On This Day: Lionel Messi Proves He Can Do Anything As Barcelona Star Breaks Manchester United Hearts
There are only three managers who have won the European Cup three times: Zinedine Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley.
However, there’s just one who has the ignominy of losing the most finals: Marcelo Lippi who couldn’t follow up his Juventus side clinching it in 1996 on three more occasions.
It’s a congested pack who follow behind with two defeats after going the distance to make the final two: Jurgen Klopp, Diego Simeone, Héctor Cúper and Miguel Muñoz are just some of the distinctive names to appear on the list, as well as Sir Alex Ferguson.
In Rome at quarter-to-nine, local time, on May 27, 2009, Fergie had a 100% win record upon having reached the Champions League final, with victories for his Manchester United in 1999 and 2008. On May 27, 2009, by 11pm, Lionel Messi and Barcelona had put an end to that with the first of two defeats the Spanish side would instigate on United in two separate finals in the space of two years.
Sir Alex brought his Manchester United team to the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital with his own squeaky clean record and his Red Devils being the incumbent champions. His side were bidding to become the first club at the time to retain the trophy in the Champions League era and the first side as holders to reach back-to-back finals since Juventus over a decade earlier.
It wasn’t meant to be.
Samuel Eto’o gave Pep Guardiola’s Barca the lead after just 10 minutes after the blaugrana took advantage of a poor Michael Carrick clearance. The Cameroonian striker slot past the 38-year-old Edwin van der Sar after being played in by Andrés Iniesta. 1-0 Barcelona.
This wasn’t the goal the game is remembered for, however. That memory came courtesy of a player on the verge of collecting the first of his shared record haul of five Ballon d’Ors.
Though Manchester United - inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo - put on the pressure in attack in searching for the equalizer following conceding to Eto’o, the result escaped them 20 minutes from time after the 5ft 7 inch Messi squeezed in between defenders John O’Shea (6ft 3in) and Rio Ferdinand (6ft 2in) to launch himself into the air from a typically exquisite Xavi cross and head home, determinedly propelling himself skywards astronomically in aiming for the far corner, the force of which brought him to the ground.
The full time result: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United.
It remains a match that Ferdinand is adamant he has never gone back to watch. "It's something which has haunted me for years” the former England international has expressed in his role as a BT Sport pundit (MEN).
Similarly Michael Carrick - in his own autobiography ‘Between the Lines’ - claims to have delayed watching that final back “I’d tried to erase the negative thoughts” - but did so in anticipation of the rematch that would happen two years later at Wembley. The former Man Utd midfielder recently revealed the depression he suffered in the wake of the defeat (The Times).
Lionel Messi for his part asserts it as one of the most special parts of his distinguished career. “It was hard to imagine that I was going to score with my head with Ferdinand standing near me, but I didn’t really have a marker,” the Argentine wizard has said (Four Four Two).
“It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me, too. It’s still one of my favourite goals.”
Lionel Messi got up, stayed up, and headed Barcelona to Champions League glory over Manchester United.