20th of May 1998. This is a very special date for the Real Madrid supporters. A whole generation of fans didn’t see his team winning the Champions League. The curse was broken 32 years after when Pedja Mijatovic scored one of the most important goals of the history of the club. Finally, millions of ‘madridistas’ knew how was of the feeling of being European Champions.
Real Madrid were the kings of Europe, but all the cups were won in black and white. The last one in 1966. Fifteen years later, in 1981, Los Blancos lost their last final in the Champions League -European Cup, in the old denomination- against Liverpool in Paris. Several years later, Real Madrid could get into another final after knocking out Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund in the knock-out stages.
Juventus were the favourites in Paris. With a team full of stars –Zinedine Zidane, Deschamps, Davies, Inzaghi, Del Piero…-, the Italian side was one of the strongest in Europe. They had won the cup only two years earlier against Ajax. It was their third final in a row, so Lippi’s side arrived to Amsterdam as the team to beat.
Los Blancos had a great squad, but they were able to qualify to Europe in La Liga, after a very poor season with a lot of problems. Seedorf, Raúl, Mijatovic, Suker, etc weren’t able to have the balance during the season. However, they focused on the Champions League to arrive to the great final.
Sanchís and Hierro, the full backs, played one of the best games of their life. Bodo Illgner made amazing saves in the first 15 minutes of the game, where Juventus were trying hard to get the lead in the match. Fernando Redondo and Christian Karembeu tried to stop Zidane and Del Piero in the midfield; whereas Raúl, Mijatovic and Morientes tried to find the goal of the victory.
In the 66th minute, the magical moment arrived. A shot from Roberto Carlos touched in a Juventus player, the ball was in the box. Mijatovic took it, dribbled Peruzzi and scored with his left foot avoiding Montero. It was La Séptima’s goal -the seventh- and the only goal of Mijatovic in the competition that year. Real Madrid defended 25 long minutes until the German referee Hellmut Krug finished the game with the final whistle.
32 years later, the Champions League trophy travelled back to Madrid. A new era opened for Los Blancos and they were able to win two more cups in the next four years. However, the turning point was the 20th of May 1998 and the goal scored by Mijatovic. Real Madrid modern era started and they become giants of Europe again. Until today, when they can lift their 12th Champions League, the third in only four years.