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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
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.

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment