The Arch might not possess the same romantic and grandiose aura once associated with the Twin Towers, but for many Wembley remains as quintessentially British as its predecessor, despite the short history in its current configuration.
With Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund making tomorrow’s final, the seventh time the North West London venue has hosted the final stage Europe’s elite competition, an all-German affair, the pinnacle of the celebrations for the FA’s 150th anniversary will have a rather distinct European flavour.
Not that European clubs have disappointed at Wembley, mind…
Benfica 1 Milan 2 (May 22, 1963)
Having won the trophy in the previous two seasons and with Eusebio virtually at the peak of his powers, Benfica were clear favourite to become the first club to win the European Cup three times in a row since Real Madrid had done so a couple of years earlier.
The final, played on a Wedensday afternoon, seemed to take the expect course as Eusebio duly put his side in front, before Jose Altafini netted twice for AC Milan who lifted the first of their seven European Cups in front of a crowd of merely 45,000 – the fourth-lowest attendance ever in a European Cup final.
Manchester United 4 Benfica 1 (AET) (May 29, 1968)
Benfica were back at Wembley five years later when, having lost against Inter Milan in 1965, they conspired to lose their third finals in five seasons. Despite missing Denis Law because of a knee injury United, who played the final wearing an all-blue kit, went ahead through a Bobby Charlton’s goal early in the second half.
Jaime Graca’s 81th minute equaliser stunned the United supporters, before Alex Stepney denied Eusebio four minutes before full-time. United scored three times in extra-time with George Best, Brian Kidd and Bobby Charlton securing United’s, and England’s, first success in the competition.
Ten years on from the Munich air crash, Sir Matt Busby had finally taken United on top of European football.
Ajax 2 Panathinaikos o (June 2, 1971)
Having lost the final two years earlier, Ajax secured their first European Cup by defeating Panathinaikos – the first and only Greek time to have reached a European Cup final – thanks to goals from Dick Van Dijk and Arie Haan.
It would prove to be the first of three consecutive successes for Rinus Michel’s team who, inspired by Johan Cruyff’s genius, would go on to revolution the landscape of European football.
Liverpool 1 FC Brugge 0 (May 10, 1978)
The two sides had met in the 1976 UEFA Cup final, which Liverpool won 4-3 on aggregate, and it was Bob Paisley’s men who again came out on top. Having beaten Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1977 final, the Reds made it two in a row thanks to a goal from Kenny Dalglish.
Dalglish had arrived from Celtic in the summer for a then British transfer record of £440,000 and his goal ensured Liverpool – whose starting line-up contained eight English and three Scottish players – became the first British team to retain the trophy.
Barcelona 1 Sampdoria 0 (AET) (May 20, 1992)
Long before Barca and Spain tiki-takaed their way to world domination, European success had often proved to be an inglorious and fruitless quest for Iberian sides. Ronald Koeman’s 25-yard thunderbolt after 112 minutes put Barcelona on course to win their ever first European Cup – this was the last final to be known as European Cup, with the tournament being rebranded to “Champions League” the following season – becoming the first Spanish club to do so since Real Madrid in 1966.
One of Cruyff’s lieutenant on the pitch that day, would go on to be a relatively successful manager himself. His name was Jose Guardiola.
Barcelona 3 Manchester United 1 (May 28, 2011)
19 years on from their first triumph, Barcelona picked up their fourth European crown after disposing of Manchester United. Having beaten Arsenal in 2006 and United in 2009, the Catalans were simply unstoppable and produced one of their greatest ever performances.
Pedro put Barcelona in front, only for Wayne Rooney to equalise but, in the second half, Messi and David Villa swept away Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to ensure the first final at the new Wembley would have a Spanish winner.