L is for...

uefa.com's A to Z countdown to the UEFA Champions League final continues with some fine Ls.

As uefa.com Action's A to Z countdown to the UEFA Champions League final on 25 May continues, it is time for some great Ls.

Recently described by his manager as the best midfield player in the world, Frank Lampard has really made his mark on Chelsea FC's season with some fine performances. His goals in the knockout stages of the Champions League helped his side into the last four for the second consecutive season.

He joined from West Ham United FC in 2001 for €16m and has got better and better ever since, culminating in an exceptional 2004/05 campaign. He scored his first goal of the current European season in the last 16 win against FC Barcelona, and then scored three in the two-legged quarter-final against FC Bayern München.

We always remember the winners in big European finals but spare a thought for the glorious losers. Some finals are closer that others. The Champions League finals in 1995/96, 2000/01 and 2002/03 were all decided by penalty shoot-outs, with AFC Ajax, Valencia CF and Juventus FC the losing teams.

Juventus were defeated by an AC Milan side who have had their share of near misses in Champions League finals, losing 1-0 to Olympique de Marseille in the first final of the competition in 1992/93 and then missing out by the same margin against Ajax in 1995.

Conceding two goals in added time to lose against Manchester United FC, Bayern's 2-1 defeat in 1998/99 may have been the most painful of all, but others had more humbling experiences in the final. Valencia lost 3-0 against Real Madrid CF in 1999/00, AS Monaco FC lost by the same margin against FC Porto last season, while Barcelona incurred the heaviest final defeat to date when they lost 4-0 against Milan in 1993/94.

Perhaps the most celebrated of all the losing finalists were the Bayer 04 Leverkusen team of 2001/02. It took a truly brilliant strike from Zinedine Zidane to finally end Klaus Toppmöller's side's hopes of European glory, as it sealed a 2-1 win for Madrid in Glasgow.

It was to be a heartbreaking end to the season for the all-action German side who also narrowly failed to win the Bundesliga and German Cup, prompting the German tabloids to dub them 'Neverkusen'. Worse was arguably to come when their star players, Zé Roberto and Michael Ballack, joined Bayern that summer.

Nonetheless, after a dismal league campaign in 2002/03 which heralded Toppmöller's resignation and saw them miss out on qualification for last season's Champions League, Leverkusen returned to the competition in 2004/05, losing out to Liverpool FC in the last 16.

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