Borussia Dortmund’s Inferiority Complex Rears its Ugly Head Once Again – But They Might Be About to Turn a Corner

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FEDERICO GAMBARINI/Getty Images

When Joshua Kimmich’s hopeful chip nestled in the corner of Roman Bürki’s net, there was a sense of inevitability which rained down at Borussia Dortmund’s empty Westfalenstadion.

Lucien Favre’s side had been on top in Der Klassiker. So much so that Erling Haaland had a shot cleared off the line by Jérôme Boateng after just 30 seconds. Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Mo Dahoud had chances too, but Borussia Dortmund didn’t show the same level of ruthlessness in this final third as Bayern Munich.

In yet another Klassiker, and in fact in another Bundesliga season, it’s close but no cigar for the Black and Yellows.

Roman BuerkiRoman Buerki
Pool/Getty Images

Losing to Bayern Munich is far from crucial when it comes to Borussia Dortmund’s goals across the entire season. They only picked up one point from a possible six when they won the Bundesliga title in 2002 and in recent years it’s been their ‘mentality problems’ against Germany’s smaller teams which has cost them dearest.

But with just three wins against Bayern Munich in more than seven years, it’s clear Borussia Dortmund hit a stumbling block when it comes to Der Klassiker.

It’s not always a hurdle which comes down to quality. Certainly, in the Pep Guardiola era at Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund were second best. But now, there’s no clear difference in quality or depth when it comes to Germany’s two biggest clubs.

This isn’t a new problem for Borussia Dortmund. They struggle regardless of who’s standing in the dugout and who’s on the pitch, but this consistency problem in the biggest games is an issue the club have to get over sooner rather than later.

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FEDERICO GAMBARINI/Getty Images

The good news? Next season could be crucial for them closing the gap with Bayern Munich for good.

Lucien Favre might not be at the club as he only has one year left on his contract, so making a managerial change will be as appealing as ever for the club’s key decision makers ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.

But it’s the financial implications of the coronavirus crisis which could force the club’s marquee players to stay put for another season.

Jadon Sancho had looked for all the world that he’d be returning to the Premier League this summer. Even Erling Haaland has been tipped to leave thanks to how quickly he’s adapted to life at Borussia Dortmund.

But with £100m+ transfers out of the question, Borussia Dortmund’s big name players might just stick around for a little while longer.

Jadon Sancho, Thomas MullerJadon Sancho, Thomas Muller
Pool/Getty Images

Of course, that will prove to be a massive boost for the club as far as quality is concerned. Sancho and Haaland are two of the most exciting players on the planet (in fact, they might already be two of the best) and they’ll start week in, week out for Borussia Dortmund.

But it will also be a boost when it comes to Dortmund’s impact against the biggest teams in the Bundesliga.

Sancho, Haaland and co will only get their big-money moves if they impress in the most important games, so having that mix of Borussia Dortmund regulars and individualistic players could turn out to be the antidote to an inferiority complex that crippled the club in recent years.

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Pool/Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund have a tough pill to swallow as far as this season’s title race is concerned, and although it’s a line which fans have been religiously fed every year, bigger things really could be just around the corner this time around.

Let’

Assessing 24 of the Biggest Swap Deals in Football History

Inter Milan's Cameroonian forward Samuel
Inter Milan’s Cameroonian forward Samuel | CHRISTOPHE SIMON/Getty Images

With the coronavirus pandemic affecting the finances of every football club, it seems likely that we will see more swap deals take place in the upcoming transfer window.

And while they aren’t a common occurrence in past windows, you can still find examples of clubs looking to save money by offloading one player to sign another. It adds another element of drama to the already crazy art of negotiating moves for players, while becoming a source of entertainment of its own, as fans debate and argue over who got the better deal.

With that all said, here’s a list of the biggest and most famous swap deals that have taken place in the history of football, with an assessment on each transfer.

Peter OdemwingiePeter Odemwingie
Odemwingie scored all of his five goals for the Potters in one half-season | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

We begin with the swap deal you’ve probably forgotten, unless you’re a Stoke or Cardiff fan. It’s fair to say that neither player had quite the impact their clubs were hoping for.

While Odemwingie started off well with five goals in his first 15 games, injuries led to a diminished role for the Nigerian at the Potters. As for Jones, he failed to help the Bluebirds avoid relegation from the top flight. The striker did end up Cardiff’s top-scorer for the next season, but was soon shipped out for loan spells elsewhere.

Winner: Cardiff

UEFA Champions League"Paris St Germain v Galatasaray AS"UEFA Champions League"Paris St Germain v Galatasaray AS"
Muslera has played 365 games for Cimbom to date | ANP Sport/Getty Images

It’s rare for a swap deal to take place between two teams of different countries. But that’s what happened when Lazio arranged for Muslera’s departure to Turkey in exchange for bringing Cana to the Stadio Olimpico.

And despite the Albanian midfielder doing well in Serie A, Muslera ended up being a terrific signing for Cimbom. Still the first-choice stopper today, he’s won 14 trophies during his time at the club, and was voted the country’s footballer of the year in 2016.

Winner: Galatasaray

Yes, you read that correctly. Palace legend Ian Wright was swapped for a couple of gym weights and a bag of footballs.

Having been scouted by the Eagles, they offered to hand the non-league side gym weights and balls in exchange for the player. The England international ended up scoring 118 goals for the south London club, and was voted their Player of the Century. As for the gym weights and footballs, we’ve no idea what happened to them…

Winner: Crystal Palace

Peter CrouchPeter Crouch
Crouch played just six games for the Clarets before retiring | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

There was excitement in the air on deadline day of the 2019 January window. No, not because Lazar Markovi? was headed to Fulham.

Rather, the big move was when Crouch and cash were exchanged by Stoke for the Burnley striker Vokes. In hindsight, neither side really won the deal – Crouchy retired months after the deal, while his Welsh counterpart has only netted seven times for the Potters. Hard to pick a winner here.

Winner: Burnley (for the £8m)

Fernando TorresFernando Torres
Atléti legend Torres returned to win the Europa League | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

With Torres clearly not in the Rossoneri’s long-term plans, a move away seemed inevitable. Keen to bring him back to Los Rojiblancos, Diego Simeone traded away winger Alessio Cerci to sign the Spaniard on loan.

Despite having previously flourished in Serie A, the Italian scored once in 33 games for the club and now finds himself in Serie B. On the other hand, Torres played another 160 games for Atléti and was able to win the Europa League with his boyhood club.

Winner: Atlético Madrid

James BeattieJames Beattie
Beattie was at his most prolific at the Saints | Ben Radford/Getty Images

Having scored nine league goals in the 1997/98 Premier League season, Davies soon attracted the attention of Blackburn, who went on to send both youngster Beattie and £7.5m to the south coast in exchange for the forward.

Yet the move backfired on the Lancashire club, as Davies ended up scoring just twice in two seasons. And while Beattie needed some time to settle in, he eventually assumed the mantle of being the Saints’ star striker, netting 76 goals in 235 games before moving on to Everton.

Winner: Southampton

Jose Antonio ReyesJose Antonio Reyes
José Antonio Reyes scored seven goals in his only season at Los Blancos | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

With Reyes keen for a move back to Spain, Arsenal finally agreed to a loan-swap deal with Real Madrid, sending the winger there and gaining Júlio Baptista in return.

The Brazilian only scored three league goals in his sole season at the Emirates Stadium, and failed to make a major impact for the Gunners. Reyes on the other hand was more regularly used by Los Blancos as they went on to lift the La Liga title that year.

Winner: Real Madrid

Gianpaolo PazziniGianpaolo Pazzini
Pazzini ended up the more prolific of the duo at I Rossoneri | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

With both city rivals struggling to make it work for their Italian strikers, they decided to swap them, albeit with Inter paying an extra £5.5m for Cassano.

Yet the Nerazzurri would find the former Real Madrid forward difficult to work with, despite his seven league goals, with many questioning his fitness and work ethic. Their counterparts, however, managed to get a prolific first season from Pazzini, before his scoring touch began to diminish in later years.

Winner: AC Milan

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Sigurdsson became a key figure for the Swans | Stu Forster/Getty Images

In what became Mauricio Pochettino’s first signings as Tottenham manager in 2014, Gylfi Sigurðsson was swapped to Swansea in exchange for both Ben Davies and Michel Vorm.

The Icelandic star became the key midfield talisman for the Swans, with his set-pieces and creativity crucial in staying afloat in the Premier League. But considering Davies’ status as the first-choice left-back in north London, Spurs will be happy with the deal they got, given that Vorm has also served as a solid back-up option for Hugo Lloris.

Winner: Tottenham

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Andy Cole’s goals were key to the Red Devils’ success | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It was a major surprise when Sir Alex Ferguson sanctioned the signing of Andy Cole from Newcastle United, with £6m and youngster Keith Gillespie heading in the opposite direction.

But the legendary manager would have the last laugh, as Cole scored 121 goals to help the Red Devils claim five top-flight titles in a hugely successful period. As for the Tynesiders, they weren’t able to challenge their rivals, even though Gillespie ended up becoming a decent winger at St James’ Park.

Winner: Manchester United

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Defoe scored 143 goals in two spells at Spurs | AFP IOPP/Getty Images

Few swap transfers end up working out for both sides. Yet this deal ended up leaving Spurs and West Ham both happy with their respective goalscoring strikers.

Defoe would score 22 goals in his first full season at Spurs, and became the team’s chief marksman up front before he departed for Portsmouth. Meanwhile, Zamora didn’t quite reach the same heights as his predecessor, but was still a key player for the Hammers, helping the club achieve promotion in 2005.

Winner: Tottenham

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Would you ever consider trading away Andrea Pirlo? | PACO SERINELLI/Getty Images

Inter fans, look away. Here’s a brief summary of how you traded away arguably the best modern Italian footballer to have played to your city rivals.

Having not impressed the Nerazzurri’s management in his 40 appearances, the Andrea Pirlo was sent across the San Siro divide and was swapped for Guglielminpietro, as well as a bit of cash. While Guly only played 30 games for Inter, Pirlo became a star for the Rossoneri and won two Champions League titles. It’s pretty easy to see who won this swap deal.

Winner: AC Milan

Michael OwenMichael Owen
Owen scored 16 goals in his only season at Los Blancos | Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

With just a year left on Owen’s deal, Real Madrid capitalised and signed the Englishman, paying just £8m and sending Núñez to Anfield in exchange.

It couldn’t have gone worse for Núñez, who injured his knee in his first day of training and never was able to get into the Reds’ first team from that point onwards.

As for his English counterpart, the striker scored 16 goals in his only season in Spain before moving to Newcastle for £17m, in what became great business for Los Blancos.

Winner: Real Madrid

Bonucci has put a disaster spell at Milan firmly behind himBonucci has put a disaster spell at Milan firmly behind him
Bonucci has put a disaster spell at Milan firmly behind him | Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Having arrived at the San Siro for a €42m fee, Bonucci was a major disappointment for Milan. Given that he wasn’t getting any younger, the club looked for a replacement that could assume his position for the future.

Hence, the veteran was swapped back to former club Juventus for youngster Mattia Caldara, with Gonzalo Higuaín also temporarily headed to the Rossoneri. It didn’t work out well at all for Il Diavolo, as the Argentine found himself at Chelsea a few months later. And while Caldara has yet to establish himself for Milan, Bonucci has assumed his role for the Bianconeri without looking out of place. Juve definitely won this deal.

Winner: Juventus

Fabio CannavaroFabio Cannavaro
Cannavaro became crucial to Juve’s defence after the move | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Wait, Inter traded away another Italian great three years after Pirlo?

Failing to excel at the San Siro, Cannavaro was swapped for Juventus goalkeeper Fabián Carini in 2004. The Uruguayan stopper played just four games for the Neruzzurri, while the legendary defender would win two Scudetti (before the club was stripped of their titles). Still, the Bianconeri got a way better return here…

Winner: Juventus

AC Milan's midfielder Clarence Seedorf (AC Milan's midfielder Clarence Seedorf (
Seedorf lifted ten trophies at Milan | PACO SERINELLI/Getty Images

Another swap deal between the Milan clubs saw Seedorf traded to the Rossoneri, in exchange for Francesco Coco who headed to Inter. Once again, the Nerazzurri got the worse end of the deal.

Coco would fail to play regularly due to a string of injuries that curtailed his time at the club. Seedorf, however, became a legend at Milan, winning ten trophies and becoming an essential part of their success under Carlo Ancelotti.

Winner: AC Milan

Roberto CarlosRoberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos claimed Roy Hodgson’s spell at Inter ‘destroyed him’ | Ben Radford/Getty Images

Chilean star Zamorano became a transfer target for many of Europe’s elite, having scored 28 goals to help Real lift the 1994/95 La Liga title. Inter, keen to sign the striker, offered up £1m plus Carlos, who was unhappy with manager Roy Hodgson at the time.

The Nerazzurri forward wasn’t a bad player at the San Siro, but his goalscoring rate began to decrease, as the likes of Ronaldo took his first-team spot. Los Blancos, on the other hand, were delighted to end up with the Brazilian legend Carlos, who ended up playing more than 500 games for the club and was a key part of the successful ‘Galacticos’ era.

Winner: Real Madrid

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Luiz would later become a teammate of Mati? during both spells at Stamford Bridge | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

In high demand after impressing at Benfica, Chelsea acted swiftly to acquire Luiz, with then-reserve Mati? and £20m being enough to make the deal happen.

The Brazilian played 248 games for the Blues over two spells, while Mati? ended up impressing in Portugal, earning him a move back to Stamford Bridge three years after his departure. With the Blues getting the best of the duo on the pitch in England, they ultimately won the deal in the end.

Winner: Chelsea

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Milito was a goal-scoring machine at Inter | Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

In 2009, Inter, always looking to push the boundaries of player transfers, proceeded to sign Milito and Motta from Genoa, in exchange for a small fee, four players and co-ownership of another youngster.

The two Nerazzurri signings would prove to be instrumental for the club, particularly in the 2009/10 treble-winning season. As for the Genoa quintet, many of them were shipped off to other clubs, including a young Bonucci, who would soon end up at Juventus.

Winner: Inter

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Sánchez has not been at his best for the Red Devils | Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Remember when this was said to be a good deal for both teams? Seems like a long time ago now.

As Sánchez’s deal came close to expiring, the Gunners struck a deal with United to send the want-away Chilean north, with Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction. Yet neither side have emerged from the deal as the better side, given that both players are now on loan in Italy and don’t seem to have a future at either club.

Winner: Arsenal (for paying the lower wages)

Christian VieriChristian Vieri
Vieri only won one trophy with Inter despite scoring loads of goals | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

A world-record transfer at the time, Inter signing Christian Vieri to partner Ronaldo was a sign of intent and promised a successful era at the San Siro.

But despite the Italian scoring 123 goals during his time at the Nerazzurri, it was only enough to win a single Coppa Italia trophy. Given that Simeone went on to win a league and cup double with the Biancocelesti, as well as the club pocketing a huge fee at the time for Vieri, Lazio were the winners of this swap deal.

Winners: Lazio

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Deco helped the Catalans win two La Liga titles and a Champions League | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Having won UEFA’s Club Footballer of the Year in 2004, Deco became a sought-after player for many European clubs. But it was the addition of Quaresma that swung the deal in favour of Barcelona, with Porto happy to obtain the services of the young Portuguese star.

Despite dazzling defences in Portugal for several seasons, Quaresma was unable to perform consistently for the Dragões. His compatriot however continued to shine on a bigger stage and helped the Blaugrana win five trophies, cementing his place as a modern midfield great.

Winner: Barcelona

Ashley ColeAshley Cole
Ashley Cole played over 300 games for the Blues after his move | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

A highly controversial deal at the time, both players were keen to leave their respective clubs and got their wish when the Gunners and Blues came together to agree the swap transfer.

While Gallas was a regular at the Emirates, his time was blemished with various incidents, such as sulking after defeat at Birmingham City. Cole, on the other hand, won nine trophies at Chelsea and was one of the first names on the teamsheet at Stamford Bridge.

Winner: Chelsea

Samuel Eto'oSamuel Eto'o
Eto’o scored plenty of goals to lead Inter to a treble in the 2009/10 season | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Having decided that Eto’o wasn’t going to fit into his system, Pep Guardiola decided to exchange the striker, with cash (and Alexander Hleb until he refused the move) for Ibrahimovi? in 2009.

The mercurial Swede had a prolific first season at Camp Nou, but wasn’t willing to play out wide to accommodate Lionel Messi and left not long after. Meanwhile, Eto’o ended up having a fantastic two seasons in Italy, scoring 53 goals in just 102 games and leading the Nerazzurri to six trophies.

Winner: Inter

Let’

8 of the Best Loan Spells Across Europe in the Last Decade

Romelu Lukaku
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Footballers are expensive. At the top tier of the sport the fees that clubs are willing to cough up for players without any concrete assurance that they’ll perform well is truly staggering when put in a wider context.

However, the executives with a keen eye on the club’s coffers practice the age-old business principle of ‘try before you buy’ through the loan market.

While Radamel Falcao’s Manchester United misadventure will forever serve as a disastrous example, Sheffield United’s capture of the Red Devils’ Dean Henderson can be considered as glorious evidence of an outcome at the other end of the spectrum.

As the Blades rapidly secure Manchester United’s approval for an extension to Henderson’s contract, let’s take a look at some of the other great examples of temporary employment across Europe in the last decade.

Thibaut CourtoisThibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois played more than 150 games for Atlético before he made his Chelsea debut, despite signing for the club three years beforehand | Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

Real Madrid’s current number one cut his teeth in La Liga on the other side of the Spanish capital during a three-year loan spell with Atlético Madrid, which started one day after Chelsea snapped him up from Genk in 2011.

Courtois missed three league games in his time with Diego Simeone’s Atléti, his 6’6 frame forming a formidable figure behind a parsimonious backline as he crowned his spell in red and white with a La Liga title.

Romelu LukakuRomelu Lukaku
Lukaku was West Brom’s top Premier League scorer in 2012/13 with 17 goals, next on the list was Shane Long with eight | Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Given the sheer volume of Chelsea loanees which populate the footballing ether, it’s perhaps unsurprising to find two entrants on this list.

A 19-year-old Romelu Lukaku, desperate for minutes at senior level after spending most of his debut campaign in blue with the Under-21s, found an opportunity in the Midlands with West Brom.

The Belgian smashed in 17 Premier League goals that campaign which somehow couldn’t convince Chelsea to give him a regular starting berth. Nevertheless, Lukaku still fondly looks back at that time with The Baggies, simply summing it up as ‘dank memories’.

Loic RemyLoic Remy
Loïc Remy’s goals helped guide Newcastle to a top-half finish | Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Newcastle were among the first to snap up some of the highly-paid talent that had gone down with QPR in 2013. Rémy swapped his hoops for black and white stripes, netting 14 goals in what would prove to be his only season on Tyneside as Mike Ashley was reticent to stump up the necessary sum.

Chelsea swooped in for the Frenchman as Newcastle dropped from 10th to 15th, but Rémy has never been able to replicate that blistering form since.

Toby AlderweireldToby Alderweireld
Alderweireld helped Southampton to a seventh-placed Premier League finish | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

At perhaps the peak of their player recruitment powers, Toby Alderweireld joined Southampton in the summer of 2014, the same day Sadio Mané arrived on the south coast.

The Belgian centre-back had struggled for opportunities in his debut season in Spain but Saints boss Ronald Koeman, remembering Alderweireld’s time with Ajax, secured him on a season-long loan. A spell which was impressive enough to earn him a move to Tottenham Hotspur the following summer.

James RodriguezJames Rodriguez
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Three years after finishing as the 2014 World Cup’s top scorer, James Rodríguez had fallen drastically down Zinedine Zidane’s pecking order. But his loan move to perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich looked to have revamped his career.

James thrived in midfield or as part of Bayern’s front-three, floating menacingly all over the pitch with a particularly memorable display coming in a 6-0 evisceration of Borussia Dortmund.

Raul JimenezRaul Jimenez
Jiménez’s goal contributions accounted for more than 40% of the club’s Premier League tally in his loan season | Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Having never hit double figures in a European top-flight campaign before donning that famous gold shirt, Jiménez seemed like something of a risk as the first-choice striker for a newly-promoted side (and so, a perfect use of the loan system).

But the Mexican knocked 13 past what the English top flight had to offer, laying on a further seven assists as Wolves produced one of the most impressive campaigns from a freshly promoted club in years.

Duvan ZapataDuvan Zapata
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Zapata more than doubled his previous season-high goal tally when he powered 23 Serie A goals in for Atalanta in 2018/19.

The Sampdoria loanee finished three goals short of the Capocannoniere crown, but Atalanta eased into the Champions League places and recorded the club’s highest ever Serie A finish, thanks in no small part to the Colombian’s goals.

Achraf HakimiAchraf Hakimi
DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The jet-heeled Morocco international is in the midst of a superb two-year loan spell with Borussia Dortmund. After ending his first campaign early with injury (leaving the team top of the table only for their lead to be squandered in his absence) the 21-year-old’s second season has been even more impressive.

The stamina and frightening pace which he possesses has been maximised from his new role of right wing-back. As he attempts to cover every blade of grass on that flank each match, Hakimi has added assists to his ever-expanding arsenal of skills.

Dortmund will surely be doing everything in their power to make this loan a little more permanent.

Let’

Twitter Reacts as Joshua Kimmich Channels His Inner Eric Cantona to Settle Der Klassiker

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FEDERICO GAMBARINI/Getty Images

Bayern Munich have extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga thanks to a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.

The Bundesliga’s 102nd Klassiker had plenty of talking points as both sides battled in a match which was tipped as a title decider, and it was Joshua Kimmich who struck the decisive blow with an incredible goal at the end of the first half.

The hosts didn’t waste any time in the must-win Klassiker and Erling Haaland even saw a shot cleared off the line after just 30 seconds, although Jérôme Boateng didn’t have to work too hard to keep the ball out of the back of the net.

Boateng couldn’t stop Raphaël Guerreiro from scoring with a close-range header, but thankfully for Bayern Munich, the offside flag came to the rescue.

Borussia Dortmund had seen a shot of their own cleared off the line, but as Bayern Munich started to grow into the game, ?ukasz Piszczek was alert to keep out Serge Gnabry’s shot which found a way past Roman Bürki.

The hosts were on top throughout the first half, but they ended up going into the break one goal down after Joshua Kimmich was able to send a fantastic chip over Bürki and into the far corner of the net in front of an empty Yellow Wall.

The breakthough eventually came just before half time, but rather than coming from Erling Haaland or Robert Lewandowski, Joshua Kimmich emerged as Bayern Munich’s unlikely hero.

The Germany international was able to work half a yard of space on the edge of the penalty area, but instead of hitting the ball as hard as he could, Kimmich instinctively sent a chip just out of Bürki’s reach and the ball nestled into the side netting.

It was the worst possible time for Borussia Dortmund to concede.

But after starting the match at full throttle, it was no surprise to see the Black and Yellows come out in the second half with a similar level of intensity, albeit once again without any real cutting edge in the final third.

Thorgan Hazard and Mo Dahoud were able to threaten an equaliser, but Manuel Neuer largely stayed untroubled – which, in part, was thanks to Alphonso Davies’ pace – and would have breathed a big sigh of relief after seeing Haaland forced off the pitch through injury.

Haaland’s injury, however, didn’t come before one of the small moments of controversy from Der Klassiker. The Norway international saw a shot deflected wide off Boateng’s arm, but the Video Assistant Referee didn’t intervene.

It was the last real sighter Borussia Dortmund were able to create, with Bayern Munich holding out and even coming close to adding a second through Robert Lewandowski.

The woodwork came to Dortmund’s rescue this time around, but Lucien Favre’s side were forced to helplessly watch on as their Klassiker rivals ground out another win in Germany’s marquee game.

Let’

Re-Living Manchester United’s 1998/99 Champions League Run

players of Manchester United jubilate with the tro
players of Manchester United jubilate with the tro | ERIC CABANIS/Getty Images

‘And Solskjaer has won it!’

These four words uttered by Clive Tyldesley as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck in the final seconds to secure the treble for Manchester United in 1999 will forever live in the memory of United fans.

It was a final like no other; United left it late – oh boy, did they leave it late. But in the end, two goals in injury time for the Red Devils turned things around to spark wild celebrations in the stands and on the bench.

As for Bayern Munich’s fanbase, they were left distraught, heartbroken.

It is one of the most famous and memorable nights in Man Utd’s history, so 21 years on from the final, we take a trip down memory lane by re-living United’s run on their way to Champions League glory…

Andy Cole of Manchester UnitedAndy Cole of Manchester United
Andy Cole of Manchester United | Ben Radford/Getty Images

United finished the 1997/98 Premier League season in second – one point behind Arsenal – meaning that while they secured qualification to the Champions League, they would still have to take part in a qualifying match.

The Red Devils were drawn against Polish side LKS Lodz, who reached the second round of qualifying after they picked up a 7-2 aggregate win in their first matches. However, United were able to find a way past Lodz, doing the damage in the first leg as they picked up a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Ryan Giggs and Andy Cole.

A 0-0 draw was played out in the second leg, a result that was enough to see the Red Devils through to the group stages.

The Manchester United team pose for a pictureThe Manchester United team pose for a picture
The Manchester United team pose for a picture | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The luck of the draw was not on Manchester United’s side as they were picked in what came to be known as the ‘Group of Death’ – or Group D.

United were drawn alongside Barcelona and Bayern Munich, as well as Danish outfit Brøndby. As far as opening group games go, they don’t come much better from a neutral’s perspective than United vs Barcelona. Six goals, a red card, stunning goals and, generally, a pulsating contest.

A header from Giggs following a typically brilliant David Beckham cross gave United the lead on 17 minutes, before Paul Scholes doubled the hosts’ lead after a near-perfect acrobatic effort from Dwight Yorke.

Game over…right?

Not against this Barcelona side, it wasn’t. The Blaugrana pulled one back through Sonny Anderson before Giovanni levelled things up from the penalty spot.

Then it was Beckham’s turn to have his say on the game, and he produced – yep, you guessed it – a remarkable free-kick to restore the Red Devils’ lead. Curl, precision, dip – the goalkeeper had no chance. Unfortunately for United fans, the scoring wasn’t over as Barça came back to make it 3-3, while Nicky Butt also saw red.

United next faced a trip to Munich, where they took on Bayern. It appeared as though United would pick up a vital win on the road, with Yorke and Scholes’ goals giving them a 2-1 lead heading into the closing stages, but Elber grabbed a late equaliser to rescue the German giants.

For Barça, Bayern and Man Utd, the importance of a positive result against Brøndby could not be underestimated, and United recognised this as they cruised past their Danish opponents in both games. First, the Red Devils ran out 6-2 winners away from home before winning the following match 5-0 at home.

A trip to Camp Nou followed, and it was another evening of drama and pure entertainment for all football fans.

Anderson gave Barça the lead early on before Yorke equalised with a low drive. And Sir Alex’s men took the lead thanks to the telepathic understanding between Yorke and Cole. Their connection left the Barça defence without a clue how to stop them, with Cole rounding off the move clinically.

Simply breathtaking.

In a game of twists and turns, Rivaldo produced a moment of magic to bend the ball home from a free-kick, but United regained their lead just 11 minutes later through Yorke again.

However, when a team has a player like Rivaldo, they always have a chance.

RivaldoRivaldo
Rivaldo | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

And this is precisely what happened, with Rivaldo bringing a cross down in the air before acrobatically finishing. World class.

Honours even once again, and what a clash it was.

The sixth and final group game saw the Red Devils host Bayern, where they played out a 1-1 draw. It was a result that actually wasn’t enough to see them automatically qualify, but they did progress as results elsewhere went their way.

United may have only won two group games, but it was their resilience and never-say-die attitude that ensured they didn’t lose a single game – with each point proving to be crucial in allowing them to progress to the knockout stages.

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Manchester United team group | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Playing the first leg of their quarter-final clash with Inter at home, Sir Alex would have demanded a performance worthy of the occasion – one that would give his side the confidence they would need when travelling to Italy for the second leg.

Big matches require the big names to step up and deliver. In the first leg, it was Beckham and Yorke who made the difference. Two pinpoint crosses from the right boot of Beckham, and two ruthless headers from Yorke were enough for the hosts to pick up a 2-0 win.

Inter piled on the pressure in the second leg, taking the lead on the night just after the hour mark. Continuing to grow in confidence, United fans were beginning to bite their nails as the comeback was well and truly on. However, it was that Man Utd resilience and mental strength that once again carried them through, with Scholes netting two minutes before the end to settle the tie.

As far as Man Utd were concerned, it was one Italian opposition down, but another one to go as they were drawn against Juventus.

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Champs League SF Andy Cole | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Antonio Conte did exactly what Inter couldn’t do – he gave the Bianconeri the lead on the night and on aggregate at Old Trafford. However, United kept pushing, searching for a morale-boosting equaliser. And it came in the final seconds of the game through Giggs as he rifled the ball home.

By now, it had become abundantly clear that no matter how well or poorly United played during a game, you could simply never write them off.

But this was only the beginning of the drama in this tie for United.

Juventus came flying out of the blocks in the second leg, with Filippo Inzaghi netting twice inside the opening 11 minutes to put his side in the driving seat and seemingly on their way to the final. But a truly remarkable – and somewhat under-appreciated – comeback was staged by Sir Alex’s men.

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Champs League SF Roy Keane | Getty Images/Getty Images

Roy Keane came up with a captain’s contribution to make it 2-1, before Yorke put United in the lead on aggregate after he found the net ten minutes before half time as the Red Devils turned on the style.

Cole sealed the win late on to send Man Utd through to the final, where another encounter with Bayern Munich awaited them….

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players of Manchester United jubilate with the tro | ERIC CABANIS/Getty Images

It was a long road to Barcelona.

Comebacks. World class opponents. Late drama. You name it, Man Utd overcame countless challenges and obstacles on their way to the final. But they had made it, and they were just one win away from claiming the treble.

However, the Red Devils got off to the worst possible start, as Mario Basler struck direct from a free-kick with just over five minutes on the clock. Both sides had chances to score as the game progressed, with United notably being saved by the woodwork.

Time was running out fast though for the English side. Fans were desperate for a moment of quality, a slip, a mistake – anything.

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Manchester United fans celebrate | Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

With 91 minutes on the clock, United earned themselves a corner, which was sent straight into the middle. Yorke tried to throw himself at it, before it came out to Giggs who swiped at it but as it came back into the area, Teddy Sheringham reacted quickest to divert the ball into the bottom corner.

Was it the cleanest of connections? No, not at all.

Did Sheringham care – even one bit? No, not at all.

But this was a United team that wouldn’t just settle for grabbing an equaliser, they would push for the winner. And this is exactly what they did.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 1999 UEFA Champions League Final | Getty Images/Getty Images

With seconds of the three additional minutes remaining, another cross from a corner came into the box, which Sheringham flicked on at the near post.

They call Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘the baby-faced assassin’ for a reason, and his nickname couldn’t be more applicable here, as the now-United boss showed his striking instincts by sticking out a leg to flick the ball home from close range to deliver one of the most dramatic and memorable finales to a Champions League final.

The final has, understandably, dominated the headlines even as the years have progressed considering the events that unfolded, but United’s whole 1998/99 Champions League campaign was nothing short of sensational – from start to finish.

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