Real Madrid

Real Madrid

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Simon Buckland, freelance sports journalist

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Journalists' post

Some football memories cannot be beaten. As we gathered at Hampden in May 2002 the only certainty about the Champions League final was that it wouldn’t be as good as what happened in 1960. No match anywhere had been since.

Same venue, same competition, albeit with its proper name, the European Cup final at Hampden 42 years before had finished Real Madrid 7 Eintracht Frankfurt 3. Ten goals. An estimated crowd of some 130,000 people. You don’t better that. You can’t.
All each generation can do, though, is compile its own moments to remember.
And so it was that the 2002 Champions League was nothing like its predecessor for drama. We had Real Madrid, again, likewise German opposition in Bayer Leverkusen, but the similarities probably ended there, bar the outcome.
It finished 2-1 to the Spanish, just the three goals then and all scored in the first-half, while the crowd tallied a modest by comparison 52,000 or so. Raul put Madrid ahead, Lucio levelled for Leverkusen. Second-half not much of note at all as Madrid held on to the goal I deliberately haven’t mentioned yet.
Seconds before the interval and Santiago Solari plays Roberto Carlos in down the left flank. The ball is bouncing so his cross is looping and aimed back away from goal towards the edge of the penalty area. He might not even have seen Zinedine Zidane was there.
As the ball curved towards him, Zidane had to twist his body to get into position. There was no thought of controlling it, just hitting it. A full swing of his left foot and a connection was made with the ball at an improbable height.
The power generated should not have been possible. The ball had been behind Zidane and not reached him as low as he would surely have wished for the perfect strike. But that is what resulted, regardless: perfection. Leverkusen goalkeeper Hans-Joerg Butt first saw it properly on the giant replay screens.
Being there in a stadium for a goal like that, you alone have the angle available from your seat. Another 50,000-plus people watched it live, but only you saw it go in like you did. The seats either side of you, almost identical vantage points, but not precisely the same. Your view. Your goal.
Well, okay, Zidane’s goal, credit where it‘s due. Arguably the best ever winning goal in a European final. Zidane was quoted after the game as calling it a ‘very nice’ goal. A very nice understatement.
The next generation could well have another Hampden Champions League final. It won’t have as many goals as 1960, and it won’t have as good a goal as the one scored in 2002, but it will have something to call its own.
Zidane went on to spoil some of the memories of him with an infamous World Cup final headbutt that saw him sent off in his final match for France against Italy four years later. Not my memory, though. I was keeping mine. It couldn't be beaten.

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