BARCELONA — Barcelona will close this Sunday a season without titles and planning a better future… with the memory of the 30th anniversary of their first great continental success, when on May 20, 1992 they won the World Cup at Wembley. Europe for the first time.
Ronald Koeman’s shoe, in the 111th minute, well into the second part of extra time, broke the resistance of a Sampdoria, then great, which the Barça team had already beaten three years earlier in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final (first European trophy under the direction of John Cruyff) and sentenced what would be the last Final of the old European Cup before being renamed the Champions League.
More than 25,000 Barça fans traveled to London accompanying the Dream Team, still fighting to win a League that at that time was drawn white (it would be achieved on the last day thanks to the merengue stumble in Tenerife) and longing to leave behind the bad fate in this competition, which six years earlier had caused the disaster in Seville in 1986, in what had been his second lost Final of the maximum continental tournament.
Barça had qualified for the Final after consecutively eliminating Hansa Rostock and Kaiserslautern (thanks to a miraculous goal from Bakero in the last breath), and beating Sparta Prague, Benfica and Dinamo kyiv in the then final group. The Sampdoria coached by Vujadin Boskov came to the meeting after eliminating Rosenborg, Honved Budapest and winning the league against Red Star, Panathinaikos and Anderlecht, in a tournament that has nothing to do with the current position that only the champions of the League of each country.
At Wembley, the legend of ‘Come out and enjoy’ that went down in history as Cruyff’s phrase before the match began (something that many protagonists have denied occurred) gave way to a much less brilliant match than one might think. Zubizarreta in one goal and Pagliuca in the other saved up to three goal shots against Vialli, Mancini and Julio Salinas (the starter by surprise) and the post denied Stoichkov the target, until extra time was reached and a war of nerves exploded.
In the second half, a forced foul by Eusebio at the edge of the area led to the historic goal. Without having previously rehearsed, Bakero lightly touched the ball, Stoichkov stepped on it and Koeman launched a straight shot, adjusted to the post where Pagliuca was placed, who sensing a thread took a step to the side and was unable to react in time to save the shot.
The goal triggered Barça’s euphoria and gave way to a tremendous ending in which Barça conquered eternity, at last, in the midst of the Dream Team’s football era, which after 18 days reissued its League title in full drunkenness of happiness thanks to their definitive victory over Athletic Bilbao… and the unthinkable defeat of Real Madrid, who depending on themselves lost in Tenerife by 3-2 after winning their match by 0-2.
Thirty years are fulfilled this May 20 of that unforgettable day. When Barça, finally, registered its name among the greats of Europe, which it would repeat on four other occasions (2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015) and which today, in full reconstruction, yearns to conquer again.