The 2002 Champions League final is one of the most memorable in the competition’s history.
Zinedine Zidane’s stunning winning goal at Hampden Park serves as one of European football’s most iconic moments as Real Madrid defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1.
But it was a final in which Los Blancos were ever so lucky to emerge victorious.
Leverkusen – who had seen off Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United the previous round – were an awesome unit, an attacking menace that tested Real Madrid to their very core.
But in the latter stages of the second half, one man stood in the way of the German side’s sharpened attack; Iker Casillas.
The Spaniard was called from the bench in the 68th minute to replace Cesar Sanchez and he proceeded to deliver one of the greatest performances in Champions League final history.
He may have only been on the pitch for 25 minutes, but he made enough world-class saves to win about three different matches!
Why is this performance not heralded more in the present day? An absolutely colossal display from a ‘keeper who at the time was horrendously out of form.
Casillas had been usurped in the Real Madrid team by Cesar after some woeful showings in the 2001/02 season.
Two years previous, San Iker was on top of the world after starting in and winning the 1999/2000 Champions League final against Valencia, a feat he achieved just four days after his 19th birthday.
By the time he was 21, Casillas had already experienced the highs and lows of football and it’s safe to say his career was heavily shaped by his short cameo against Leverkusen.
Keeping the likes of Michael Ballack, Oliver Neuville and Dimitar Berbatov at bay kickstarted the rise of one of the greatest to have ever stood between two goal posts.
Sometimes, things in football really do happen for a reason, don’t they?
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