The Ghanaian tells Goal that Jupp Heynckes' side can only be classed as a truly great side if they can bounce back from two showpiece defeats in three seasons
By Juliet Bawuah
Samuel Kuffour can relate to the situation Bayern Munich find themselves in this weekend. In 1999 he unwittingly became the symbol of the Bavarians' agonising, last-minute defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League final.
"Everybody couldn't believe what had just happened. It was a very, very sad moment," he says of the atmosphere in the dressing room after the clash at Camp Nou.
Last season, of course, a late set-piece goal helped Chelsea snatch the trophy from Bayern’s grasp just as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s had done 13 years previous. For Kuffour, though, the story ended in triumph as Bayern returned to lift the trophy in 2001, so the former defender is well placed to offer insight into the emotions affecting Jupp Heynckes’ side ahead of their clash with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Goal spoke exclusively to the popular Ghanaian earlier this week.
|BAYERN'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINALS
| 1999 - HEARTBREAK VS MAN UNITED
|One of the most iconic European finals in recent memory, Manchester United's two stoppage-time goals turned around what was looking to be a simple 1-0 victory to the Germans.|
| 2001 - VICTORY OVER VALENCIA
|Two years later, it was Bayern's turn to break hearts as they beat Valencia after extra-time, with the scores locked at 1-1, on penalties. An excellent bounce back from Bayern, whose squad still had the spine from the 1999 defeat.|
| 2010 - DEFEAT TO INTER
|Jose Mourinho's Inter romped to a 2-0 victory to condemn Bayern to another Champions League final defeat three years ago. Two goals from Diego Milito secured the win for the Italian giants at the Santiago Bernabeu.|
| 2012 - CONQUERED BY CHELSEA
|Their most recent European final defeat and still the most sore - defeat on home turf at the Allianz Arena was a shock result, especially considering Bayern had created far more chances than the Blues. But profligacy cost the Bavarians, who were ultimately beaten on penalties.|
"I have never been able to bring myself to watch the game.
"When we played against Manchester United they had Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole and if you kept them quiet that was the end of Manchester United. We did that and had more possession and more opportunities than Manchester United, but it was their day and that's why they won. They had luck on their side.
"Lothar Matthaus came to my room a night before the final and said to me if we handle Cole and Yorke then we have won this game. But they took him off in the 80th minute. People were asking why Matthaus went out in the 80th minute but that was our plan. He was getting old at that time. He was 38. So we brought in Thorsten Fink to come on and hold the midfield.
"And things didn't go as planned. But personally, for me, if I were Matthaus I would have played that game until the last drop of my blood was spent because it was a Champions League final and everyone wants to get the glory. Him staying on the field would have changed our game."
What psychological effect could losing last season’s final have on the current Bayern team going into this match?
"All the players needed against Chelsea was character to win that final. It is virtually the same squad that played last season. Losing the Champions League final on home soil is a painful thing and it is now time for them to talk to each other and believe they can win.
"Everybody can see now is their time. I was in Munich when they won the Bundesliga a few weeks ago together with so many former players and I think that was the inspiration the players need now. We have been talking to them.
"Everybody can see now is their time. When you look at the balance of the team they are stronger than any club in Europe. The whole team is solid with [Franck] Ribery and [Arjen] Robben on fire. What they have to do is not to underrate Dortmund as anything can happen in a final. But I tip Bayern to beat Dortmund by two goals."
Bayern team conceded a last-minute set-piece to Chelsea in the final last year - is this a weak spot for Dortmund to exploit?
"I think the concentration needs to be higher from the Bayern defenders. But I spoke to Jerome Boateng and he is very confident to play against [Robert] Lewandowski and now they have Dante from Brazil who has been solid this season.
"I also really love to see [David] Alaba playing. Last season he missed the final and I think it will be a huge opportunity for him to play - he has great potential."
You won the final through a penalty shoot-out in 2001 against Valencia - what does it take to triumph on spot kicks?
"The coach came to me before the penalties and asked me if I want to kick the first penalty among the five and I said no.
"I remember me and Bixente Lizarazu ran away and told the coach: "Let the Germans kick. Afterwards we will see what happens. Let them take the penalties and I will pray behind them."
"I'm very good at penalty taking but in this shoot-out I was hiding away from taking one. Especially in the final, against Valencia, anything can happen.
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There is a culture of success at Bayern. How badly do the defeats in European finals hurt the club, especially last season on home soil?
"It's been a hard time for the fans who love the club so much. Just before we came on the field to face Valencia in 2001, [Bayern veteran Stefan] Effenberg told us to go out there and fight for the people of Bavaria. Losing in four finals in '87, '99, 2010 and 2012 hasn't been easy. This time they have to win, whatever it takes, because they can't look back again and keep losing finals. If they win everyone will say they deserved to win because they have beaten Barcelona 7-0 and beaten Juventus 4-0."
What are the expectations on this Bayern team now?
"The whole season has been amazing. There is a positive feeling in that camp and I give credit to Jupp Heynckes who has done an extraordinary job with this squad and taken German football to the next level.
"Winning the league 25 points ahead of Dortmund is a record in the Bundesliga. In our time it was 15 points. They now have the cup final to play plus this Champions League so it shows how the team has been reorganised after the shock defeat against Chelsea
"I believe that dominating continental football is a realistic dream with Pep Guardiola coming in. He is one of the best coaches in the world. I think Guardiola is going to do the same with Bayern [as he did at Barca] and we will see the improvement.
"Bayern have also bought Mario Gotze and it is likely they could land Lewandowski. They are going to be at the top for a very long time. Bayern are going to win the league next season and possibly get to the final of Champions League again."
How can they prove they are better than the team of 2001?
"For now they are not better than the 2001 squad. They have to win the Champions League first. The Champions League is the ultimate in European football and the 2001 team won it. During our run we beat Barcelona 2-1 so, as they beat them 7-0, it is a great achievement but they have to get their hands on the trophy before we can start talking about them being better than us.
"The 2001 squad won the Bundesliga and Champions League making it a double, so if they win Champions League and DFB-Pokal to add to their league title then that will make them treble winners. I can say after that they are better than us."