Classic Final Goals

Savour the moment

The 1994 final ended up being a cakewalk – but AC Milan artist Dejan Savićević put the cherry on top

WORDS Dan Poole | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

The stadium was Olympic, the city Athens. Yet while it may be tempting to indulge in mythological metaphor, it would be ill advised – the hero of our tale has no interest in such nonsense. We speak, after all, of a man who made a habit of getting to the point with everyone from managers to fans. He even stares out of Panini stickers with a look that seems to say, “I pity you and your pathetic endeavours.”

Dejan Savićević was born in Yugoslavia’s Titograd (now Montenegrin capital Podgorica) in 1966. His school of hard knocks was futsal on concrete, a boy playing against men. His professional debut came for Budućnost in 1983, before a move to Crvena zvezda in 1988. He won three consecutive league titles, not to mention a European Cup triumph against Marseille in 1991.

AC Milan next, in 1992, but coach Fabio Capello had little time for him during the first half of the season; by the end he’d only made 17 appearances. A case of pragmatist v aesthete? “He was the star and the others had to run for him,” Capello would say later.

Milan started 1993/94 as Serie A champions and Champions League runners-up – Savićević didn’t even make the bench for the 1993 final. Relations between player and coach weren’t exactly improving. But a Dutch exodus helped: Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard left for Sampdoria and Ajax, while injured Marco van Basten was ruled out for the season. Gradually Savićević started to get more games and an opportunity to display his unfathomable ability to evade a tackle. It wasn’t too long before he was dubbed Il Genio – a genius nickname that stuck.

Milan reached a second consecutive Champions League final, this time against Barcelona in the Greek capital. Capello’s side arrived fresh from another Serie A title, secured by scoring just 36 goals in 34 games; Barcelona were Liga champions with 91 from 38. The Rossoneri’s strength was their ironclad defence, but first-choice centre-backs Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi were both ruled out through suspension. Foregone conclusion, you would think.

Half-time arrived and it was 2-0 – to Milan. Surely Barcelona would mount a comeback in the second half? That’s a “no” from Il Genio.

There’s something about the arc of the ball: time speeds up and slows down at the same time, which is impossible but…
By
Dan Poole

It’s the 47th minute. A wayward pass to Savićević on the right wing. Miguel Ángel Nadal’s got it covered. But the Barça defender lets the ball bounce – twice. The first one we’ll forgive: he can’t get there in time. But he arrives too soon for the second and, by the time the ball sits up, he’s got no room to swing his leg.

Savićević is bearing down (gentle jog). As Nadal makes a forlorn attempt to put boot through ball, it’s nicked off him; the ball balloons into the air again. Savićević is in space on the right-hand side of the penalty area. No team-mates in the box. Ball still airborne. Control it and head for the byline? Trap it and wait for reinforcements? Il Genio has a better idea.

Goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta is playing his 410th game for Barcelona. Experienced. He advances but a couple of yards off his line in the direction of Savićević. Makes sense. He doesn’t suspect that he’s about to concede the penultimate goal of his Barcelona career. He’ll be playing for Valencia next season – will the next three seconds haunt him at Mestalla?

Savićević, unlike Nadal, lets the ball bounce once. Then he lofts it with his left foot, like a golfer hitting a flop shot from the edge of the green. There’s something about the arc of the ball: time speeds up and slows down at the same time, which is impossible but…

Zubizarreta shuffles backwards, flings himself in the air. This isn’t fair. Is the ball really dipping through that tiny gap between bar and fingertip? .

The game finished 4-0. Savićević’s effort won’t go down as the most important goal ever scored in a Champions League final. There was no drama in its timing, nor significance in its context. But, by Zeus, it was glorious.

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Classic Final Goals

Savour the moment

The 1994 final ended up being a cakewalk – but AC Milan artist Dejan Savićević put the cherry on top

WORDS Dan Poole | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

The stadium was Olympic, the city Athens. Yet while it may be tempting to indulge in mythological metaphor, it would be ill advised – the hero of our tale has no interest in such nonsense. We speak, after all, of a man who made a habit of getting to the point with everyone from managers to fans. He even stares out of Panini stickers with a look that seems to say, “I pity you and your pathetic endeavours.”

Dejan Savićević was born in Yugoslavia’s Titograd (now Montenegrin capital Podgorica) in 1966. His school of hard knocks was futsal on concrete, a boy playing against men. His professional debut came for Budućnost in 1983, before a move to Crvena zvezda in 1988. He won three consecutive league titles, not to mention a European Cup triumph against Marseille in 1991.

AC Milan next, in 1992, but coach Fabio Capello had little time for him during the first half of the season; by the end he’d only made 17 appearances. A case of pragmatist v aesthete? “He was the star and the others had to run for him,” Capello would say later.

Milan started 1993/94 as Serie A champions and Champions League runners-up – Savićević didn’t even make the bench for the 1993 final. Relations between player and coach weren’t exactly improving. But a Dutch exodus helped: Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard left for Sampdoria and Ajax, while injured Marco van Basten was ruled out for the season. Gradually Savićević started to get more games and an opportunity to display his unfathomable ability to evade a tackle. It wasn’t too long before he was dubbed Il Genio – a genius nickname that stuck.

Milan reached a second consecutive Champions League final, this time against Barcelona in the Greek capital. Capello’s side arrived fresh from another Serie A title, secured by scoring just 36 goals in 34 games; Barcelona were Liga champions with 91 from 38. The Rossoneri’s strength was their ironclad defence, but first-choice centre-backs Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi were both ruled out through suspension. Foregone conclusion, you would think.

Half-time arrived and it was 2-0 – to Milan. Surely Barcelona would mount a comeback in the second half? That’s a “no” from Il Genio.

Read the full story
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There’s something about the arc of the ball: time speeds up and slows down at the same time, which is impossible but…
By
Dan Poole

It’s the 47th minute. A wayward pass to Savićević on the right wing. Miguel Ángel Nadal’s got it covered. But the Barça defender lets the ball bounce – twice. The first one we’ll forgive: he can’t get there in time. But he arrives too soon for the second and, by the time the ball sits up, he’s got no room to swing his leg.

Savićević is bearing down (gentle jog). As Nadal makes a forlorn attempt to put boot through ball, it’s nicked off him; the ball balloons into the air again. Savićević is in space on the right-hand side of the penalty area. No team-mates in the box. Ball still airborne. Control it and head for the byline? Trap it and wait for reinforcements? Il Genio has a better idea.

Goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta is playing his 410th game for Barcelona. Experienced. He advances but a couple of yards off his line in the direction of Savićević. Makes sense. He doesn’t suspect that he’s about to concede the penultimate goal of his Barcelona career. He’ll be playing for Valencia next season – will the next three seconds haunt him at Mestalla?

Savićević, unlike Nadal, lets the ball bounce once. Then he lofts it with his left foot, like a golfer hitting a flop shot from the edge of the green. There’s something about the arc of the ball: time speeds up and slows down at the same time, which is impossible but…

Zubizarreta shuffles backwards, flings himself in the air. This isn’t fair. Is the ball really dipping through that tiny gap between bar and fingertip? .

The game finished 4-0. Savićević’s effort won’t go down as the most important goal ever scored in a Champions League final. There was no drama in its timing, nor significance in its context. But, by Zeus, it was glorious.

Classic Final Goals

Savour the moment

The 1994 final ended up being a cakewalk – but AC Milan artist Dejan Savićević put the cherry on top

WORDS Dan Poole | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

The stadium was Olympic, the city Athens. Yet while it may be tempting to indulge in mythological metaphor, it would be ill advised – the hero of our tale has no interest in such nonsense. We speak, after all, of a man who made a habit of getting to the point with everyone from managers to fans. He even stares out of Panini stickers with a look that seems to say, “I pity you and your pathetic endeavours.”

Dejan Savićević was born in Yugoslavia’s Titograd (now Montenegrin capital Podgorica) in 1966. His school of hard knocks was futsal on concrete, a boy playing against men. His professional debut came for Budućnost in 1983, before a move to Crvena zvezda in 1988. He won three consecutive league titles, not to mention a European Cup triumph against Marseille in 1991.

AC Milan next, in 1992, but coach Fabio Capello had little time for him during the first half of the season; by the end he’d only made 17 appearances. A case of pragmatist v aesthete? “He was the star and the others had to run for him,” Capello would say later.

Milan started 1993/94 as Serie A champions and Champions League runners-up – Savićević didn’t even make the bench for the 1993 final. Relations between player and coach weren’t exactly improving. But a Dutch exodus helped: Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard left for Sampdoria and Ajax, while injured Marco van Basten was ruled out for the season. Gradually Savićević started to get more games and an opportunity to display his unfathomable ability to evade a tackle. It wasn’t too long before he was dubbed Il Genio – a genius nickname that stuck.

Milan reached a second consecutive Champions League final, this time against Barcelona in the Greek capital. Capello’s side arrived fresh from another Serie A title, secured by scoring just 36 goals in 34 games; Barcelona were Liga champions with 91 from 38. The Rossoneri’s strength was their ironclad defence, but first-choice centre-backs Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi were both ruled out through suspension. Foregone conclusion, you would think.

Half-time arrived and it was 2-0 – to Milan. Surely Barcelona would mount a comeback in the second half? That’s a “no” from Il Genio.

There’s something about the arc of the ball: time speeds up and slows down at the same time, which is impossible but…
By
Dan Poole

It’s the 47th minute. A wayward pass to Savićević on the right wing. Miguel Ángel Nadal’s got it covered. But the Barça defender lets the ball bounce – twice. The first one we’ll forgive: he can’t get there in time. But he arrives too soon for the second and, by the time the ball sits up, he’s got no room to swing his leg.

Savićević is bearing down (gentle jog). As Nadal makes a forlorn attempt to put boot through ball, it’s nicked off him; the ball balloons into the air again. Savićević is in space on the right-hand side of the penalty area. No team-mates in the box. Ball still airborne. Control it and head for the byline? Trap it and wait for reinforcements? Il Genio has a better idea.

Goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta is playing his 410th game for Barcelona. Experienced. He advances but a couple of yards off his line in the direction of Savićević. Makes sense. He doesn’t suspect that he’s about to concede the penultimate goal of his Barcelona career. He’ll be playing for Valencia next season – will the next three seconds haunt him at Mestalla?

Savićević, unlike Nadal, lets the ball bounce once. Then he lofts it with his left foot, like a golfer hitting a flop shot from the edge of the green. There’s something about the arc of the ball: time speeds up and slows down at the same time, which is impossible but…

Zubizarreta shuffles backwards, flings himself in the air. This isn’t fair. Is the ball really dipping through that tiny gap between bar and fingertip? .

The game finished 4-0. Savićević’s effort won’t go down as the most important goal ever scored in a Champions League final. There was no drama in its timing, nor significance in its context. But, by Zeus, it was glorious.

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