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Power Ranking the Champions League Finals by Entertainment

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2016

Power Ranking the Champions League Finals by Entertainment

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    CAMAY SUNGU/Associated Press

    Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have already made history in becoming the first two sides from the same city to contest a European final, but fans can only hope the events of Saturday's Champions League final will make it even more of a fixture to remember.

    The 22nd final in the tournament's existence promises to be a spectacle of mighty proportions, but where will it weigh up against the competition's climaxes in years gone by? 

    Taking all past finales thus far into account, we rank those climaxes from Europe's most prestigious competition here, with context, scoreline, drama and overall fan satisfaction being the main factors in a fixture's position.

21. 2002-03: Milan 0-0 Juventus (Milan Win on Penalties)

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    The first-ever European Cup or Champions League final to be contested between two Italian teams had Juventus and Milan pegged as close contenders based on the recent history between the two sides.

    The Bianconeri had won the 2002-03 Serie A, finishing 11 points above third-placed Milan, with each team having won their home encounters against one another 2-1 and Juve beating the Rossoneri out of the Coppa Italia semi-finals just the season before.

    Conforming to the Italian stereotypes of that era with a tight, high-strung affair, what came as a result was 120 minutes of goalless football. That's not to suggest a 0-0 result can't be equal in entertainment to its high-scoring counterparts, but the 2002-03 climax wasn't quite what one comes to expect of such an occasion.

    Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Conte each hit the woodwork for Milan and Juventus, respectively, and after the goalkeepers Dida and Gianluigi Buffon caused a slight stir by coming off their lines in the penalty shootout, it was Andriy Shevchenko who struck the decisive spot-kick to hand Milan their sixth European Cup.

20. 2008-09: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United

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    Manchester United descended upon Rome in May 2009 looking to become the first team to defend their European Cup title since the Milan side of 1990.

    However, even in a time of great prosperity for English clubs, the Red Devils were exposed as inferior contenders by a Barcelona outfit enjoying great success of its own, and in winning the final they became the first Spanish club ever to win the treble.

    Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi scored on either side of half-time in a fixture fought out between the two champions of their respective domestic leagues, but it didn't live up to the spectacle, with Pep Guardiola's side firmly outdoing their rivals in just about every sense.

    The Xavi and Iniesta partnership of the time was in full, pendulum-like momentum, easing the burdens of Eto'o and Messi as La Blaugrana prevailed in what was ultimately a rather one-sided matter.

19. 1997-98: Real Madrid 1-0 Juventus

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    Real Madrid eliminated defending European champions Borussia Dortmund from the 1997-98 tournament at the semi-final stage, serving as vindication for their claim to the throne. 

    At the Amsterdam Arena, they met Juventus, winning the first of three Champions League crowns they would go on to claim in the space of five years.

    Los Merengues manager Jupp Heynckes had not encountered any Italian outfits until meeting Juve in the final, and the action was far from end-to-end as a second-half Predrag Mijatovic strike gave Real their winner and a first European Cup title in more than 30 years.

18. 2010-11: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

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    If the Champions League final meeting between these two sides just two seasons earlier was a sound drubbing in Barcelona's favour, then 2011's Wembley encounter was only more beneficial due to the fact that there were twice as many goals.

    Again, the two teams met as reigning champions of their respective divisions, but this was further proof that the prime club of Spain easily bested that of England.

    At the height of Guardiola's Camp Nou powers, Barca started slowly but eventually developed a daunting share of possession in the first half, and United were fortunate to go in level at the break thanks to Wayne Rooney's sublime curling effort cancelling out Pedro's opener.

    However, the Barca grip would eventually tell, as Messi and David Villa added the finishing touches in London to what was a comfortable run to La Blaugrana's third European triumph in a six-year span.

17. 2003-04: Porto 3-0 Monaco

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    The fixture that really brought Jose Mourinho to the attention of the masses before his move to Chelsea later that same week, Porto and Monaco's 2004 clash was a rare encounter between two European underdogs.

    Porto came into the fixture as reigning UEFA Cup champions, and the difference in pedigree between the two outfits was clear as Carlos Alberto, Deco and Dmitri Alenichev provided the goals to see the Portuguese giants easily past their French foes.

    Porto manager Mourinho showed his tactical nous in a matchup that rarely looked like escaping the Dragons, who took the lead through Alberto, luring Monaco into a more offensive shape before taking their chances on the counter-attack.

    Both clubs had taken out major powers on their run to the Gelsenkirchen curtain call, with Porto eliminating Manchester United and Monaco defeating Chelsea and Real Madrid.

16. 2006-07: Milan 2-1 Liverpool

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    Clinching revenge for a title they had so agonisingly lost out on two years prior—which we'll discuss in time—Milan were a renewed force in 2007, led by the boot of Kaka to their seventh European Cup victory.

    The Brazilian was just one cog of an altogether more unified machine, however, and it was actually a Filippo Inzaghi brace that gave the Rossoneri their bragging rights that year, with Dirk Kuyt salvaging a consolation goal in the dying minutes of the fixture.

    Milan had learned their lessons from previous mistakes, however, and Liverpool's comeback was not meant to be. An experienced Rossoneri outfit with pedigree coming from its bench proved just too powerful.

    There was some controversy surrounding the whole affair, as fake tickets led to thousands of paying fans not being permitted entry to the Olympic Stadium in Athens, with tensions flaring between supporters of both teams —mainly those of Liverpool—and the Greek police.

15. 2009-10: Inter 2-0 Bayern Munich

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    The 2010 final of the Champions League had everything on the line. With Inter and Bayern Munich having already won domestic doubles in Italy and Germany, respectively, the two sides knew that a win for their cause meant securing an elusive European treble.

    And in the end it was Mourinho's Nerazzurri who became the first Serie A club ever to achieve such a feat, although their starting line-up included not one Italian player.

    Suspended for the Bernabeu final, Franck Ribery's absence proved noticeable for Bayern, but even with the Frenchman it's difficult to say if Der FCB would have been able to turn the tie in their favour.

    And as was the case with Porto six years earlier, Mourinho's counter-attacking strategy proved triumphant as Diego Milito scored twice in a deserved victory for Inter. Again, Mourinho would leave a European Cup-winning side not long after, this time to join Real Madrid.

14. 1999-2000: Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia

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    The first intra-national final ever to be witnessed in either the European Cup or Champions League pitted two Spanish sides against one another, with Real Madrid and Valencia the teams featured on this occasion.

    Los Merengues' chances of winning were made to look all the more slim considering Valencia had gone unbeaten against Real in La Liga that term, winning 3-2 away at the Bernabeu before drawing 1-1 at home.

    Helped on by those fixtures, Los Che finished third in the Spanish top flight, two points in front of fifth-place Real, but the same heroics couldn't be perfected in Europe.

    The Stade de France instead witnessed a sound demolition on Real's part, with Fernando Morientes opening the scoring on 39 minutes before Steve McManaman and Raul rounded off the 3-0 result after the break.

    It was a most spectacular way for Vicente del Bosque to win his first trophy as a manager, and there wasn't any more to be asked of Real when calm heads were needed most.

13. 1992-93: Marseille 1-0 Milan

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    The first edition of the UEFA Champions League to be staged following its 1992 rebranding, Marseille's 1-0 victory over Milan was marred in the aftermath due to allegations of match-fixing on the French outfit's part.

    As BBC Sport's Dan Warren details, Marseille president Bernard Tapie had bribed Valenciennes to throw their Ligue 1 matchup with his side just a week earlier, making their domestic title triumph easier and allowing more time to prepare for Milan days later.

    A Basile Boli goal minutes from half-time was the decider in making Marseille the first French team ever to win a European Cup or Champions League final, but the celebrations were short-lived as a result of the darker connotations surrounding the clash.

12. 2007-08: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (Manchester United Win on Penalties)

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    Manchester United and Chelsea made their may to Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium in 2008, as two English sides made the final of the European Cup for the first time in its history.

    It was also the fourth season in a row to feature at least one Premier League team in the final, Liverpool having made two of the previous three in addition to an appearance from Arsenal two years earlier.

    Cristiano Ronaldo headed the Red Devils into a 26th-minute lead, and Petr Cech was kept busy in order to stop United moving further ahead. Sir Alex Ferguson's side were left to rue their missed opportunities, too, after Frank Lampard equalised just seconds before half-time.

    The second half would see drama unfold by alternative means, however, as the Blues peppered Edwin van der Sar's goal, hitting the woodwork on several occasions, but the sending off of Didier Drogba was an altogether more grim outcome for Avram Grant's men.

    After scoring in normal time, Ronaldo was the only United player to miss during the penalty shootout, but John Terry's slip-and-a-miss combined with Van der Sar's save of a Nicolas Anelka attempt made up for the Portuguese's ironic drift in judgment.

11. 2012-13: Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

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    In full recognition of German football being the in-form European force of the time, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were deserved finalists of the 2012-13 Champions League.

    The Black and Yellow went into the meeting as the underdog side, with Juergen Klopp's men garnering a large portion of the neutrals' support, but were going up against a Bayern outfit of immense power.

    And Heynckes' loaded squad, who had already succeeded in reclaiming the Bundesliga title from Dortmund, were resolute as they weathered all Klopp's men had to throw at them at Wembley, throwing it back in more than equal measure. 

    Bayern's leading frontman Mario Mandzukic—coming to the end of a superb maiden campaign at the Allianz Arena—opened the scoring on 60 minutes only for Ilkay Gundogan to step up in the absence of an injured, Bayern-bound Mario Goetze to equalise from the penalty spot eight minutes later.

    It was a more familiar face who provided the real difference, though, as Arjen Robben made up for Dante's mistake in fouling Marco Reus earlier in the game, striking home from eight yards in an equally familiar link-up with Franck Ribery—only one minute of normal time remaining at this point.

10. 2011-12: Chelsea 1-1 Bayern Munich (Chelsea Win on Penalties)

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    Despite the managerial hardships that had been thrown their way under Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea rallied around interim manager Roberto Di Matteo to win the Champions League against all odds in 2012.

    The Blues took on Bayern Munich in their own territory, producing the final which would forever link the terms "Chelsea" and "park the bus" together, for right or wrong reasons.

    Thomas Mueller gave the Allianz Arena's home contingent reason for applause after putting Der FCB up with just seven minutes remaining, the score standing at 1-0 and Chelsea seemingly out at the death.

    However, it took Drogba just five minutes to respond, and the West Londoners forced extra time, during which Cech got down low to ensure Robben's 95th-minute penalty—awarded thanks to a Drogba foul on Ribery—was denied from giving Bayern an advantage.

    Chelsea somehow managed to weather the storm thrown in their direction, and as the fates would have it, Drogba would score the decisive spot-kick with his last touch of a football in Chelsea colours, completing an unlikely but nevertheless impressive victory.

9. 1994-95: Ajax 1-0 Milan

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    Defending champions Milan were a common fixture of the Champions League final in 1995, appearing in their third successive such fixture and attempting to tie Real Madrid's record of six European Cup victories.

    However, with all that experience and talent among them, the San Siro giants were still unable to break the deadlock against their Dutch opponents despite the best efforts of Fabio Capello's men.

    In the end, it was Frank Rijkaard and second-half substitute Patrick Kluivert, former and future Milan players, respectively, who combined to open the scoring on 85 minutes.

    That late penetration would prove too much to recover from for the Rossoneri, who left the final dismayed for the second time in three years.

8. 2000-01: Bayern Munich 1-1 Valencia (Bayern Munich Win on Penalties)

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    For the second year in a row, Valencia reached the Champions League final, and for the second year in a row, Los Che came up short in their endeavours.

    Following their drubbing at the hands of Real Madrid 12 months earlier, it was Bayern Munich who took on the guise of Valencia's tormentors in 2001, and compared to the demolition suffered against their Spanish rivals, this was a closer contest and a more bitter pill to swallow.

    This matchup had the odd circumstance of having all its goals scored via penalty, with Gaizka Mendieta putting the Spaniards up from 12 yards out after just three minutes before seeing a Stefan Effenberg spot-kick cancel his effort out in the second half.

    A total of 14 penalties were taken in the shootout which came as a result of the 1-1 draw, but it was Valencia who blinked most, missing three of their attempts compared to the slightly more impressive two of Bayern.

7. 1995-96: Juventus 1-1 Ajax (Juventus Win on Penalties)

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    Ajax would again come up against Serie A opposition in 1996, but their trial against Juventus didn't go as smoothly as the one against Milan a year earlier.

    The Dutch giants, making what is to this day their most recent Champions League final appearance, managed to keep matters at 1-1 in normal time thanks to the boot of Jari Litmanen, who wiped Fabrizio Ravanelli's opener from the slate.

    Edgar Davids, who would of course go on to become a part of the Bianconeri in Turin later in his career, was one of the two Godenzonen players to miss from 12 yards, along with Sonny Silooy.

    Juve were more frugal with their opportunities, though, and the Italians kept their wits about them in finding the back of the net with all attempts, following off the back of an entertaining, at times open-ended fixture.

6. 1996-97: Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Juventus

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    Underdogs or not, Borussia Dortmund were relentless in their pursuit of Juventus during the 1996-97 Champions League final, overcoming the tournament favourites in resounding fashion to run out as 3-1 victors.

    Taking no time in getting off the mark, Karl-Heinz Riedle had put the Black and Yellow two goals ahead after 34 minutes, striking twice in the space of five minutes to put the Turin giants in a state of shock.

    Though it isn't included in the clip above, Alessandro Del Piero would, not for the first time in his Juve career, pull the Bianconeri back into the fixture thanks to some dazzling finishing ability.

    But it wasn't sufficient to stem the Dortmund tide, and once again the Germans claimed a two-goal advantage through Lars Ricken, whose perfectly weighted chip over Angelo Peruzzi within a minute of coming on was a thing of beauty.

5. 2005-06: Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal

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    Barcelona began a prolific period of Champions League success in 2006, when the first of three titles in the space of six years came as a result of their comeback victory against a Thierry Henry-led Arsenal outfit.

    Amazingly, the Gunners managed to fight on through Jens Lehmann's 18th-minute sending-off, as Lehmann became the first player ever to be dismissed in a European Cup final when he felled an onrushing Samuel Eto'o as the last line of defence.

    Nineteen minutes later, Sol Campbell headed home to give the Londoners a shock lead at the Stade de France, allowing them to make it back to the dressing room as leaders.

    However, the same was not to be said of the second period, as numbers told and legs got weary, with man of the match Eto'o and Juliano Belletti striking in the 76th and 81st minutes, respectively, putting the Catalan giants ahead 2-1.

    With only 10 men, Arsenal couldn't regain the lead despite their best efforts, with Barcelona taking home their second European Cup success thanks to a deserved comeback victory.

4. 2001-02: Real Madrid 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

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    To this day, the 2001-02 season remains Bayer Leverkusen's only appearance in a European Cup final, and the Bundesliga representatives were unable to make the most of their opportunity despite showing mixed initiative.

    This was because after allowing Raul to score the fixture's first goal with just eight minutes on the clock, Lucio rose highest to level the score just five minutes later.

    However, it's the third goal for which this clash is best remembered, and it came from one of the greatest technicians ever to pull on Real's white, with Zinedine Zidane swiping home arguably the most memorable volley ever to be scored in European football (apologies, Dean Windass).

3. 1993-94: Milan 4-0 Barcelona

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    The nature of Milan's defeat to Marseille in 1993 had rightfully left the European powerhouse feeling bitter about the whole affair, and revenge was the name of the game the following season.

    Key injuries and absences threatened to undo any hopes the Rossoneri might have had for silverware, but Milan somehow managed to move past the missing figures of Marco van Basten, Franco Baresi, Jean-Pierre Papin and a host of other big squad figures, thumping Barcelona 4-0 in Athens.

    In the wake of seeing crucial players sidelined, a more unified Milan rose to the fore as Daniele Massaro netted twice before the break, with additions coming from Dejan Savicevic and Marcel Desailly after half-time.

    It's ironic that what has been regarded as arguably the most complete Milan performance of all time should have come without so many of the club's better-known stars. 

2. 1998-99: Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich

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    For a lot of people, and undoubtedly a large percentage of Manchester United fans, this will go down as not only the best Champions League final to take place, but the best footballing moment in general.

    Manchester United's treble-winning campaign of 1999 featured many a twist and turn, and after making their way past Juventus by close margins in the semi-finals, the Red Devils would again take it close in the final against Bayern Munich.

    Mario Basler's sixth-minute free-kick strike was enough to see Die Roten lead their English foes for a total of 85 minutes, but the wheels of one of football's most memorable comebacks was set in motion when Teddy Sheringham grasped an equaliser in the first minute of added time.

    With desperation looming and Bayern finally on the ropes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got on the end of a chance fashioned by Sheringham, poking a foot out at the ball, shooting back across the face of goal and sending the ball up into the Camp Nou net.

    United's jubilation at that 93rd-minute winner is a thing that often evokes fond memories from any Red Devil, owing itself to the single most dramatic silverware achievement in the club's history.

1. 2004-05: Liverpool 3-3 Milan (Liverpool Win on Penalties)

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    But the greatest final came six years later, and it was United's bitter English rivals Liverpool who ironically took ownership of the glorious scenes that unfolded in Istanbul.

    Milan had done a final job of reducing the Reds' 2004-05 hopes to rubble by half-time, with scores coming from Paolo Maldini and a Hernan Crespo brace to put Carlo Ancelotti and Co. in a commanding, seemingly insurmountable half-time position.

    However, from that rubble Rafa Benitez saw fit to rebuild Liverpool's challenge anew, and whatever the Spaniard said to his colleagues in the dressing room of the Ataturk Olympic Stadium that night squeezed the right reaction from his players.

    Before 15 minutes of the second half were through, the Merseysiders were level at 3-3, Steven Gerrard, first-half substitute Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso the men responsible for such heroics.

    However, it was very much a team effort in the Turkish capital, as stars of both teams banded together for the remainder of normal and extra time, forcing one of the most memorable penalty shootouts in football.

    Jerzy Dudek channelled the talents of former Reds stopper Bruce Grobbelaar with his remake of the "spaghetti legs" tactic, which was enough to help him stop Andriy Shevchenko from tucking away his effort, sending Liverpool into raptures.

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