Ten minutes after the first finale in the history of the European Cup in 1956, Stade de Reims beat Alfredo Di Stéfano’s Real Madrid 2-0. That unexpected and far-off advantage, which lasted only four minutes, was one of the two best moments of French football in the history of the most important club tournament on the continent. The other, more famous, was in 1993, when Olympique Marseille gave the country the only title in 65 years history of the contest.
It looks like a story of too distant and too few successes for one of the most transcendent nations in world football. The today called UEFA Champions League has been an elusive championship, almost alien, for the Gauls. Those goals of Michel Leblond and Jean Templin in the Parc des Princes in 1956 and that of Basile boli against AC Milan in Munich 37 years later are modest achievements for the French tradition. Today with A stellar Paris-Saint Germain, the world champions are ready to add another star.
Madrid, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Belgrade and London are the capitals that hold the European title. Paris is conspicuous by its absence from that famous list. The only tricolor star is presumed by Marseille, the most footballing town in France. There, on the Mediterranean coast, this game is lived much more intensely than in the city of light. For decades, Parisian clubs did not even compete in their own league. But now there is a new, growing ambition to reign.
Since the arrival of the Qatari capitals to PSG in 2011, the club that had only had a few short spells of vernacular triumphs became hegemonic in Ligue 1. He won 7 titles out of 9 and played a European final. That’s him big goal: lift the UEFA Champions League. The only possible goal. And it seems to be closer than ever, with one of the best teams, not only today, but in the history of football. There are no more excuses.
28 years have passed since Olympique struck against Fabio Capello’s Milan and took the orejona to France. The history of the champion began in 1986, when businessman Bernard Tapie came to lead the club with a Pharaonic economic project for the time. Does it ring a bell? He hired top players such as Jean-Pierre Papin, Alain Giresse, Rudi Völler, Abédi Pelé, Karl-Heinz Förster and Klaus Allofs. After several league and cup titles, it was time to take the leap and fight for the continental throne.
In 1991 he made his first attempt and lost the final to the legendary Red Star. That was just the fourth time of a French team in a definition, after those of Reims in 1956 and 1959 (both against Real Madrid) and that of Saint-Étienne de Osvaldo Piazza and Jacques Santini in 1976 against Bayern Munich.
Two seasons later, the European Cup underwent a historic change. The 1992/93 edition was the first of the “Champions League era”. A deep restructuring, which was from the number of participants and the format of the contest to the distribution of prizes and television. The Champions League stopped being a simple football championship and became a spectacle like no other, one of the best and best-selling products in the world. And in this context of revolution, France won its only title.
Directed by Belgian Raymond Goethals, with Didier Deschamps as captain and Papin As a great figure, Marseille eliminated Glentoran (Northern Ireland) and Dinamo Bucharest (Romania) in the previous rounds. In the group stage they beat Rangers (Scotland), Bruges (Belgium) and CSKA Moscow (Russia) and in the Munich final they beat Milan by the minimum, who were living their glory days with Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.
It seemed that an era of glory would begin for French clubs, but Monaco only in 2004 played the final again and lost without mitigating against Porto de José Mourinho. PSG was the last to try. In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, he lost in Portugal against Bayern. Yes, another coincidence with that Olympique who after falling with Red Star he did not give up and made the Olympic lap shortly after. The team of Messi, Neymar and Mbappé has only one mirror in which to look at itself, but it returns an image that invites you to dream.