Champions League finals bring excitement, glamour and edge of the seat drama but rarely has club football’s greatest showcase looked as good as it did for the 1995 final between Ajax and Milan.
Both teams wore their away strips on a night where little pieces of football kit history were made in Vienna.
Ajax won their fourth European crown thanks to an 85th minute strike from a certain 18 year-old striker by the name of Patrick Kluivert.
Both sides looked splendid on that evening at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion, with Ajax’s patterned polyester shirts and shorts by Umbro and the sleek, silky all-white Milan kit from Lotto.
The 1995 showcase was the first final where sponsors’ logos were allowed to be shown on team’s shirts meaning that Dutch bank ABN AMRO’s name could be displayed in its unorthodox vertical position down the left hand side of Umbro’s design.
This was also the first European Cup final to see players’ names on the back of their shirts, and the first to see the Champions League star-ball logo featured on the sleeves of each side’s tops.
Meanwhile, this was also the first final to be aired by a private company rather than the European Broadcasting Union.
Altogether, it was almost as if UEFA had suddenly woken up to the commercial value of their showcase club competition.
Following a club tradition for European finals, defending champions Milan, were resplendent in all-white outfit under Fabio Capello, with their line-up of legends reading like a blessing from Father Dougal Maguire:
“Maldini, Baresi, Costacurta, Albertini, Donadoni.”
Add to those star names Marcel Desailly, Zvonimir Boban, and the one-time most expensive player in the world in substitute Gigi Lentini; and you had an A-list AC Milan side.
Pitted against that experienced Milan side were Louis van Gaal‘s youthful Ajax, a team educated in the Amsterdam club’s fabled finishing school with an average age of just 23.
Dwell on that for a moment and consider whether any of this lot ever had a career in the game . . .
Edwin van der Sar
Michael Reiziger, Danny Blind (c), Frank de Boer
Frank Rijkaard, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf,
Marc Overmars, Ronald de Boer, Finidi George,
Subs: Patrick Kluivert and Nwankwo Kanu.
Milan prefer to wear white in European finals and the Italian club looked like gods in their luxurious Lotto kit.
Along with the red and black details on the collar and cuffs, there was a very subtle shiny geometric pattern to Milan’s shirts that evening, not that cameras picked-up on the detail.
The overall impression was one of grandure and the kits on display added to that spectacle, even if the game itself may not be remembered as a vintage Champions League final.
Umbro’s Ajax design itself became a modern classic with the darkened colour scheme and graphic design details leaving a stunning impression under the floodlights.
We all remember the intricate design which saw Ajax’s badge repeatedly twisted and turned in a deep berry shade of red on top of a navy base colour, but there’s so much more to appreciate with diagonal shadow stripes of Umbro taping across the shirts and a wonderful 90s collar.
The pattern from the shirt was replicated along the bottom of the shorts in what almost looks a like a lacey little sign-off.
The following year’s final saw Juventus beat Ajax on penalties in Rome to deny the young Dutch masters back-to-back titles.
History is written by the winners so our mind’s eye remembers Umbro’s Ajax dark design over Milan’s brilliant white outfit from that night in Vienna, but make no mistake, these are a pair of bona-fide Champions League classics.