Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team was up against Fabio Capello’s tactical Milan side in the 1994 UEFA Champions League Final at Athens. For the first time in their history, Milan went into the match as underdogs. With Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta missing due to suspensions, Milan were also without an injured Stefano Eranio and Marco van Basten. Florin Răducioiu, Jean-Pierre Papin and Brian Laudrup also missed this fixture due to violation of UEFA rules at that time. With so many first-team players missing in action, Capello knew he had to do something special to lift the trophy after the defeat in the finals of the same competition the year before to Marseille.
Milan started in a 4-4-2 formation with Desailly dropping back to support the defense. Barcelona’s midfield and forward line were marked closely as they struggled to find a way through an organized Milan midfield. Capello’s genius lay in the way he organized his players on the pitch that even if defenders went for man-to-man marking, there was always a free man to cover for them. As Barcelona failed to make any gateways, Milan attacked swiftly on the counter. Galli closely marked Romario whereas Stoichkov played in a much wider position than expected.
Even though Barcelona possessed the greater attacking threat, it was Milan on the night who drew first blood through Massaro. A second goal from him pushed Barcelona further back on their tracks, and when Savićević volleyed in expertly from outside the box over Zubizarreta, the writing was on the wall for Barcelona. Capello still didn’t celebrate as the bench went wild because to him the match was still not over.
Barcelona sent in Sacristán to replace Begiristain, who proved ineffective, being marked very tightly by Tasotti. Pep Guardiola, the present Barcelona coach played that night as a creative force just in front of defense, but he was cut out by an advanced Albertini, who moved back and forth during defense and attack. The fourth goal from Desailly was the final nail in the coffin for the Catalans, and as Cruyff watched shell-shocked from the sidelines, Capello celebrated for the first time.
Milan had finally arrived in Europe. The huge shadow of Sacchi was lifted with this win as Milan also went to the finals of 1995, only to be thwarted by Louis van Gaal’s AFC Ajax. An interesting factoid – in the 1994 final, both Milan and Barcelona had exactly 8 Italians/Spaniards in the first team respectively with 3 foreigners each. Also, both the teams had exactly 5 Italians/Spaniards in the substitute’s bench.