Posts Tagged ‘ CL ’

Right Place Wrong Time

Some clubs have become synonymous with Champions League success, since the competition began in 1955 (then under the guise of The European Cup) 21 different clubs have been crowned as champions of Europe.

The top ten most successful clubs in the history of the competition have taken an impressive 42 out of 55 available trophies ₁.  This number is even more staggering when you take into account the 29 trophies won by the top five; Real Madrid (9), AC Milan (7), Liverpool (5), Bayern Munich (4) and Ajax (4), historically winning over 50% of the trophies on offer ₁.

With this in mind it may be easy for players at many of these clubs to take for granted that success in Europe’s most coveted competition is a given.  This article takes a look at the five players who have not been able to win a Champions League medal themselves despite playing for a minimum of four Champions League winning clubs over the course of their careers.

Ronaldo (PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan)

The greatest striker of his generation, and arguably of all time; El Fenomeno (The Phenomenon) has this week announced his retirement from the game, finishing his career with homeland club Corinthians. 

This announcement has sparked a flurry of articles, blogs and youtube compilations depicting his remarkable skills and achievements in the game, it seems unjust to include Ronaldo’s name in this piece which ultimately has a negative outlook.

His start with Cruzeiro and finish at Corinthians sandwiched spells with five European clubs whom have enjoyed success in the continents premier club competition, despite this Ronaldo never managed to acquire a Champions League winners medal himself.

This is not to say that the strikers career could be deemed unsuccessful, far from it, to showcase but a few of Ronaldo’s club level honours; domestic trophies in Brazil with both clubs that he represented as well as in Holland with PSV, a UEFA Cup Winners Cup with Barcelona in 1997 was to be accompanied by a UEFA Cup winners medal with Inter Milan in 1998 before a move back to Spain where R9 was to win La Liga twice.

The only club with whom Ronaldo did not win a trophy was AC Milan where he was cup tied for the Champions League triumph of 2007.  The closest he came to winning an elusive Champions League winners medal was in Real Madrid’s 2002/03 campaign which ended in a 4-3 aggregate semi final defeat to Juventus. 

Ronaldo will be able to enjoy his retirement with a feeling of immense pride, having also received a number of individual accolades; two Ballon D’or awards, FIFA Player of the Year winner on three separate occasions (a feat matched only by Zinedine Zidane) and listed in the FIFA 100 by fellow countryman Pele to name but three.

All this without mentioning his 15 World Cup goals (an all time competition record) and two World Cups won with Brazil which are the icing on the cake of a remarkable career blighted by injury.

Laurent Blanc (Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, Manchester United)

Another player to obtain a World Cup winners medal (albeit serving a suspension in the final) the imposing defender who stands at 6’3” was also a teammate of Ronaldo at Barcelona for the European Cup Winners Cup winning season of 1996/97 (missing the final through injury).

His greatest successes were enjoyed with the French national side, a European Championship winners medal being added to his collection in 2000.  This is not to say that the player was not to taste glory at club level, the highlight’s being a Ligue 1 triumph with Auxerre and a Premier League trophy with Manchester United in 2003.

Often deployed as a sweeper Blanc was one of the modern games greatest defenders, also enjoying stints with Napoli, Inter Milan and Marseille as well as a host of other French clubs he will hope to replicate his successes  on the field with the national side in his new role as manager.

Boudewijn Zenden (PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Liverpool, Marseille)

Another player to enjoy spells with Barcelona and Marseille, but not before his breakthrough at homeland club PSV where he started out in the youth team, now with Sunderland he is the only member of this list still playing.

The Dutch winger benefitted from winning honours with PSV early in his career, receiving the Dutch Football Talent of the Year award in 1997 went hand in hand with an Eredivisie League Championship win.  This rise to prominence led the Dutchman to Barcelona where he added a La Liga title to his honours list.

An extended stay in England with Chelsea, Middlesbrough and then Liverpool, Zenden was somewhat unfortunate with the Anfield club.  He arrived on the back of a Champions League final victory over AC Milan in 2005 only to make his final appearance wearing the famous red shirt in the 2007 Champions League final defeat against AC Milan.  He did however win a European Super Cup with the club in 2005 as well as an FA Cup the following year (although he was injured for the final).

An unfruitful two years in France with Marseille before moving back to the North of England with his present club.

Pierre Van Hooijdonk (Celtic, Nottingham Forest, Benfica, Feyenoord)

The second Dutchman on this list, perhaps a little harshly considering the last time that any of the clubs he played for won the Champions League was in 1980 (Nottingham Forest), nine years before his debut with RBC.

The striker who was an aerial threat due to his sheer size won 46 caps for Holland.  Also seen as a set piece specialist, Van Hooijdonk made his first move abroad to join Celtic before a transfer to Premier League Nottingham Forest, however his greatest successes were to be enjoyed later on his career.

Leaving England saw spells back home and in Portugal with Benfica, prior to another transfer back to Holland where Van Hooijdonk scored two goals in Feyenoord’s 3-2 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the  2002 UEFA Cup Final, at the clubs home ground.  From here the player moved to Fenerbache where he enjoyed top flight league success for the first time, winning the Super Lig back to back in 2004 and 2005 (won English Division One in 1998 with Nottingham Forest).

Now retired after another two years (2005-07) shared between previous clubs NAC and Feyenoord in his homeland. 

Dean Saunders (Liverpool, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Benfica)

The Welsh striker who earned 75 caps for his country enjoyed stints at some of England’s most renowned clubs including Liverpool and Aston Villa as well as the big two in Wales (Cardiff and Swansea City).

Somewhat of a journeyman, Saunders also made appearances for top clubs in Turkey and Portugal (Galatasaray and Benfica respectively).  His career highlight being an FA Cup win at Wembley with Liverpool in 1992, which was shared with his strike partner for club and country Ian Rush.

Premier League runner up with Aston Villa the following season, another trip to Wembley in 1994 saw Saunders grab two goals in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United to lift the League Cup with the Midlands club. 

It is very rare (if ever) that a list of strikers of the modern game will include Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Dean Saunders and Ronaldo but I have managed to do it here.  All five of these players have enjoyed successful careers at some of the European games most prestigious clubs despite not winning the Champions League as individuals.

It remains to be seen if any of these players harbour any regrets in terms of this competition.  All that is left to do is enjoy the opening fixtures in the final 16 of the 2010/11 campaign and to see who will be crowned the 56th Champions League winners at Wembley in May.
 

₁ This figure is up to and including the final of 2010.

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What Became Of Ajax ’95 (Part 3)

Welcome to the third and final part of this series looking at the victorious Ajax side of the 1995 Champions League final.  The latter part of this piece looks at the substitutes on the night, but firstly the forward trio which was somewhat cosmopolitan in comparison to the rest of the side.

Marc Overmars:  Currently a member of the backroom staff at his first ever club Go Ahead Eagles, he is also involved in the building trade, more specifically with a project entitled Drain4You.

The winger retired in 2004, however he hit the headlines in 2008 having returned to professional football as a player with Go Ahead at the age of 35.  Upon retirement Overmars had continued to train with the Go Ahead players and ex Oranje team mate Paul Bosvelt once a week.  His one season comeback was sparked by an impressive showing during Jaap Stam’s testimonial (in which six of the Ajax ’95 final team made an appearance) when up against defender George Ogararu (of Ajax at the time).  

Having had spells with Go Ahead Eagles and Willem II Overmars arrived at Ajax in 1992.  He enjoyed a five year period with the Amsterdammers which was the most successful time of his career, scooping three Dutch league titles, The Champions League and European Super Cup amongst others. 

Missing out on Euro ’96 with The Netherlands (for whom he won 86 caps) due to a serious knee injury, it was a considerable gamble for Arsene Wenger to bring the player to Arsenal, where he was affectionately nicknamed Roadrunner by supporters.  The £5.5 million gamble paid off, with Overmars becoming a key player in the side which won a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at the club.  The only further silverware he added in North London prior to a £25 million pound transfer to Barcelona was the following season’s annual curtain raiser, The Charity Shield. 

Arriving in Spain, Overmars was at the time the most expensive Dutch player in history, unfortunately for him he was not to add any further honours to his list during a four year stint at the club which saw him make just shy of 100 appearances.

Finidi George:  In November 2010 Finidi was appointed as Director of International Football at Real Betis.  The former Nigerian International will be expected to use his footballing knowledge and vast web of contacts to bring fresh talent to the club from all around Europe and particularly Africa.

After playing for three clubs in his homeland Finidi arrived at Ajax alongside his compatriot Nwankwo Kanu, going on to win the Eridivisie three times as well as The Champions League before moving to Spain with Real Betis, the place where he called home for four years.

The wingers’ previous success at club level proved a hard act to follow, only adding a Spanish Cup runner’s up medal (‘96/’97) to his collection for the remainder of his career which also saw moves to Mallorca, Ipswich and back to Mallorca again before retiring in 2004.

Winning the African Nations Cup in 1994 and playing in two World Cup’s (USA ’94 & France ’98) Finidi was awarded 62 caps for Nigeria. 

Jari Litmanen:  The 39 year from Finland currently dons the number 10 shirt of hometown club FC Lahti, recently rolling back the years by scoring a spectacular overhead kick in a match against AC Oulu.  Clips of this goal were seen by thousands as it sprung up on numerous football websites, not content with this Litmanen hit the headlines once more after scoring in Finland’s 8-0 defeat of San Marino in November.  This goal made him the oldest player ever to score in a European Championship Qualifying match.

Inheriting the Ajax number 10 shirt vacated by Dennis Bergkamp who had left for Inter Milan, Litmanen spent 7 years in Amsterdam winning 4 Dutch Championships and 3 Dutch cups (to go with his Champions League winners medal of ‘95) this was to be the most successful period of his career with the remainder blighted by injury.

A two year stint at Barcelona was followed by a move to Liverpool and although he was part of the 2001 squad that won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup treble, injury prevented his involvement in any of these finals. 

His second coming at Ajax was never destined to be as successful as the first, the highlight of this spell being progression to the Quarter Finals of the 2002/03 Champions League.

Three players of different backgrounds, all of whom moved to England at some point in their career’s with somewhat differing levels of success.  Unable to break the deadlock in the final, this brings us to the substitutes who made an appearance on the night. 

There were two substitutes made by Ajax during the course of the final, one of these provided the inspiration for this article (mentioned in part 1) and the other scored the winning goal (85th minute), providing the Ajax team of 1995 with a lasting legacy.

Nwankwo Kanu:  The Nigerian who has literally touched the hearts of many having set up the Kanu Heart Foundation in July 2000 currently finds himself playing in the second tier of the English league with Portsmouth having been relegated from The Premier League with the club last season.  The highlight of Kanu’s time at Pompey being his winning goal in the 2008 FA Cup final against Cardiff, this netted him a career third FA Cup winner’s medal.

Kanu made 54 appearances for Ajax before a brief spell at Inter Milan which was marred by a heart scare for which he had to undergo surgery.  A stint in North London with Arsenal was to follow.  It was here that he won both The Premier League and FA Cup twice (one cup double) and is still fondly remembered for scoring a spectacular goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 1999.  Shimmying past goalkeeper Ed De Goey and slotting home from almost the byline, the goal was made even sweeter by the fact that this was his third in 15 minutes, winning the game for Arsenal who were previously 2-0 down.                                                                                                                                                               

A spell at West Bromwich Albion before his transfer to Portsmouth, Kanu can also add domestic league titles, a UEFA Super Cup and an Intercontinental Cup with Ajax, a UEFA Cup with Inter, an Olympic Gold medal with Nigeria (84 caps) and a brace of African Footballer of the Year awards to his honours list.

Replaced Seedorf on 54 minutes.

 Patrick Kluivert:  The Dutchman is currently employed as assistant coach at NEC Nijmegen of the Eridivisie, signing a contract for the 2010/11 season this is his first full time coaching role having obtained his professional coaching badges at the close of 2009.  Kluivert completed his 15 month traineeship to obtain said badges with the PSV youth team having initiated the course as a youth team coach with AZ Alkmaar.     

 Born in Amsterdam Kluivert joined the Ajax youth academy aged seven.  By the time he had departed for AC Milan in 1997 following in the footsteps of boyhood idols Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten he had won a Champions League, two Eredivisie titles, two Dutch Super Cups and two European Super Cups with the senior team. 

Despite being reunited with some of his former team mates (Davids, Reiziger and Bogarde) at Milan he was unable to relive past glories in his one season at the club, culminating in a tenth place finish in Serie A.

Moving to Barcelona in 1998 the striker was this time reunited with his former coach at Ajax, Louis Van Gaal.  A successful first season in Spain saw the Catalan giants defend their crown as champions of the domestic league.  That La Liga trophy was to become the only piece of silverware Kluivert would win with the club during six years at Camp Nou.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

A series of one year stints plagued by injury at Newcastle United, Valencia and PSV where Kluivert was to add another Eridivisie title to his tally all preceded his final year at Lille where he retired in 2008. 

Still the all time leading goalscorer for the national side with 40 goals Kluivert went full circle, joining the compatriots he once idolised as a boy on the FIFA 100 list named by Pele in 2004.

Replaced Litmanen on 69 minutes.

 

Two great strikers of the modern game with vastly differing playing styles, both chose to move on from Ajax to the San Siro, albeit one choosing blue stripes and the other one red.  With Kluivert going on to become Barcelona’s all time top scorer since the 50’s with an incredible 90 goals in 182 appearances it is perhaps a shame that he didn’t follow Kanu to the Premier League sooner.

Finally, a brief look at the unused substitutes on the night.

Fred Grim:  Now aged 45 Grim currently finds himself working as Youth Goalkeeping Coach at Ajax.

Winston Bogarde:  The former Dutch defender who made 20 appearances for his country is now coming to the end of a coaching course which will see him obtain a UEFA Pro Licence.

Peter Van Vossen:  The former striker who earnt 31 Oranje caps is now Assistant Manager at Dutch second tier club RBC Roosendaal, contracted to the role until June 2011.

Such a wonderful group of individual talent, such a brilliant team under the stewardship of Louis Van Gaal it would have been impossible to predict the future success stories of each of these player’s despite their remarkable abilities.

I hope that you have enjoyed this series and it has provided you with some insight into this triumphant side, if you wish to contact me for anything be it questions or feedback please get in touch on twitter @itbeganin1992 or via email at itbeganin1992@gmail.com.

 I92.