Where are they now – 11 former Champions League Winners
Since the Champions League first began at the start of the 1992-93 season, we have enjoyed some memorable moments in the finals that have followed. Four teams are left in the current version of Europe’s Premier Club competition but at the end of this campaign, will we see another dramatic final to match some of the incredible matches seen in the last 21 years?
But what about the players who contributed to that drama? Here’s what happened to 11 of the most famous and infamous men in Champions League final history.
Brazilian International keeper Dida was hailed as a hero as his Milan side edged out Italian rivals Juventus in the 2003 final held in Manchester. The match itself finished in something of a dour 0-0 draw and after a goalless extra time, the teams headed into the dreaded penalty shoot out.
Milan edged the spot kicks by three penalties to two and while Dida made three brilliant saves to see his side home, it was clear from replays that he was some way of his line as he did so. Juve were aggrieved but the result stood and their keeper was exalted after the game.
Dida spent 10 years at Milan between 2000 and 2010 and as he approaches his 41st birthday he is still playing! Those reflexes show no sign of wavering as the Brazilian is back home with Porto Alegre based side Internacional.
2. Matthias Sammer
Borussia Dortmund became the first German winners of the new Champions League when they beat Juventus by three goals to one in the 1997 final and their captain that day was the revered defender Matthias Sammer. The Sweeper was born in Dresden and would go on to become one of the few players to have represented both East Germany and the new Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall and he would eventually earn a total of 74 international caps.
He had a reputation for scoring important goals too but didn’t get on the scoresheet in the final as Karl-Heinz Riedle’s brace ensured the win.
Sammer was one of only a handful of defenders to have won the European footballer of the year award and after a distinguished career, he would finish his playing days at Dortmund at the age of 32. Now 45, Sammer has stayed in football but unlike many others who have taken up management, he is the current Sport Director at Bayern Munich.
3. Paolo Maldini
Left Back Maldini is quite simply one of the most successful footballers of all time having won the Champions League and its predecessor the European Cup on no less than five separate occasions. A one club man, Maldini spent his entire career at AC Milan and the defender also made an incredible 126 appearances for the Italian national side.
Maldini also holds two further Champions League records: Against Liverpool in 2005 he scored the fastest goal in a final after just 51 seconds and at the same time he became the oldest man to find the net in a European Club Cup final.
Maldini played on until he was 41 and has since turned down several offers to become a coach. The player insisted that he would never enter a coaching career after he had finished playing and so far he has been true to his word.
4. Basile Boli
Marseille’s Basile Boli scored the first ever goal in a Champions League final with the winner against AC Milan in 1993. The game itself was a fairly dour affair and not exactly the showpiece that UEFA had hoped for and the only goal of the match came from Boli just before half time.
Nicknamed the beast, Marseille’s centre half was an uncompromising player and once took the unwise decision to head butt England’s own Psycho, Stuart Pearce, during an international.
Boli left Marseilles in 1994 and spent a season at Glasgow Rangers before finishing his career in Japan at the young age of 30. Since leaving football, the 47 year old has taken up an unlikely career in politics and was made national secretary for co‑development with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party.
5. Sol Campbell
The final of 2006 was a dramatic and controversial one as Arsenal went down to 10 men early on after the sending off of Jens Lehmann. However, centre half Sol Campbell opened the scoring in the first half and it looked as if the Gunners would hold on to an unlikely victory.
Barca’s pressure told and as Arsenal’s stamina gave way, two late goals from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti sealed the win for the Spanish.
Campbell was a controversial figure, having walked out on bitter rivals Spurs before joining Arsenal in 2001. The defender’s career later took him to Portsmouth and Newcastle but in retirement he continues to court controversy, claiming he would have captained England for many years had he not been black.
6. Vladimir Smicer
The 2005 final between Milan and Liverpool has to be the most dramatic ever played after 69,000 people in Istanbul witnessed one of the most remarkable comebacks in football history. The Italians were in control from the first whistle and took a first minute lead through Paolo Maldini before Hernan Crespo made it 3-0 before half time.
Liverpool fans watching on TV switched off in their droves without suspecting that their team would be right back in it before the hour mark. Steven Gerrard pulled a goal back after the break before Vladimir Smicer added a second and Xabi Alonso made it 3-3, all in the space of six incredible minutes.
The score remained the same until the end of extra time but after this sort of comeback it seemed that Liverpool were destined for the title and so it proved as they held their nerve in the penalty shootout.
Czech international Smicer also scored from the spot and it surprised many when he left Liverpool after the final to join French club Bordeaux. After two seasons he returned home to Slavia Prague and is now an occasional TV summariser and Sports manager of the Czech National side.
7. Dmitri Alenichev
The 2003-04 Champions League final was notable for Jose Mourinho’s entry onto the World stage. The charismatic Portuguese enjoyed the first of many ‘Wars of Words’ with Alex Ferguson along the way before his Porto side demolished Monaco by three goals to nil in the final itself.
Deco was one of the goal scorers that night in Gelsenkirchen and he was to follow his manager to Chelsea. Carlos Alberto opened the scoring but the man everyone forgets is Russian international Dmitri Alenichev who made the game safe late on.
Alenichev’s career never quite scaled the heights of some of his team mates but he earned 55 caps for Russia and had enjoyed four productive seasons at Porto. The winger moved back to his homeland in 2004 and finished his career with Spartak Moscow two years later.
After football, Alenichev was another man to enter the world of politics, acting as a representative for the United Russia party. However, he returned to coaching and is now with Russian league side FC Arsenal Tula.
8. Predrag Mijatović
Real Madrid possessed a star studded side when they beat Juventus by one goal to nil in the 1998 final but how many people outside of their own club would remember the name of the goal scorer? Predrag Mijatović had a modest record at the Bernabeu and his 66th minute winner was by far the most important goal of his 17 year career.
Mijatovic played for six professional clubs and won 73 caps for the former Yugoslavia before retiring in 2004 after two years with Levante. Two years later he became Real’s Director of Football but the appointment came too soon for such an inexperienced manager. He left the post in 2009 and hasn’t returned to coaching since.
9. Patrick Kluivert
Ajax won their first and so far only Champions League trophy in 1995 when a teenage prodigy – 18 year old Patrick Kluivert scored the only goal in the final against AC Milan. The Dutch giants won three European Cups in a row in the early 1970’s but they could no longer pay the big money to star players and it wasn’t long before Kluivert was on his travels.
Ironically, the centre forward joined Milan in 1997 but stayed for just one unhappy season as he scored just six times in 27 league games. Things improved greatly at Barcelona as Kluivert averaged a goal every other game but his career started to go into freefall after joining Newcastle in 2004.
Patrick Kluivert ended his playing career at 32 after one season with Lille and considering he was thought of as a problem player by some of his managers, it’s a little ironic to see him go into coaching, and join the national set up under Louis Van Gaal
10. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer
Norwegian international Solksjaer played a major part in the most remarkable comeback in Champions League history as his Manchester United side came from 1-0 down against Bayern in 1999 to win in the dying minutes.
The forward had been linked with a move away from the club but he was grateful he stayed on as he netted the winner in injury time. Solksjaer finished his playing career with United in 2007 at the age of 34 and almost immediately made the step into coaching as he took charge of the club’s reserves.
After three years, the Norwegian returned to his homeland to take charge of Molde in 2011. It was there that he won the Norwegian Premier League on two successive occasions and after several links to English Premiership sides, Cardiff City finally stepped in to secure Ole Gunnar’s managerial services at the beginning of 2014.
11. Fabrizio Ravanelli
The 1996 final was the first to go to a penalty shoot out and it was Juventus who held their nerve as they edged out reigning champions Ajax. The game finished at one goal apiece in normal time with the much travelled Ravanelli putting Juve ahead before the Italian club won 4-2 in the shoot out as the Dutch players completely lost their nerve.
Juve official Roberto Bettega hailed this as a ‘real’ triumph after the sorrow of Heysel 11 years earlier and Ravenelli was exalted as a hero in the middle of a long and interesting career. The striker played for no less than 11 clubs across Italy, England, Scotland and France and after he finally hung up his boots at the age of 36, he became another unlikely coach, taking charge of the Juventus youth team before accepting his current position at French outfit AC Ajaccio.