By: Ridwan Adeola
It was not a Ronaldo-Griezmann or Messi-Pogba battle; it was a battle of glovesmen- Oliver Kahn and Santiago Canizares. Bayern Munich had met with Valencia in the final of the 2001 UEFA Champions League final. The game comprised of top outfield players like Efferberg, Eiber, Baraja, Mendieta, et al.
Bayern had missed out on their fourth European Champion Clubs’ Cup in disappointing fashion two years earlier, surrendering a 1-nil lead in additional time to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United- a match the commentator proclaimed: “…and nobody would ever win a European Champions Cup more dramatically than this!” Valencia were appearing in consecutive finals.
When Bayern won the penalty shoot-out and Canizares, the Valencia goalkeeper laid down on the goal line and started to cry, Kahn- who had experienced similar fate in 1999, felt for him as he went immediately to console distraught Canizares instead of racing straight to celebrate with his teammates. That rare gesture moment was symbolic. Another heartache for Santi who a year earlier was on the losing side and on the night inside the San Siro Stadium, saved a spot-kick in normal time and another in the shootout after extra-time.
Despite being under six feet, Canizares managed to leap across the goal and save just about anything that came his way. In his prime, he was a lion. He was so good that Manchester United icon, Peter Schmeichel described him as the “the finest goalkeeper in world football”. Legendary Iker Casillas also named him as one of his top five goalkeepers of all-time. Petr Cech too picked him as one of his six goalkeeping idols. Fans of the club he made his mark, Valencia CF in 2009 voted him as the Best Goalkeeper in their entire history.