15 years on from Zidane's final wonder goal

"We could spend forever planning but some things you can't mitigate for – like Zidane's goal." Fifteen years on from the 2002 final, we recall arguably the finest-ever European Cup final goal.

Zinédine Zidane celebrates his goal in Glasgow
Zinédine Zidane celebrates his goal in Glasgow ©Getty Images

Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano once wrote that when the beauty of football reveals itself, "admirers are left pitying their unborn grandchildren who will never see them". For four decades, Glaswegians – Sir Alex Ferguson among them – had spoken in reverential tones of Real Madrid's 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park in the 1960 European Cup final. Zinédine Zidane provided a different generation with their moment.

Madrid's 2002 showpiece against Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow was 1-1 and drifting towards half-time when Roberto Carlos's hopeful cross looped to the edge of the penalty area. Zidane, watching and waiting, adjusted his body and in one fluid movement pirouetted and caught it full on the volley with his supposedly weaker left foot. Goalkeeper Jörg Butt never stood a chance.

2002 final highlights
2002 final highlights

Only a wonder of resilience could have carried an impressively organised Leverkusen side beyond the impact of that astonishing goal – which, inevitably perhaps, proved to be Hampden's miracle for the night. Even so, Klaus Toppmöller's team went down fighting. After finishing second in the Bundesliga and losing the German Cup final they were determined to avoid an unwanted hat-trick; to shake off the cruel 'Neverkusen' tag.

Real Madrid celebrate their ninth European Cup
Real Madrid celebrate their ninth European Cup©Getty Images

They battled right until the seventh minute of stoppage time when Iker Casillas – on for the injured César Sánchez – made three spectacular saves to see Madrid home. Bayer had already displayed their powers of recovery after a nervy start culminating in Raúl González's eighth-minute opener, with Lúcio's header swiftly restoring parity. There was no answer to Zidane, though.

"It's desperately painful to finish with nothing," said Toppmöller. "We could spend forever planning on the training ground, but then something special happens that you cannot mitigate for. In this case, it was Zidane's goal."

What happened next

• Six weeks later Lúcio and Roberto Carlos helped Brazil lift the FIFA World Cup, beating a Germany side featuring Leverkusen's Bernd Schneider, Oliver Neuville and Carsten Ramelow. Michael Ballack was suspended for the final.

Leverkusen en route to the final
Leverkusen en route to the final©Getty Images

• Ballack and Zé Roberto joined Bayern München that summer, while Leverkusen narrowly avoided relegation in 2002/03. Toppmöller and replacement Thomas Hörster were both sacked.

• The Merengues' UEFA Champions League title defence ended in the next term's semi-finals, losing 4-3 to Juventus. They failed to advance beyond the last 16 for the rest of the decade.

• Nonetheless Madrid regained the Liga crown in 2002/03, dusting themselves off after a 5-1 home defeat by Mallorca to scrape home two points clear of Real Sociedad.

• As the Galácticos then struggled to live up to their billing, Vicente del Bosque left in June 2003. The following seven seasons saw nine coaches come and go, including Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster and Carlos Queiroz.