Marseille made French football history on this day, 27 years ago — 26 May, 1993 — as Basile Boli's header against the great AC Milan side of the early 90's made the Ligue 1 side their country's first UEFA Champions League winners.
Marseille had been to the final two years earlier and had been billed as favourites, but had been beaten in a penalty shoot-out by Crvena Zvezda in Bari. They were back — without Chris Waddle and Jean-Pierre Papin, who had been mainstays of their '91 team — this time in Munich and they would step out into the Olympiastadion as underdogs.
Their opponents were a Milan side that featured Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, and even had Papin on the bench. The rossoneri had won the trophy in 1989 and '90 under legendary coach Arrigo Saachi, and would triumph again in 1994 under Fabio Capello, the man who led them in Munich.
But this was to be Marseille's night, not that it was easy.
"The game served as a lesson, because I'd played the final so much in my mind before. I had struggled to sleep, and I didn't have a siesta on the afternoon of the match. I had spent a lot of energy already, and so I gave a lot less on the pitch," said Didier Deschamps, then the 24-year-old OM captain, who admitted the team's goalkeeper had played a key role. "Fabien Barthez kept us in it, they had two or three chances in the first 20 minutes."
Despite boasting Croatian star Alen Boksic, German FIFA World Cup winner Rudi Völler and Abedi Pelé - a '91 final survivor - up front, it was the Marseille backline that was the key to their historic win, and not only because they managed to keep an ultra-talented Milan outfit at arm's length.
Boli: 'I gritted my teeth'
Two minutes before half-time, centre-back Boli — part of a defence that also featured future Milan star and FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO winner Marcel Desailly — rose to meet a Pelé corner to send a glancing header past Sebastiano Rossi and earn himself a place in French football folklore.
Though it almost never happened.
"I felt great, everything was going well. And then after ten minutes, I felt a pain in my thigh," admitted Boli. "I couldn't stand properly on my knee, so I gritted my teeth. "
The pain very nearly overcame the battle-hardened France international, but Marseille's tempestuous president Bernard Tapie forbade coach Raymond Goethals to bring Boli off.
"I stopped Goethals substituting Boli. He was injured, there was eight minutes to go until half-time, but I stopped him coming off by using my walkie-talkie up in the stands," said Tapie. "I prefer to have a Boli not at 100 per cent than to play without him. Völler said to Raymond to take Basile off, but he replied, 'That other idiot doesn't want me to!'"
"We hadn't really worked on it, it was the end of the season, things like that just come automatically," said Deschamps of the set-piece that brought OM 'the cup with big ears'.
"We knew there was still 45 minutes to go, but we knew we had the advantage. We focussed on just defending well."
They did just that for the second half, ensuring a welcome to top all welcomes when they returned triumphant to Marseille.
"It was a great moment. I was fortunate enough to win it later in my career too, but it didn't have the same flavour," said Deschamps, who also won the Champions League in 1995-96 with Juventus. "It's marvellous in Marseille when you win a trophy."
"It was a childhood dream to play in the European Cup," added Boli. "But to win it, that stays with you for life."