Armani pitch invaders and diving into Thames

The previous European Cup finals played at Wembley have been won by great sides. Now the Venue of Legends prepares for its sixth showpiece

Nothing justifies Wembley's description of itself as "The Venue of Legends" more than its staging of European Cup finals. Every team that lifted the trophy after the climb up the 39 steps was authentically great; from the Milan of Cesare Maldini and Giovanni Trapattoni to the Barcelona "Dream Team" fashioned by Johan Cruyff. That may be an omen for next Saturday's final, which sees perhaps the best football team in the world seek to overcome the club with an unquenchable will to win.

1963: Milan 2 Benfica 1

"All those steps," said Cesare Maldini, recalling his journey to receive the great trophy. When he lifted it aloft, it was the first time the European Cup had left the Iberian peninsula and, crucially, Milan had got there before Internazionale.

Wembley did not exactly embrace its first final. The Empire Stadium was less than half full and when a Milan supporter – wearing a suit, naturally – ran on to the pitch to celebrate the winner with Jose Altafini, the referee allowed him a hug and politely asked him to go back to the stands.

It was the match that began Milan's tradition of wearing all white in European Cup finals, although those who saw them barge past Dundee in the semi-final would hardly have called their conduct angelic.

Benfica were aiming for a third successive European Cup and took the lead through Eusebio's surging run before Altafini scored twice. They would lose two more finals before the decade was done.

1968: Manchester United 4 Benfica 1

Journey's end for Matt Busby. His team called him The Old Man and in the picture in which he embraces a sweat-stained Bobby Charlton while dissolving into tears, he looks ancient, despite the fact he was more than 10 years younger than Sir Alex Ferguson is now. United were convinced they would beat Benfica, whom they had crushed in the quarter-finals two years before. Because of an injury to right-back Adolfo, Benfica effectively had 10 men for most of the match. However, United began a tradition of cutting things very fine in European Cup finals; had Alex Stepney not saved wonderfully from Eusebio in the final minutes, there would have been no happy ending.

Eusebio applauded Stepney's save, then saw his team ripped apart in extra time. A decade after Munich, George Best, Brian Kidd and Bobby Charlton drove Manchester United into immortality.

1971: Ajax 2 Panathinaikos 0

A match that pitched Johan Cruyff against Ferenc Puskas, though sadly for fans of fantasy football the great Hungarian was in the dug-out, rather than on the turf. His triumph was in steering the Greek champions to Wembley. They had forced their way past Everton on away goals and come back from 4-1 down to beat Red Star Belgrade in the semis. But facing a young and hungry Ajax side who were on the very threshold of greatness was a match too far.

Two years before, Ajax had been too young and naïve when losing to Milan in the final; now it was Puskas's charges who were infected by nerves. "Going on the pitch, dealing with the press and the build-up were things we were used to," said Cruyff. "It was their first experience of it and it showed." Dick van Dijk – the footballer rather than the man with the worst Cockney accent in history – opened the scoring, and Ajax cruised.

1978: Liverpool 1 Bruges 0

The little chip that Kenny Dalglish directed over the Bruges keeper seems instinctive now but earlier in the match Dalglish had noted Birger Jensen committed himself a little early. He delayed his shot just fractionally.

That rather summed up the gulf in class. Bruges managed to overcome Juventus in the semi-final but were without their two best players, Paul Courant and Raoul Lambert, and seemed completely overawed by what was virtually a Liverpool home game. Bruges had one chance to score as Phil Thompson, who played because Tommy Smith had dropped a hammer on his foot, cleared off the line but they expected to lose and did.

On the morning of the match the only man who thought Liverpool might not win was Dalglish. Having retained the trophy, Graeme Souness ensured every one of his team-mates drowned in alcohol.

1992: Barcelona 1 Sampdoria 0

As clubs such as Nottingham Forest and PSV Eindhoven celebrated winning the European Cup, Barcelona endured a long, bitter wait. Six years after Terry Venables' side lost a dreary final in a penalty shoot-out to Steaua Bucharest, Barcelona, reformed under Cruyff, were determined this chance would not pass them by.

They faced a Sampdoria side that, with Roberto Mancini, Gianluca Vialli and Attilio Lombardo, were not short of talent, but Barça dominated. Hristo Stoichkov hit the post and they were seven minutes away from another shoot-out when Ronald Koeman drove home an unsaveable free-kick.

In the dug-out, Cruyff quietly prayed that Barcelona would not "lose their minds" in the final six minutes. They did not and the club vice-president, Joan Gaspart, celebrated by swimming in the Thames. On their return to Barcelona, one of Cruyff's young discoveries held up the trophy and shouted: "Citizens of Catalonia, here it is." His name: Pep Guardiola.

News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there