid 1955-60

“We never had a blackboard, and hardly ever talked about our opponents, and this attitude helped us to turn games our way. We had players who did not need to be taught. In 1962, we sent three spies to look at Benfica and lost 5-3. In the days of Di Stefano, we just came to the stadium, put on our shirts and played.”

Brian Kidd was playing with a frog one day near one of those mossy pools you get in old places. Of course he fell in

- Paddy Crerand

18. Get an expert coach in man-management

Cesare Maldini, Milan 1963

“We were pulling into the Wembley car park when [manager Nereo] Rocco noticed the fear in our faces. He stood up and shouted: ‘Anyone who is scared shouldn’t bother getting off the bus.’ Then he sat down and pretended to be frightened. We all burst into laughter and the tension evaporated. No one could create the right mood as well as him.”

17. Know your limits

Sinisa Mihajlovic, Red Star Belgrade 1991

“I think our 1991 final match against Marseille was the most boring final match in European Cup history. A few hours before the match, [manager] Ljupko Petrovic told us: ‘If we attack them we’ll leave ourselves open for counter-attacks.’ I asked: ‘So, what do we do, then?’ His answer was: ‘When you get the ball, give it back to them’. So we spent 120 minutes on the pitch without practically touching the ball. The match went to penalties, and Manuel Amoros failed to convert his whereas we scored all five.

“Had we approached the match with an attacking mentality, we probably would’ve lost – not because they were necessarily better than us, but because their players were used to playing big matches like this one. We had a squad full of 21-, 22-, and 23-year-old kids.”

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