But just how rare is this feat? 24 Sata reports that apart from Croatia, only Brazil, Spain and France had players in the last ten Champions League finals!
After Real Madrid beat Man City in extra time on Wednesday night’s semifinal, Croatia captain Luka Modrić locked his spot in his fifth Champions League final. Luka has also won in all four so far – twice against Atletico, once against Juventus, and once against Liverpool. If he wins with Madrid in Paris on May 28, he will take home his 20th trophy with the Royal club.
The last final without a Croatian footballer was in 2011 between Guardiola’s Barcelona and Ferguson’s Manchester United at Wembley. After that, a series started: Ivica Olić 2012, Mario Mandžukić 2013, Luka Modrić 2014, Ivan Rakitić 2015, Luka Modrić 2016, Luka Modrić and Mario Mandžukić 2017, Luka Modrić and Dejan Lovren 2018, Dejan Lovren 2019, Ivan Perišić 2020, Mateo Kovačić 2021, Luka Modrić 2022.
Out of 19 Croatian footballers in the Champions League final, 11 of them have celebrated the title.
The first was Josip Pirmajer (for Partizan in the 2-1 defeat in 1966 against Real Madrid) and Ivan Ćurković (defended for St. Etienne in the loss to Bayern in 1976).
Ivan Iko Buljan, the legendary Hajduk footballer, was a member of the trophy generation of HSV, which reached the final in 1980 and lost to Nottingham Forest 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The first Croatian to become the European champion was Robert Prosinečki, who defeated Marseille (5-3, 0-0) with Red Star in Bari in 1991 after penalties. Prosinečki was the first to take the shot and was accurate from the penalty spot.
Alen Bokšić won the Champions League with Marseille in 1993, when they celebrated against Milan 1-0 with a goal by Basile Boli. Bokšić also played against Juventus in the final in 1997 and lost at the same Olympic Stadium in Munich (3-1).
Zvonimir Boban lifted the Champions League trophy in 1994 when Milan beat Barcelona in the final (4-0). A year later Boban played the final with Milan but lost to Ajax.
Davor Šuker had a great summer when Croatia won bronze at the 1998 World Cup and he took home the Golden Boot in France. That spring, Real became European champion for the seventh time. The winning goal against Juventus (1-0) was scored by Predrag Mijatović in the 66th minute. In the 89th he was replaced by Šuker.
Dario Šimić spent his best football years at Inter and Milan. Milan played in three Champions League finals while Šimić was on the team, though he did not play in any of the finals.
Igor Tudor was a solid link in the Juventus defense in the 2002/2003 season, in which they reached the Champions League final. In the semifinal, they knocked out the mighty Real, which marked the end of an era. Juventus played 0-0 against Milan in the final at Old Trafford and then lost on penalties. Tudor played until the 42nd minute when he was injured and Birindelli came on.
Dado Pršo and Monaco managed to advance to the final in 2004, where Mourinho’s Porto (3-0) became famous, having also won the Europa League a year earlier. Pršo will still remember the four goals he scored in the group, in Monaco’s 8-3 victory against Deportivo.
Igor Bišćan experienced the most incredible Champions League final when Liverpool came back from 0-3 against Milan in 2005 and celebrated after penalties. Bišćan, despite his significant role that season and excellent quarterfinals against Juventus and semifinals against Chelsea, watched the game from the box. Benitez did not include him in the team for the final.
Three Croatians were part of the Bayer Leverkusen side that reached the Champions League final at Hampden Park in 2002 and lost to Real Madrid 2-1 after Zinedine Zidane scored his most famous goal to win. Boris Živković played the whole match. Marko Babić entered the first minute of extra time in the final against Real. The third Croat in Bayer’s squad was Jurica Vranješ, but he did not enter the game in the final.
Ivica Olić played two Champions League finals with Bayern: 2010 against Inter (0-2) and 2012 against Chelsea, but never won. Moreover, at the Allianz Arena against Chelsea, Olić missed a penalty in the shootout. Chelsea won 5-4 (1-1). Danijel Pranjic was on Bayern’s lineup sheet in two finals, 2010 against Inter (0-2) and 2012 against Chelsea (4-5 – 1-1), but did not play.
The only Croatian to score a goal in the Champions League final for two clubs is Mario Mandžukić. In the German final between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in 2013, Mario scored the first goal in the 2-1 victory. In 2017 he played in the final and scored for Juventus in the 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid with a stunning half-scissor kick.
Luka Modrić, on the other hand, is the only Croatian footballer to have won the Champions League four times. Real beat Atletico 4-1 in the 2014 final and again in 2016 after penalties. They beat Juventus in 2017 4-1 and Liverpool 3-1 in 2018.
In 2015, Ivan Rakitić scored the first goal in Barcelona’s 3-1 victory against Juventus.
In the 2016 final against Atletico, Mateo Kovačić remained in the stands, and in 2017 and 2018 on the Real bench. Last season he went to the final with Chelsea, kicking out Real. He entered the match in 2021 in the 80th minute.
Dejan Lovren played for Liverpool against Real in Kyiv in 2018 and assisted in their 3-1 defeat.
In Lisbon in 2020, Bayern beat PSG 1-0, and Ivan Perišić played from the 68th minute.
Croatians in Champions League finals:
- 1993. Alen Bokšić (Marseille)
- 1994. Zvonimir Boban (Milan)
- 1995. Zvonimir Boban (Milan)
- 1997. Alen Bokšić (Juventus)
- 1998. Davor Šuker (Real Madrid)
- 2002. Boris Živković, Marko Babić, Jurica Vranješ (Bayer Leverkusen)
- 2003. Dario Šimić (Milan), Igor Tudor (Juventus)
- 2004. Dado Pršo (Monaco)
- 2005. Igor Bišćan (Liverpool)
- 2007. Dario Šimić (Milan)
- 2010. Ivica Olić, Danijel Pranjić (Bayern)
- 2012. Ivica Olić, Danijel Pranjić (Bayern)
- 2013. Mario Mandžukić (Bayern)
- 2014. Luka Modrić (Real Madrid)
- 2015. Ivan Rakitić (Barcelona)
- 2016. Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid)
- 2017. Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Mario Mandžukić, Marko Pjaca (Juventus)
- 2018. Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)
- 2019. Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)
- 2020. Ivan Perišić (Bayern)
- 2021. Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea)
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