Since the competition changed to the UEFA Champions League in 1992/93, it’s become a goliath of sport, being a huge draw in the sport betting markets and commanding audiences in the hundreds of millions around the globe.

The Best Champions League Finals

  • Manchester United vs Bayern Munich (1999)

  • Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid (2014)

  • AC Milan vs Barcelona (1994)

  • Manchester United vs Chelsea (2008)

  • AC Milan vs Liverpool (2005)

Of course, the epitome of the Champions League is the final and seeing the two teams proven to be the best faceoff with everything on the line. 

With over 30 UEFA Champions League Finals to choose from, these are the greatest five of them ranked.

5) Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich

Taking place at the glorious Camp Nou in Barcelona, there was a good chance that Manchester United versus Bayern Munich in 1999 would end with a whimper. 

Mario Basler gave the German giants the early lead, and they seemed capable of closing out the game – especially as the United team didn’t seem up for truly troubling legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. 

As the game moved through the second half, Sir Alex Ferguson made two pivotal changes, swapping out Jesper Blomqvist and Andy Cole for Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to try to find the back of the net. 

The official put three minutes on the clock as 90 minutes expired, with David Beckham lining up a corner and goalie Peter Schmeichel up in Bayern’s box. A scramble saw Sheringham tuck the ball away to level it on 90+1.

United flew up the pitch after the kickoff to get another corner. This time, Beckham’s cross found the head of Sheringham directly, who nodded across goal, and Solskjaer poked it in. 

The 1999 Champions League Final is the epitome of the famed “Fergie Time.”

4) Real Madrid 4-1 Atlético Madrid

It’s tough to beat a local derby game in a final, but in 2014, it was the biggest club game in Europe pitting the two headline clubs from the Spanish capital against each other. 

Atlético Madrid are usually the underdogs when they face Real Madrid, but this season, they managed to snag La Liga from Los Blancos and Barcelona, priming them for the trophy that their rivals covet the most. 

For most of the game, Atlético’s season-long dominance looked to be on full display. Centre back Diego Godín put them 1-0, but a few minutes into injury time, Real’s star centre back, Sergio Ramos, returned the favour. 

In extra time, Real Madrid turned on the afterburners and rampaged over the exhausted Atlético Madrid. 

Gareth Bale netted the go-ahead goal at 110 minutes, Marcelo put the game out of reach at 118 minutes, but Cristiano Ronaldo truly finished the job with his penalty at the death. 

Tensions ran incredibly high throughout, eventually hitting a fever pitch when Atlético manager Diego Simeone was sent off after Ronaldo’s goal for running onto the pitch aggressively. 

Looking for yet another Champions League trophy, Real Madrid are right in the running again this year, sitting at +550 to take the crown in the soccer odds

3) AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona

Coming into the 1994 UEFA Champions League Final, it’d be fair to say that few were giving AC Milan much of a chance against the mighty FC Barcelona, helmed by the legendary Johan Cruyff. 

UEFA regulations, suspensions, and injuries meant that the Rossoneri were without seven core players, including Alessandro Costacurta, Marco van Basten, Franco Baresi, Brian Laudrup, and Marco van Basten. 

While he didn’t have to, Cruyff left Michael Laudrup out of his Barcelona side to adhere to UEFA regulations, and at the end of the season, the mightily talented Dane would move from the league winners to Real Madrid. 

There was only one thing for AC Milan to do – go all in and hope for the best. It turns out that Barcelona weren’t ready for such an aggressive opponent. 

Danielle Massaro put the Italian side up at 22 minutes and then 2-0 ahead at halftime. Their tails were up, and they didn’t let the momentum subside during the break. Dejan Savićević scored just two minutes into the second half. 

To conclude the rout, Frenchman Marcel Desailly scored just before the hour mark, leaving the La Liga winners in complete disarray and without any hope of winning their second European title in three years. 

2) Manchester United 1-1 (6-5) Chelsea

A 1-1 scoreline that finishes in a penalty shootout might not seem like the best Champions League Final on paper, but this game in Moscow, Russia, had just about everything. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, still a winger at the time, put on a masterclass on the left side and scored United’s go-ahead goal, while veterans Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Claude Makélélé, and Michael Ballack got to battle it out in midfield. 

The Portuguese superstar’s opening goal came at 26 minutes, but just before halftime, Lampard managed to get Chelsea level. 

When the game got to penalties, Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick were nullified by Ballack and Juliano Belletti, but then Ronaldo, the Red Devils’ hero, couldn’t fire the ball past Petr Čech. 

Lampard scored, Owen Hargreaves scored for United, Ashley Cole put Chelsea back ahead, and then Nani made it level again with Chelsea’s captain, John Terry, stepping up to seemingly finish the game. 

Terry slipped, missed the goal entirely, and, worst of all, Edwin van der Sar dove the wrong way. That took the shootout to sudden death. 

Salomon Kalou equalled Anderson to end the sixth bracket, and then Ryan Giggs put United one up. Finally, French striker Nicolas Anelka stepped up for Chelsea, chose to shoot right, and Van der Sar saved it. 

1) AC Milan 3-3 (2-3) Liverpool

Without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest Champions League Final ever to have taken place is what’s now known as the Miracle of Istanbul, which saw Liverpool defy the odds to conquer the Italian titans, AC Milan. 

It got off with a bang, and then some, with Paolo Maldini scoring the fastest goal the final had ever seen by volleying home Andrea Pirlo’s free kick. 

A hectic first half ensued, with end-to-end action and copious chances for Liverpool. However, it was AC Milan who’d find the back of the net next, and again after that. 

Hernán Crespo put Carlo Ancelotti’s team 2-0 up at 39 minutes and then 3-0 up at the 44-minute mark. It looked to be over for the Reds. 

Still, Rafa Benítez didn’t let his side go out without a fight. He switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation, but Milan were still able to craft dangerous chances. 

The breakthrough came shortly after Andriy Shevchenko’s free kick threatened the Italian club’s goal, with Steven Gerrard heading it past Dida at 54 minutes. 

Vladimír Šmicer followed up just two minutes later by beating the Brazilian goalie from range, making it 3-2, and just five minutes after that, Xabi Alonso managed to get the rebound from his missed penalty to square the score.

Both teams continued to push for the win to the end of regular time, and both goalies were forced to make big saves in extra time to keep their teams in the race. 

Penalties arrived, and somehow, not only did Serginho fail to score Milan’s opening shot, but the infallible Andrea Pirlo saw his shot saved by Jerzy Dudek. After Djibril Cissé’s successful attempt, Liverpool were 2-0 up. 

The drama wouldn’t end there. John Arne Riise missed his shot for Liverpool, and Milan brought it back to 3-2 for their final shot. Shevchenko stepped up, went down the middle, but Dudek managed to get a glove on it to seal the win. 

There have been several memorable Champions League Finals, but the 2025 match in Turkey remains the ultimate match for the European crown.

*Credit for all images in this article belongs to Alamy*

Ben is very much a sports nerd, being obsessed with statistical deep dives and the numbers behind the results and performances.

Top of the agenda are hockey, soccer, and boxing, but there's always time for the NFL, cricket, Formula One, and a bit of mixed martial arts.