In the second in a series on Santiago Bernabéu finals, UEFA.com hears from Pierino Prati whose hat-trick helped AC Milan to the European Champion Clubs' Cup against AFC Ajax in 1969.
Article top media content
As part of our in-depth build-up to the UEFA Champions League final, UEFA.com hears from those who made their mark on the three previous showpieces staged at the Santiago Bernabéu. Here, former AC Milan forward Pierino Prati recalls his hat-trick in the 4-1 victory against AFC Ajax in 1969.
Prati, who went into the match having won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA European Championship the year before, was instrumental in the Rossoneri claiming European football's most revered prize for a second time. His two goals in the first half set Nereo Rocco's team on their way before he put the seal on an emphatic triumph with his third and Milan's fourth 15 minutes from time.
"It's one of those dreams for someone who's played football since they were a child, who loves football, and then follows it as a profession. They hope to be able to play in games like that. At that point I was lucky enough to have won a few things already – the Italian title, the European Championship [with Italy], the Cup Winners' Cup, top scorer in the league – so it was one of those objectives which was even more important given that it was at European club level. So
the fact that I could experience it and get a hat-trick, which is something that no one in Italy up to now has been able to match, gives great satisfaction.
"Ferenc Puskás was better and he scored four [in the 1960 showpiece], but the fact that it's been so many years since anyone has scored three goals in a final shows that scoring three was something important. It [the final] didn't start that well. It started with me hitting the post so it could have ended up being an unlucky night.
The Santiago Bernabéu is one of those legendary stadiums where everyone dreams of playing – the Bernabéu, San Siro, the Camp Nou. So it's clear that when you go into one of those temples, you try and make yourself a key figure, leave an image of yourself and make your mark. Fortune meant that football gave me a lot and I managed to make my mark there, in that famous, beautiful stadium.
"Milan were a team with great experience, great personality and the players, even though they were advanced in age, were very honest and had a huge desire to prove they were still the main men. We also had the best player in the world at that time, Gianni Rivera, who conducted the orchestra from the centre of midfield and who was able to launch attacks with two experienced players beside him: [Kurt] Hamrin and [Angelo] Sormani. I slotted in fantastically well with them and it was a journey over those two years at a top level because it was a very well-drilled team.
"We were very difficult to play against because we knew what we were doing in all areas of the pitch, whereas Ajax were just at the beginning. They were a team that were just starting to show what they could do in the European Cup; they'd just got to a final and
they had an extraordinary player who became one of the greatest in the world, Johan Cruyff. You could see already he was world class and he was their conductor, but we had a lot more experience.
"He [Rocco] created a dressing room, a group of players which was shielded from the chatter going on outside, where everyone was our enemy. Only if we all stuck together as a group could we find a way that would let us take on everyone else. He inspired us as much as could be. We all wanted to stick with him on our journey and anyone who wasn't with us was an enemy. So in a different way, that's how we were − we were closed off in our own world. We knew we were a team that had a time limit to get where we wanted to but within that limit we all needed to be united and reading from the same page."