Five Ghanaian winners of the UEFA Champions League

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Ahead of tonight’a final of the Uefa Champions League to be contested between Kwadwo Asamoah’s Juventus and Real Madrid in Cardiff, Goal’s Nana Frimpong profiles the five Ghanaians who have claimed the ultimate honour from Europe’s premier club football competition and evaluates their individual contributions to the victorious campaigns enjoyed by the sides they achieved those triumphs with.

When Bayern Munich dramatically lost out to Manchester United in the final of the 1999 edition at the Camp Nou after conceding two late goals that rubbished an early lead, Samuel Osei Kuffour slapped the ground repeatedly in anguish. That occasion probably represented one of his illustrious career’s nadirs, and he certainly was not going to pass up the opportunity to savour European triumph the next time it came offering itself. That ‘next time’ arrived in 2001, and Kuffour indeed performed a yeoman’s job as the Bavarians held Valencia to a stalemate before conquering them via a shootout. Finally, a taste of glory for Ghana’s most decorated footballer.The last time Dortmund contested the final of the Champions League, they won, and with a Ghanaian – ex-King Faisal player Ibrahim Tanko – in their ranks. Granted, Tanko played a severely limited part in the realisation of that triumph, but probably only due to a bout of injuries that plagued him throughout his career. The striker made just three appearances in Dortmund’s quest and failed to even make coach Ottmar Hitzfield’s team for the final. Still, Tanko received a winner’s medal for his troubles courtesy a 3-1 win for Die Schwarzgelben over Italy’s Juventus, thus earning his place on this list.
Abedi Ayew contributed heavily to Olympique Marseille’s maiden and only Uefa Champions League triumph in 1993, having helped Les Phoceens to a losing finalists’ spot two years prior. A tense game against seven-time winners AC Milan in the final was ultimately settled by a 43rd minute Basile Boli header expertly delivered from a sweet corner-kick from Ayew that successfully breached an otherwise unyielding Milan defence. A splendid man-of-the-match performance befitting the distinguished nickname he bears ensured that although Frenchman Boli’s goal secured the victory, Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew was celebrated as the surpassing hero of that night in Munich.

It was a fine unit that Jose Mourinho constructed to deliver Inter Milan’s first European Cup in 45 years, and Ghana’s Sulley Muntari proved every bit as essential a component of that side as the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder. Muntari put in a fairly decent shift, especially in games such as the semi-final second leg against Barcelona, helping provide the defensive steel the successful Nerazzuri thrived on. A 10-minute cameo in the final at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu might have had little impact on a game already wrapped up 2-0 by the time he joined, yet few could begrudge Muntari a well-earned reward.

Michael Essien had suffered the agony of a narrow loss in a Champions League final like Kuffour prior to his singular feat, but he finally did get to hoist ‘Big Ears’ in May 2012 after nearly a decade of trying with Olympique Lyon of France and then England’s Chelsea and ultimately achieving that success with the latter. Ironically, it was in that campaign that the 30-year-old contributed his least to the realisation of The Blues’ continental ambitions in all his years at the club. Niggling injuries blighted his season, and by the time he recovered, his west African compatriot, Nigeria’s Mikel Obi, had taken his place, all of which made him no less worthy of what he earned at the end of the competition when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich after extra time.

Source: Nana Frimpong || Ghanasoccernet

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