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Page last updated at 06:49 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 07:49 UK

Kahn's Champions League nightmare

Uefa Champions League final: Barcelona v Manchester United
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Wed, 27 May Kick-off: 1945 BST Coverage: Live on ITV1 and Sky Sports 1, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio Manchester; BBC Sport website.

Oliver Kahn
Kahn had better luck in the 2001 Champions League final against Valencia

By Saj Chowdhury

On 26 May 1999, Oliver Kahn was floored on football's biggest stage in the most spectacular and devastating way imaginable.

The blows were delivered by Manchester United, who in three minutes of stoppage time overturned a 1-0 deficit to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 and win the European Cup for the first time in 31 years.

Ten years on, the legendary goalkeeper relived the events for BBC Sport, revealing how both he and his Bayern team-mates were left shattered by their defeat.

"We had one hand on the cup and suddenly something happened that we could not have imagined," said the 39-year-old at the end of a busy day with the media in Munich.

"That's soccer. We did not concentrate like we should have. The game is about 90 minutes not 85 or 88."

Kahn, who spent 14 years at Bayern before retiring in 2008, picked himself off the turf to collect his losers' medal before taking the time to reflect.


"Some players went to bed, some players went to the party - I was with my parents, staring at the table," he added.

"This was a great shock. We could have won the Champions League title for the first time in 23 years. It was the hardest, toughest, most dramatic defeat I remember. We needed over a year to handle the loss."

Fortunately for Kahn, fortune was smiling on him two years later at the San Siro. He was the hero for Ottmar Hitzfeld's side, saving three penalties in the shoot-out against Valencia as Bayern won 5-4 on spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw.

So did luck play its part in both finals?

"I think you make your own luck. I believe more in hard work than luck," he said.

Since 2001, Bayern have failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals stage of the Champions League, while Manchester United are going for their third title in 10 years.

Kahn is in awe of the English club's achievements and hailed manager Sir Alex Ferguson as one of football's all-time greats.

"At the moment, United are playing at a level similar to that of AC Milan in the 1990s," said Kahn, who was once linked with a move to Old Trafford.

"It's great how Ferguson has been able manage the team for this length of time.

Oliver Kahn
Kahn won a Fifa accolade for his efforts at the 2002 World Cup

"He knows what he needs to do with the players and he knows how to plan for the following season. He's one of the greatest coaches we've had in European football."

Ferguson may be acknowledged as the greatest of all if he guides his class of 2009 to victory over Barcelona on Wednesday.

The Scot will be relying once again on Edwin van der Sar, penalty shoot-out hero in the 2008 final, to put his body on the line in order to stop Barcelona's potent attack.

Kahn admires 38-year-old Van der Sar but also rates 27-year-old Barca keeper Victor Valdes.

"Valdes is a young keeper but has experience of a Champions League final. Van der Sar is older, has played in three finals. You can't say who is better," he stated.

There is no better judge than Kahn. The man who wants to be remembered as an "emotional and passionate" player was also one of the best goalkeepers.

He began his professional career in 1987 at his hometown club Karlsruher SC and helped them to the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup in 1994.

Kahn left for Bayern in 1994 where he won eight Bundesliga titles, six German cups, the Uefa Cup and, of course, the Champions League.

He took over from Andreas Kopke as Germany number one after the 1998 World Cup and played at Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup - his saves taking Germany to the final and earning him the Lev Yashin award for best goalkeeper.

His performances during that championship elevated his status worldwide, but particularly in the Far East where he has capitalised on his popularity by fronting a new television show.

"I'm quite a famous guy in Asia, especially China, because of the 2002 World Cup," revealed Kahn.

I think it's too soon to become a coach - maybe I'll consider it in two or three years

Oliver Kahn

"I'm doing a TV show called 'The Kahn Principle'. It's about finding goalkeeping talent in China. It has given me an interesting opportunity to get information about the country and Chinese soccer. I will do this for the next two of three years."

His commitment to the show meant he had to reject an offer in March to become Schalke's new coach, although he has not ruled out making the big step into management in the future.

"I think it's too soon to become a coach - maybe I'll consider it in two or three years. I need distance between myself and the soccer business in Europe," he explained.

It is understandable that he wants to cash in over in China, but he is genuinely enthusiastic about helping up-and-coming players.

Ultimately though, Kahn will return to Europe, hopefully reinvigorated by his adventure and ready to take up the challenge of coaching a club.

And when he does, the fraternity will welcome the inclusion of a man who experienced the lowest of lows and then came out a winner.

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see also
Barcelona v Man Utd
26 May 09 |  Europe
Who has won the European Cup?
26 May 09 |  Europe
The men who make Barca beautiful
26 May 09 |  Europe
United crowned kings of Europe
27 May 99 |  Football
Barcelona: Quotes at a glance
27 May 99 |  Football
The Kings of Europe
28 May 99 |  Uniteds treble triumph
Barcelona: Victory in pictures
27 May 99 |  Football
Bayern fans distraught
27 May 99 |  Europe
Barca's Toure ready for 'decider'
25 May 09 |  Europe
Road to Rome photos
25 May 09 |  Europe
Henry & Iniesta doubts for final
21 May 09 |  Europe

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