On This Day in Football History – 28 May: Messi Torments Man Utd (Again) & Totti Bids Farewell

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel M
Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Sure, more football is heading our way in a couple of weeks time (fingers crossed) but for the time being, all we can do is reminisce.

And with the end of May generally regarded as ‘prime time’ in the footballing calendar with domestic cup and European finals aplenty, there’s no doubting May 28 has provided us with some belting moments in the years gone by.

Let’s take a look, eh…

Brian Clough and Peter TaylorBrian Clough and Peter Taylor
Brian Clough 1980 European Cup Final | Getty Images/Getty Images

As well-known philosopher and part-time boxer Anthony Joshua once put it to the world: the first time was so nice, he had to do it twice.

And that’s exactly what Nottingham Forest did during their Brain Clough-inspired pomp at the end of the 70s.

After Trevor Francis had scored the only goal in the 1979 final against Malmo, Forest returned to defend their European Cup crown in Madrid the following year, as a formidable Hamburg side (featuring two-time Ballon d’Or winner Kevin Keegan) stood in their way.

And once again, a single strike would do it for Clough’s men. John Robertson’s coolly taken strike from outside the area proved enough as the English outfit held onto their slender lead for the best part of 70 minutes.

UEFA Champions League"Real Madrid v Manchester City FC"UEFA Champions League"Real Madrid v Manchester City FC"
Kyle Walker is celebrating his 30th birthday today | ANP Sport/Getty Images

Shock horror! Footballers were born on 28 May, with Kyle Walker emerging into the world in 1990.

The Sheffield-born Walker would enjoy the entirety of his youth career at local club Sheffield United before earning his big break in 2009 with a switch to Tottenham.

And following a stellar eight-year spell which saw him evolve into one of the Premier League’s supreme full-backs under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino, the electric Walker moved onto Manchester City in 2017 for a then world-record fee paid for a defender (£50m).

The England international isn’t the only star with a 28 May birthday, however; City teammates John Stones (1994) and Phil Foden (2000) along with Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette (1991) are other notable names.

Champions League - Ajax v AC MilanChampions League - Ajax v AC Milan
Champions League – Ajax v AC Milan | VI-Images/Getty Images

Louis van Gaal’s interpretation of ‘Total Football’ saw an exuberant Ajax side take Europe by storm in 1994/95.

Typically lining up in a unique 3-1-2-3, the Dutch side had the ultimate balance of youth and experience. Frank Rijkaard was complemented by young guns Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf in midfield, while Finnish trequartista Jari Litmanen was the star. The heartbeat of the side.

A Patrick Kluivert toe-poke saw van Gaal’s men/boys edge past that Milan backline in the Champions League final on May 24, before they wrapped up an unbeaten Eredivisie campaign with a 3-1 victory over FC Twente four days later.

They remain the only side to win the league and Champions League in the same season without tasting defeat. Take that Arsenal…

Captain Paolo Maldini if Milan lifts the trophyCaptain Paolo Maldini if Milan lifts the trophy
Captain Paolo Maldini Milan lifts the Champions League trophy | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Out of all the Champions League finals re-watched during lockdown, I can assure you the 2003 iteration between Italy’s two supreme outfits makes up a tiny percentage.

Despite the wealth of attacking talent on show, including Alessandro Del Piero, Andriy Shevchenko and Rui Costa, the defences emphatically prevailed as the 120-minute contest ended a stalemate.

The quality of the shootout was fitting of the encounter, as only five of the ten penalties were converted. Shevchenko, however, kept his cool to send Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way and hand the Rossoneri their sixth Champions League crown.

The Barcelona players celebrate with boss Pep Guardiola | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Despite Pep Guardiola’s best efforts to downplay the performance, Barcelona’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final was the pinnacle of the Catalan’s philosophy.

Barça tormented Fergie’s title-winners from start to finish, making the Red Devils look nothing short of 11 players who’d won a competition to play on club football’s grandest stage.

Although Wayne Rooney almost immediately cancelled out Pedro’s early opener, sublime second-half strikes from Lionel Messi and David Villa wrapped up one of the most dominant final performances we’ve ever seen.

Read more about that game here…

Painful grammatical errors aside, Eden Hazard confirming his switch to Chelsea – then Champions of Europe – was pretty great.

Joining for a £32m fee, the Belgian would go on to cement himself as one of the finest foreign exports to strut their stuff on Premier League shores. During a seven-year spell in west London, Hazard would score 85 league goals, rack up six major honours and secure the PFA Player of the Year for his majestic 2014/15 campaign.

Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning spot-kick in the shootout | Clive Mason/Getty Images

A repeat of the 2014 final took place two years later in Milan after both Madrid outfits sneaked through their semi-final ties.

Sergio Ramos, who bagged the crucial equaliser in Lisbon, bundled over the opener, before Antoine Griezmann spurned a glorious opportunity to restore parity with a penalty early in the second period. Yannick Carrasco, however, would eventually draw Atleti level with ten minutes to go and after the Belgian celebrated in the most audacious of fashions with his girlfriend, the Madrid pair headed for penalties.

Juanfran snapped the perfect start to the shootout as his effort cannoned off the post, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to step up and crash home Los Blancos’ winning spot-kick.

“I have five Champions Leagues, these guys [Atletico] zero.”

Francesco TottiFrancesco Totti
AS Roma v Genoa CFC – Serie A | Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Over 24 years, 786 games and 307 goals on from his Roma debut away at Brescia, on this day in 2017 we saw L’Ottavo Re di Roma (the Eighth King of Rome) bid farewell to his kingdom.

Described as a ‘phenomenon’ by Messi, an ‘artist’ in the eyes of Michel Platini and Carlo Ancelotti’s only regret in management, the graceful golden boy established himself as one of his generation’s greatest.

His final appearance for the Giallorossi came as a substitute in a 3-2 victory over Genoa. Totti, who had captured the hearts and minds of the Italian capital, was greeted with a raucous reception, as a teary Olimpico said goodbye to an icon.