Real Madrid will bid to win the Champions League for a third time in a row when they lock horns with Liverpool in Kiev on Saturday. Not only are they the dominant team of the modern era, they are also the most successful club in the competition’s history. They have reached the final of the European Cup / Champions League on 15 occasions and secured an impressive 12 victories. The second most successful team is AC Milan, with seven titles, so Real Madrid are way out in front. Here are their five greatest finals.
Real Madrid 7-3 Eintracht Frankfurt, 1960
The European Cup was inaugurated in 1955, when French magazine L’Equipe chose what it thought to be the 16 most prestigious clubs in Europe to battle it out for glory. Real Madrid won the first trophy, beating Stade de Reims 4-3, and they monopolised it for five years until 1960. That triumph was a thrilling 7-3 victory against German side Frankfurt, with legendary strike partnership Ferenc Puskas and Aldfedo Di Stefano on fire. Di Stefano hit a hat-trick and Puskas grabbed four goals as Real Madrid routed their opponents in an open and exciting final. They reached the final again in 1962 and 1964, but lost to Benfica and Internazionale respectively, before beating Partizan Belgrade in 1966. They met Liverpool in the final in 1981 and lost 1-0, but they have won every single final since then. Yet Liverpool, who are the clear underdogs when looking at the Champions League spread betting markets for Saturday’s final, will hope to channel the spirit of that 1981 side and end the run.
Real Madrid 4-1 Juventus, 2017
Juventus’ defence was absolutely sensational in the knockout stages of last season’s Champions League, conceding just once in six matches. That included two clean sheets against a Barcelona side featuring Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, and Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci were tipped to keep Real Madrid’s forwards quiet in the final. Real made an absolute mockery of such claims as Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a brace, and Casemiro and Marco Asensio also got on the score sheet, leading the team to an emphatic victory. Real Madrid became the first team to ever successfully defend the trophy after it changed from the European Cup to the Champions League in 1992.
Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia, 2000
In 2000 we witnessed the first ever all-Spanish final of the competition, and it was a fascinating contest. Valencia boasted a strong side featuring the likes of Santiago Canizares, Gaizka Mendieta, Kily Gonzalez and Claudio Lopez and they had just thrashed Barcelona to reach the final. This was before the Galactico trend went into overdrive, but Real Madrid still had a wonderful team blessed with talented players. The legendary Raul was shunted out to the left to accommodate Nicolas Anelka, and with Fernando Morientes playing just behind him. Fernando Redondo wore the captain’s armband, Roberto Carlos was a marauding presence down the left and Iker Casillas was between the sticks. But it was a less heralded star that stole the show as Englishman Steve McManaman walked off with the man of the match award. Morientes opened the scoring before a blistering volley from McManaman put the game to bed, and Raul banged in the third on 75 minutes to complete the rout.
Real Madrid 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen, 2002
Two years later, Real Madrid were at it again and by now they could call upon the world class talents of Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo. Raul and Morientes were an established strike partnership, and defensive stalwarts like Fernando Hierro, Michel Salgado and Ivan Helguera lined up alongside Roberto Carlos, and you cannot underestimate the importance of Claude Makelele, the holding midfielder whose positional discipline allowed Zidane and Figo the freedom to wreak havoc. They were up against a phenomenal Bayer Leverkusen side, led by the irrepressible Michael Ballack, and it proved to be a tense final. Lucio cancelled out Raul’s early strike, but ultimately Zidane’s brilliance decided it. The great man hit a stunning volley following Roberto Carlos’ high, looping cross to the edge of the penalty area, and the Galactico project reached its zenith.
Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (AET), 2014
Real Madrid would have to wait another 12 years to win their next Champions League final, and Carlo Ancelotti was the man to deliver “la decima”. It was made all the more special because it came against city rivals Atletico Madrid, who played a brutal style of football based on hard tackling, pressing and scrapping. Diego Godin put Atletico 1-0 up with a looping header past Casillas in the first half, and the artists of Real Madrid could not find an equaliser. Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira toiled and huffed and puffed, but Atletico held strong. Then in the 93rd minute Real captain Sergio Ramos rose high and headed in a dramatic equaliser. Atletico were exhausted by this point and Real overwhelmed them in extra-time. Bale put them 2-1 up and late strikes from Marcelo and Ronaldo put the icing on the cake. They beat Atletico again two years later, courtesy of a penalty shoot-out, but the 2014 triumph is surely the club’s greatest of all time.