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Another UEFA Champions League final is almost upon us – and the latest edition of the official magazine Champions is packed with a wealth of material focusing on the climax to this season's competition.
One of the star turns in issue No5 is Fernando Morientes, the Spanish striker on loan at AS Monaco FC whose goals have taken the French club to an unexpected final date with FC Porto in Gelsenkirchen on 26 May. Morientes looks back on an amazing campaign.
One of the men whose hearts were broken by Morientes and company in the semi-final, Chelsea FC coach Claudio Ranieri, has endured a season of media and public pressure with immense dignity. He talks exclusively to Champions about his philosophy of "humour, love and loyalty".
Ecstacy and agony
Champions also talks to the men who have played in previous Champions League finals about the ecstacy of winning the coveted trophy... and the agony of falling at the final hurdle. There is also a look back at the ten greatest finals, from Real Madrid CF's early grip on the competition to the unforgettable finish in Barcelona in 1999, when Manchester United FC scored two last-gasp goals to beat FC Bayern München.
Behind the scenes
The people behind the scenes at any Champions League final are given their due recognition – from the stadium groundsman to the person responsible for engraving the trophy. Local legend Olaf Thon, the former German international, also gives a guided tour of the final venue, Gelsenkirchen.
The Champions League season as a whole is assessed. There is the 'miracle of Deportivo', when the men from La Coruna came back from the dead to knock holders AC Milan out of the competition. And the top ten Brazilians in the 2003/04 tournament come under the microscope, notably Kaká, Milan's Brazilian wonderkid who discusses his rise to fame – as well as his prowess behind the camera capturing his team-mates' skills.
Pavel Nedved, Juventus FC's brilliant Czech, gives a rare interview on his career, and a fascinating article discusses whether great players are born, rather than made: is sporting talent in the genes and how long before we get genetically modified footballers?
On the UEFA front, UEFA's Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson talks about the challenge of keeping Europe's football family together, and there is a round-up of the season's finest quotes from the stars and personalities who excite the fans.
Wealth of statistics
Add to that a wealth of statistics and the latest issue is a must for any football enthusiast. Issue No5 of Champions appears in English, French and German, and is on sale in the shops and at Europe's major football stadiums.
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