A SLIDING-DOORS MOMENT. That might be one way of describing it – but for the fact that the door was not so much slid ajar as blown off its hinges.
It was the door to the future for one of Europe’s biggest football clubs. And that future began on 20 May 1992 thanks to the right foot of Ronald Koeman and a free-kick of such ferocity, precision and significance that even the man who scored it later admitted: “It gave me goose bumps.”
It was a goal that bequeathed a new sense of confidence for culés, as Barcelona followers are known. Thirty-two years since their first European Cup adventure had been cut short by a semi-final loss to Real Madrid, of all teams, Barcelona finally had their hands on the trophy that their arch-rivals had already claimed six times. As the front page of the next day’s Mundo Deportivo put it: “Ja la tenim”. Now we have it.
The ghosts of final defeats in 1961 and 1986 had been exorcised by the Dream Team. Barcelona already had prestige and history but with victory over Sampdoria that warm Wembley night, they joined the ultimate elite.
That Koeman delivered it was fitting. After the group stage victory at Dynamo Kyiv, he pledged to the press: “We’ll be at Wembley.” This confidence befitted the only Barcelona player with a European Cup winner’s medal already, earned with PSV Eindhoven in 1988 following a final shoot-out against Benfica that he opened with a successful conversion.