20. Barcelona reach a crescendo in the Clasico
Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid, Camp Nou
Spanish league, 29 November 2010
The moment Just seven months after Mourinho had claimed an apparently power-shifting aggregate win at the Camp Nou with Inter, he was returning there having revitalised Real Madrid. Going into the game, Los Blancos were unbeaten in 19 matches and held a one-point lead over Barca amid much talk of Pep Guardiola’s fear of the Portuguese and yet another change of power.
Instead, Barca gave a display of power. And pace. And possession. And premium quality. In a performance that was arguably the most perfect execution yet of their pressing, passing game, the Catalans eviscerated Real from first moment to last.
“This is the first time I have ever been beaten 5-0. It’s a historically bad result for us.” Mourinho makes it clear…
“We played very, very badly and they were fantastic. We gifted them two goals that were bordering on the ridiculous. It is our own fault” … then muddies the water
“This wasn’t a definitive result when it comes to who will win the league but we did define for the entire world how it is we like to play football.” Guardiola
What it meant arguably the most complete ever performance by a club team, particularly given the stakes of the game and the identity and nature of the opposition. In what was then already becoming one of the greatest team cycles in European club history, this was arguably its defining match.
Indeed, the nature of the victory played a big part in setting a path to enhancing that era. For a start, Real were on the back foot from then on in the title race, with Barca eventually sealing what was only the second three-in-a-row in their history. Secondly, ahead of the team’s “world series” over the following April and May, Mourinho realised it would be suicide to approach the games so openly again. So, instead, he returned to his reductive Inter style.
This time in the Champions league semi-final, however, Real had no response to Messi. With their overly aggressive tactics eventually going punished with a red card, the playmaker was left with sufficient space to seal the game and send Barca onto a second Champions League in three years.
Also, after two years of Real expenditure as well as Mourinho’s reactive football, this was a definitive victory for Barca’s entire philosophy.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Real Madrid 0-5 Barcelona, 1973-74; Liverpool 5-0 Nottingham Forest, 1987-88; Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid, 1993-94; Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona, 2008-09
19. Hungary reach the heights
Hungary 4-2 Uruguay, Stade Olympique de Lausanne
World Cup semi-final, 30 June 1954
The moment The defending world champions against the apparent champions elect. And with the occasion and excitement to match.
Many such contests often end up flattering to deceive and leaving spectators unsatisfied.
Not a bit of it in Lausanne. In fact, this landmark match effectively had three types of terrific games in one.
First, a Hungarian masterclass as they utterly unravelled Uruguay to make it 2-0 just after half-time.
Then, a stirring comeback marked by admirable morale. Before the 75th minute, Uruguay had seen a shot cleared off the line and severely tested goalkeeper Gyula Grosics on a series of occasions. Eventually, the superb Juan Schiaffino set up Juan Hohberg to pull one back. And, three minutes from time, the latter lit up the stadium with an equalizer.
Finally, though, Hungary produced a high-class exhibition of counter-attacking football. In the last nine minutes, Sandor Kocsis headed in twice to complete a heady game.
“Fantastic heart.” The injured and absent Puskas praises his teammates for adding tenacity to technique
“We beat the best team we ever met.” Hungarian coach Gyula Mandi
What it meant The final before the final. And Hungary’s real crowning moment.
Or at least it would have been, had the actual final taken a different course.
Of course, like with Italy-West Germany in 1970, it’s probable that the exertions of this game had a huge impact on the final – but with the opposite effect. In this case, it was the favourites who were sapped of energy while West Germany eased into the showpiece thanks to a 6-1 win over Austria. Nevertheless, the 1954 World Cup had witnessed one of the greatest displays, one of the greatest comebacks, and one of the greatest overall matches of all time.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Holland 2-0 Brazil, 1974
18. Milan’s masterclass against Madrid
Milan 5-0 Real Madrid, San Siro
European Cup semi-final second leg, 19 April 1989
The moment Six minutes into the 1989 semi-final second leg, play at the San Siro stopped and its PA played ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in remembrance of all of those who had died at Hillsborough just four days beforehand.
It was seemingly only Milan who started playing again, though. Because, by the end of the 90 minutes, they very proudly stood alone.
Right from the moment in the 19th minute when Carlo Ancelotti thundered a long-range strike into the roof of the net, Milan were emphatically the better team. Real were simply overwhelmed by their pressing game. With only an hour gone, it was 5-0 and could have been worse. And, as if to encapsulate Milan’s all-round superiority, all of their stars – Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Roberto Donadoni – scored. Real didn’t know what had hit them.
“We had proved in Europe what we had been showing in Italy, that we could dominate any team. That was our mission statement.” Mauro Tassotti
“It is hard to play like that. But when we do we are unbeatable.” Franco Baresi
“We simply destroyed the myth of Real Madrid… this gave us even more strength.” Tassotti
What it meant That Milan would go on to win the European Cup’s last two-in-a-row. And the victory proved particularly symbolic given that Arrigo Sacchi’s side so convincingly outclassed the first team to have achieved the feat as well as the competition’s standard-bearers. Certainly, the conquest gave Milan the confidence to go and make history with a high-class new philosophy.
17. The miracle of Istanbul
Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan, Ataturk Olympic Stadium
Champions League final, 25 May 2005
The moment Liverpool don’t just look 3-0 down. They look thoroughly outclassed and deflated. Seemingly encapsulating Milan’s absolute superiority, Kaka and Hernan Crespo combined for one of the most exquisite goals the Champions League final has ever seen – the striker meeting the playmaker’s glorious true ball with a sumptuous flick.
But, just after half-time, something seems to have changed.
Didi Hamann is now on the pitch and Kaka isn’t enjoying the same kind of space. In the stands, the Liverpool supporters seem to actually be enjoying the occasion and roaring their team on.
Then, everything changes. And in just six minutes.
First, on 54, Steven Gerrard lives up to his role as captain by heading home to strengthen Liverpool’s conviction and – most of all – give them hope and pride.
On 56, Vladimir Smicer powers in to give them a fighting chance.
And, cometh the hour, cometh the moment. Gerrard goes down in the box, Dida saves the contentious penalty but Xabi Alonso reacts quickest to give Liverpool parity.
An astonishing, emotional comeback was complete. Almost.
“You could see, that with the change of Hamann, Benitez had found the weakness in our side… Their coach has to be congratulated for blunting our attack.” Gennaro Gattuso
“They made changes too. Milan sat back and suddenly they weren’t as tight on us… Suddenly we were sensing and doing things that had been denied to us in the first half.” Alonso
“We certainly didn’t think a disaster was on its way when Gerrard scored. It was still 3-1 then, no? We thought ‘Any second now we can score again’.” Gattuso
“After the first goal we started to believe. It was the key.” Djimi Traore
“I didn’t celebrate the first two because we were still getting beat. When the third went in, though…” Jamie Carragher
“When the third goal arrived I was shocked, surprised mostly. I looked at the clock and it wasn’t 15 minutes left, but a whole half hour! We had to decide if we wanted to go for the fourth or be cautious. We went for the latter.”
“This is not happening. This is a dream.” What Gattuso said he was thinking as the third went in
“We had six minutes of madness in which we threw away the position we had reached until then.” Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti
What it meant The most amazing comeback in any final. Liverpool’s sheer character overcoming Milan’s complacency.
But, fittingly, the improbability of the comeback also brought to a peak one of the most open ever eras in European football.
Two seasons before the Istanbul final, after all, Milan themselves had won the Champions League despite not finishing in the top two of Serie A since 1999 and denying an apparently superior Juventus. A season before, FC Porto had upset the established order. And, two years later, Milan finally lifted the trophy again despite only finishing fourth in Serie A.
This, it seemed, was the new Champions League: where the best teams no longer necessarily won. And no-one emphasised that more than a Liverpool team who had lost 14 league games and finished as far down as fifth. But, then, Istanbul illustrated their incredible capacity to overcome the odds.
Moreover, the number five proved noteworthy in another way: it represented the amount of times Liverpool had won the trophy, making them the third most successful team in its history in their own right.
But, on that note, there are two reasons why such a remarkable comeback doesn’t rank higher.
First of all, it didn’t prove decisive in and of itself. As Hamann infers, Liverpool still needed a remarkable defensive display, a superb Jerzy Dudek save and a penalty shoot-out to lift the trophy.
Secondly, other than emphasising a uniquely open era, it didn’t have too much impact on history. Within three years, the European Cup essentially righted itself. Since 2008, it has only been won by teams who also won their domestic title in the same season.
Although Benitez created a competitive team, he never built a dynasty.
Even if the performance in Istanbul was worthy of one.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Deportivo la Coruna 4-1 Milan, 2003-04
16. ‘It’s up for grabs now’
Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal, Anfield
English league, 26 May 1989
The moment For every club other than Liverpool and Arsenal, the season had ended. Indeed, in all but the formality of fulfilling the fixture, it looked over for Arsenal too.
The match had been originally scheduled for Sunday 23 April but the understandable upheaval of the football world after the Hillsborough disaster saw it pushed back beyond the eventual FA Cup final to become the sole First Division fixture on Friday, 26 May.
In that time, Liverpool had cut away Arsenal’s previously commanding lead to overtake them. The defending champions now led by three points and a slightly superior goal difference. As it stood, Arsenal would have to win by two clear goals at Anfield: a tough task at a fortress where Liverpool had been unbeaten since 2 January.
Moreover, since that date, Liverpool had won 21 of their 24 games while scoring 60 and conceding 15, with Arsenal winning just 10 of 20.
George Graham’s previously supreme defence had become jittery, as illustrated by the fact he was opting for five at the back… in a game Arsenal had to win by two.
In short, as Jason Cowley wrote in his superb book The Last Game, “nobody expected Arsenal to win”.
And yet, seven minutes into the second half, Graham’s gameplan appears to have worked perfectly. Before the match he had told his players to keep it tight early on in order to quieten the crowd, and then open up in the second half to get the goal that would alter the dynamics of the game. They did just that with Alan Smith diverting Nigel Winterburn’s free-kick.
But there was still the next part of the task to complete. And, although Arsenal’s assurance was only matched by Liverpool’s anxiety, it looked like it would go unfulfilled as the game entered its final minutes.
Steve McMahon finally warns his players there’s “just one minute to go”.
Then, John Barnes receives the ball.
But, rather than take it into the corner to run out that minute, he runs it into the box. John Lukic recovers the ball. And Arsenal recuperate for one last push.
Not wanting the ball and with almost all options marked, Lee Dixon must punt it up for Alan Smith. But, crucially, he gets the flick on.
With just seconds left, the ball falls for rookie Michael Thomas.
He grabs the chance.
“Even today people come up to me and mention that one-minute-to-go moment. I try to laugh it off, but it still hurts. The whole evening had such a weird atmosphere – because of Hillsborough, because we’d already played the Cup final, because we didn’t have to win the game to be champions.” McMahon
“In many respects I blame myself, because I should have taken the ball into the corner.” Barnes
“It’s up for grabs now!” Brian Moore captures the moment
“It took so, so long… I just couldn’t believe how long it took. Every time I see it I always think it’s not going to go in.” Thomas
What it meant Above all, the most dramatic ending to any domestic season. Few have ever come down to an actual showdown among the top two sides and less still to the very final moments in a highly improbable win.
Aside from that, on a basic competitive level, it meant Liverpool were denied a second double in three years and that Arsenal won their first title in 18.
But, on a wider, social level, it meant so much more for the sport itself. As Crowley wrote, Hillsborough was the last act in a decade of misfortune for the English game that also saw hooliganism, Heysel and the Bradford fire. As diminishing crowds proved, the British public had fallen out of love with the game.
The unprecedented nature of this match, however – both in terms of the circumstances and the fact that, rarely for the time, it was live on TV – completely altered perceptions. Moreover, that very day it had been announced that Rupert Murdoch had launched BSkyB.
The climax to the 1988-89 season helped recreate a fertile market for it.
15. United win it in a minute
Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich, Camp Nou
Champions League final, 26 May 1999
The moment After 31 years, a thrilling season, and a fractious final 90 minutes, it seemed that United would go unfulfilled. The treble wouldn’t be secured. The wait for a second European Cup would go on. Alex Ferguson still wouldn’t claim his Holy Grail.
And, on the night, it would have been difficult to argue they deserved it. Although Bayern Munich were by no means dominant, they had been comfortable after Mario Basler’s early free-kick and even hit the frame of the goal twice.
With an unfamiliar midfield devoid of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, United were also seemingly devoid of drive, dynamism and any chances of note.
Until, eventually, Ferguson made an important switch in the 67th minute. By bringing on Teddy Sheringham for Jesper Blomqvist, he allowed Ryan Giggs to return to his usual role on the left, David Beckham to the right and Dwight Yorke to drop into a more advanced version of Scholes’ playmaking role.
Suddenly, United had shape. And purpose. But still, despite a flurry of late chances, no equaliser.
Then, 30 seconds into added time, they won a corner. Two minutes later, they were European champions.
“Name on the trophy!” Clive Tyldsley loses it on ITV
“The rest of the players rushed over to smother Ole, who was sliding on his knees towards the fans, but I didn’t go. I literally couldn’t run that far. I was lying there thinking: ‘Oh my God, we’ve done it!’ There was just complete and utter disbelief that we’d won the game – and the way we’d pulled it off.” Gary Neville
“Football! Bloody hell!” Ferguson famously sums up the night
“It was not the best team that won but the luckiest.” A bitter Lothar Matthaus
“I don’t have the words to describe such a sickening moment. It is too brutal.” A stunned Stefan Effenberg
“I feel so sorry for my team… It’s really difficult to digest and this is inconceivable for us but then this is what football is all about… but I must say that Manchester are great champions. I think they deserved to win the Champions League.” A reflective Ottmar Hitzfeld
“This was surely a unique feat, not just in terms of trophies but in the twists and turns, the sporting drama that created almost unbearable tension right up to the very last few kicks.” Neville
What it meant if not quite the most dramatic final ever, it was the most dramatic finish. A European Cup has never actually been settled so sensationally. And, of course, that completed an unprecedented English treble, with that only the fourth of six in European history.
Moreover, the manner in which United won both reflected and perfectly rounded off a scarcely believable season. The final, after all, was the 13th time in 59 games they had scored a late winner and the 15th they had come from behind – both of those were records.
Of course, in finally lifting the trophy, Ferguson righted the one wrong in his own record and finally confirmed himself as one of history’s great managers by winning one of its greatest prizes.
Loathar Matthaus, meanwhile, would end his career without winning the European Cup. But many of his Bayern teammates would draw on the agony of that night to finally win the competition two years later while beating United along the way.
Because that was probably the most long-term lesson from the night. The chaotic nature of the conquest illustrated that United had the character but not necessarily the canniness to consistently win the competition like the great teams of old. It would take Ferguson another decade to create the kind of sophisticated side that regularly reached the latter stages.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Boca Juniors 1-2 River Plate, 1977; Steve Bruce v Sheffield Wednesday 1992-93; Yorke and Solskjaer v Liverpool, 1998-99; Federico Macheda v Aston Villa, 2008-09
14. Celtic crush Catenaccio
Celtic 2-1 Internazionale, Estadio Nacional
European Cup final, 25 May 1967
The moment Inter Milan are ahead in terms of the scoreline. But well behind in terms of territory. The Italians may be 1-0 up after Sandro Mazzola’s early penalty but they’ve simply been unable to get away from their 18-yard box. Fortunately for them, however, a relentless Celtic have so far been unable to score either.
With 60 minutes gone, and not for the last time in football history, this would prove a decisive moment in the eternal duel between the elemental philosophies of defence and attack.
Could Helenio Herrera’s infamous Catenaccio hold out? Or would Jock Stein’s flying 4-2-4 free the game.
Eventually, the object proved movable. And thanks to shot of almost unstoppable force.
On 62 minutes, Tommy Gemmell lashed the ball into the roof of the net.
And, just five minutes, an onslaught produced the inevitable: Stevie Chalmers diverted the ball into the net to make it 2-1 to Celtic.
“I remember, at one point, Picchi turned to the goalkeeper and said ‘Giuliano, let it go, just let it go. It’s pointless. Sooner or later they’ll get the winner.’ I never thought I would hear those words. I never imagined my captain would tell our keeper to throw in the towel. But that only shows how destroyed we were at that point. It’s as if we did not want to prolong the agony.” Defender Tarcisio Burgnich
“I often think that possibly the best thing that ever happened to us was to lose an early goal… that meant we had no option but to push forward.” Billy McNeill
“They probably wanted to sit back but we also penned them back.” Bobby Lennox
“John, you’re immortal now.” Bill Shankly to Stein
What it meant Most immediately, that a club would defy the competition’s history by drawing a winning team from their immediate vicinity. As has become famous, Celtic won the final with a first XI comprised entirely of players from within 50km of Glasgow. Jock Stein’s team were also the first British team to win the trophy, not to mention the first from outside Latin Europe.
But the victory also marked a shift that went a lot deeper than geography. It marked the beginning of the long, slow death of Catenaccio. Within days, the previously unflappable Inter defence would also throw away the Serie A title. Within a year, Herrera had gone. And within five years, Ajax would render the entire philosophy obsolete.
It was Celtic’s sophisticated new attack, however, that had inflicted the mortal wounds. More importantly, they had also illustrated how to do so.
13. The Hand of God
Argentina 2-1 England, Azteca Stadium
World Cup quarter-final, 22 June 1986
The moment It’s five minutes into second half of the ‘Falklands Round Two’ – as some newspapers have rather insensitively and inadvisably put it – but the game is tense rather than tenacious.
England had largely contained Diego Maradona without curtailing him, while Argentina hadn’t quite backed up their captain in the manner that manager Carlos Bilardo had planned.
Except, on 51 minutes, Maradona proved he didn’t really need anyone else. He did, however, need an element of deception. Or, rather, a significant degree of it.
First, though, the exact majesty of Maradona’s initial run is often forgotten. The playmaker beat two England players and weaved his way to the edge of the box before playing an attempted one-two with Jorge Valdano.
Then, however, came the magic trick. Valdano never got to play the return pass. Rather, Steve Hodge hooked the ball into the air for Peter Shilton to seemingly catch with ease.
Except, Shilton never got to collect either. Somehow, the much smaller Maradona had got to the ball first. With his fist.
“Some of the players admitted to me later that they had missed it and didn’t really know what had happened until they had seen the action replay on television. But I actually saw Maradona’s hand go up and punch the ball. I must admit he tried to disguise it very well.” Glenn Hoddle
“I gestured to him – as I couldn’t speak Spanish and he knew no English – to declare if he had used his head or his hand, he pointed to his head.” Terry Butcher
“A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” Maradona immediately after the game
“I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came… I told them, ‘Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it.’” Maradona years later
“I would pay a few thousand pounds to be in that room after the match again and with him there sat across from us. Let’s put it like that.” Butcher
What it meant in the context of the match, that Argentina would claim a lead that they would never lose. Indeed, it’s often argued that the question marks over the first goal proved enough of a distraction among the English defence to create the space for Maradona to score the magnificent second.
Either way, the goal was as hugely symbolic as it was significant.
It illustrated both Argentina’s continued sense of injustice at the Falklands as well as the idiosyncratic brilliance of Maradona.
As Jimmy Burns has written in his landmark biography of the player, “that the goal, far from being condemned, was actually applauded by his fellow countrymen, was a reminder of how Argentines have traditionally always put their own interpretation on the notion of gamesmanship. The goal, particularly given that it was scored against the English, was viewed as a display of viveza, that quality of craftiness so admired in Argentina.”
Authority had been undermined. A peculiar form of justice had apparently been done. Because, aside from the context of the Falklands there was also the context of football history itself. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Maradona had been elbowed in the first minute of the game and brutally marked out of the last World Cup.
As a result, the goal has been used as a touchstone in the lasting debates about whether acts like diving are actually a Machiavellian form of professionalism or just outright cheating.
Because, as Burns also wrote, “it became an expression of a flawed genius. Neither in the immediate aftermath of the game nor in the years that followed did Maradona admit to his folly. He called that goal the Hand of God. By that he meant not that he didn’t use his hand but that he did and got away with it, with God’s blessing.”
The inspiration may not have been divine. But it was definitive.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Thierry Henry v Ireland, 2009
12. Milan master Barcelona
AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona, Olympic Stadium Athens
Champions League final, 18 May 1994
The moment Despite largely dominating the last six years of European club football, Milan were far from favourites as they took to the pitch in Athens.
And with some degree of justification.
Milan, after all, had got to the final thanks to the finest defensive record the competition had seen. But they entered it with two of their key defenders – Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta – suspended. At the other end, a team that had only scored 36 goals in 34 league games (and still won the title thanks to that defence) were without the injured Marco van Basten and Gianluigi Lentini while Brian Laudrup and Jean-Pierre Papin fell foul of the foreigner rule. So the Italians were struggling at both ends.
By contrast, Johan Cruyff’s irresistible Barcelona team had scored 91 goals in 38 league games with Hristo Stoichkov and Romario at their absolute pomp. The Catalans also pumped themselves with some bold talk before the final.
In short, Barca were purring.
But, on the night, it was Milan who would roar.
In a supreme example of tactical innovation, Fabio Capello adapted his team – and his philosophy – to secure victory. Emphatically.
By sticking Demetrio Albertini and Marcel Desailly in the centre with Dejan Savicevic ahead, the manager interrupted Barca’s passing while also finally freeing the Montenegrin to wreak havoc. Savicevic was often an individualist simply out of step with Capello’s regimented approach. But not on this night.
On 22 minutes, he created the opener by gliding past Miguel Nadal to cross for Daniele Massaro. It began a rout of kaleidoscopic quality. The second was a superb team goal. The third a thrilling Savicevic lob. And the fourth a coruscating coup de grace from Desailly.
“I’m waiting for Desailly – I excel myself against blacks.” Hristo Stoichkov provides the most extreme – and ugly – example of Barcelona’s pre-game arrogance
“It took a lot of courage on his [Capello’s] behalf… It went against the style that got us to the final.” Boban
“They were simply perfect.” Andoni Zubizarreta humbly praises Milan
“My most perfect managerial night.” Fabio Capello
“The press, especially the foreign media, had given us no hope. Barcelona were certainly a good side but we knew they had weaknesses and how to exploit them and we went for it, ruthlessly. We played an almost perfect game. We completely stifled difficult opponents and have them almost nothing.” Paolo Maldini
What it meant Arguably the greatest ever performance in a European final and certainly the most emphatic since 1960.
That it was completely out of synch with the rest of Milan’s season only seemed to add to an adaptive team’s majesty. Although they had lost their most lasting strengths, they found another. And it’s worth remembering that Milan still kept a clean sheet.
In that sense, it was the conquest on which Capello built his managerial career.
It was also, however, the defeat that effectively ended Cruyff’s. He never won another trophy as a manager and never took even another job after leaving Barcelona in 1996 following the swift, contentious implosion of the Dream Team.
Because, for all the fantasy that Milan provided, it was the day that the dream died for Barca.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United, 2009
11. Zidane’s volley
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Real Madrid, Hampden Park
Champions League final, 15 May 2002
The moment So far, Real Madrid’s centenary year hadn’t exactly gone to plan. Despite arrogantly aiming for a treble initially, they had finished a distant third in the league as well as losing the final of the Copa del Rey to Deportivo. And now, as the clock ticked towards half-time, it looked like the Champions League final was in danger of going the same way.
Although Raul had opened the scoring early on, Real were encountering a lot of difficulty against a brave Bayer Leverkusen team who had equalised within five minutes. Indeed, Klaus Toppmoller’s team were ensuring that Zidane was rarely given an inch.
Except, that was, in the 45th minute.
To be fair, a rushed Robert Carlos lob into the box had looked awkward and inconsequential… to everyone except a player of Zidane’s quality. The playmaker shaped his body to superbly smash a first-time volley into the Bayern goal.
“The best goal I’ve seen to win a final, unbelievable… it’s all anyone talks about when it comes to that final.” Steve McManaman
What it meant most basically, that Real had won a record ninth European Cup and also finally celebrated their centenary year with the trophy they cherished the most. Fittingly, the victory also took place in the stadium where the club had produced their most famous performance: Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano’s masterclass in 1960.
Because, ultimately, it was on such transcendent levels that the match would leave its most lasting legacy. By producing such a decisive moment of the highest possible quality on the highest possibly stage, Zidane illustrated that he truly belonged among the game’s genuinely elite players.
For the moment, the Galactico project had paid off.