Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben could scarcely believe it after scoring the winning goal against Borussia Dortmund in the 2012/13 Klassiker UEFA Champions League final at Wembley. - © imago/Camera 4
Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben could scarcely believe it after scoring the winning goal against Borussia Dortmund in the 2012/13 Klassiker UEFA Champions League final at Wembley. - © imago/Camera 4

Der Klassiker: Remembering the 2013 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund


Colour and fanfare in London, last-minute drama at Wembley. Robben and Ribery, Reus and Lewandowski, Klopp vs. Heynckes. The first all-German final in the UEFA Champions League between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund didn’t disappoint.

After the 2023/24 quarter-final and semi-final draws for the UEFA Champions League opened up a route to Bayern and Dortmund facing each other in the showpiece, revisits the 2013 decider at Wembley - which also holds this season's final - between the two German giants…

Watch: Bayern vs. Dortmund - Legends reunited

The build-up: Borussia Dortmund

Jürgen Klopp and Dortmund had just relinquished their two-year stranglehold on the Bundesliga, coming up second best to Bayern – the familiar foe they themselves had deposed in 2011. The Champions League final offered a chance of redemption, and what would have been the crowning achievement of Klopp's whirlwind tenure.

Klopp had arrived in Dortmund in 2008, although the 1997 European champions actually had a stroke of Mainz misfortune to thank. The charismatic German’s failure to guide the 05ers back into the Bundesliga – missing out on the final day of the season – led to him linking up with a Dortmund side who had finished on 40 points and in 13th place in the top flight.

By 2013, his stylish side had not only ended BVB’s nine-year wait for a Bundesliga title. They had backed that up with a league and cup double in 2011/12, holding their nerve in a thrilling title race before thrashing Bayern 5-2 in the DFB Cup final.

Borussia Dortmund head coach Jürgen Klopp was in jubilant form for much of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League campaign. - imago sportfotodienst

In their European campaign in the 2012/13 season, BVB had topped their group ahead of Real Madrid – winning 2-1 at home to Jose Mourinho’s team thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski and Marcel Schmelzer. In the semi-final the sides met again, when Lewandowski produced one of the best performances ever seen in the Champions League. In a 4-1 first-leg win in Dortmund, the Pole became the first man ever to score four goals against Real, and only the second to net four in a semi-final.

“That was like Robin Hood taking from the rich,” was how an ecstatic Klopp summed up Dortmund’s performance. “The goals were incredible – the third is worth every single cent of what the TV channels pay for the rights.”

Dortmund conceded twice late on to lose the second leg 2-0 in Madrid, and their CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke revealed afterwards that he couldn’t watch a nervy denouement. There were five long minutes of injury-time, and he knew that another goal for Real would have seen them through on away goals.

“I went to the toilet for the last minutes, locked myself in, covered my ears and looked at my watch,” Watzke told the Dortmund website. “I had all kinds of thoughts going through my head.”

Current Barcelona striker starred for Borussia Dortmund by scoring four goals in their 2012/13 UEFA Champions League semi-final win over Real Madrid. - imago images / Mika Volkmann

The relief was evident, but coming into the final Dortmund still had a couple of issues. Ahead of the last-four tie, Mario Götze had stunned the club by informing that he had decided to join Bayern for the following season. “It was like a heart attack,” Klopp told The Guardian ahead of the final, when asked how much of a shock the news was.

More bad news was to follow. Götze, who had 16 goals and 20 assists in 2012/13, had gone off in the second leg of the semi-final. He would miss the game at Wembley due to a hamstring tear. Right-back Lukasz Piszczek postponed hip surgery to play, while Germany centre-back Mats Hummels also had a scare in the lead up. The ankle injury he picked up in Dortmund’s final league game, however, was not as bad as first feared. “I’m confident I’ll be ready for the final,” the former, future and then again former Bayern defender had said.

The build-up: Bayern Munich

While Klopp was giving Europe a taste of what Germany had already become accustomed to, back home Bayern were reasserting their authority on the Bundesliga under Jupp Heynckes. They sealed the title with six games to spare thanks to a Bastian Schweinsteiger goal against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bayern, of course, had suffered incredible heartbreak a year previously, finishing as runners-up to Dortmund in the league and cup as well as to Chelsea – on home soil in Munich – in the Champions League decider.

Bayern Munich attacker Thomas Müller left Barcelona for dead in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League semi-final. - imago/Laci Perenyi

With the pain of that penalty defeat spurring them on, Bayern breezed through the Champions League group stage in 2012/13, and made light work of Juventus in the quarter-finals too – winning 2-0 home and away.

Heynckes’ men then laid down an emphatic marker in the semi-final, beating Lionel Messi’s Barcelona 4-0 at home and 3-0 away. Bayern poster boy Thomas Müller got three goals in the tie, while the outstanding Arjen Robben also scored in both legs. Like Robben, Franck Ribery was devastating on the wing, and Javi Martinez and Schweinsteiger were dominant in central midfield.

“Bayern are the best team we have played for a long time,” Barca full-back Dani Alves admitted after the first leg.

Three weeks before the final, Bayern travelled to Dortmund in what turned out to be an ill-tempered Bundesliga meeting. There was little resting on the game since Bayern were already champions and Dortmund were almost certain to finish second.

Watch: Der Klassiker explained by Tifo Football

With the Götze transfer still fresh news, though, there was still plenty of needle in the game as well as arguments on the touchline. Kevin Großkreutz and Mario Gomez scored, Lewandowski had a penalty saved by Manuel Neuer, and Bayern right-back Rafinha was red carded for an elbow on Jakub Blaszczykowski.

“A game against Dortmund, regardless of where it is, is never a friendly game,” Neuer said afterwards.

The final

Then came the showdown that everyone had been talking about – the Bundesliga's top two in a winner-takes-all encounter. Dortmund were appearing in their first final since beating Juventus in 1997, while Bayern were looking to lift the trophy for the first time since 2001.

“I am fortunate,” Heynckes said before the game. “I have won the Champions League before when I was [head coach] at Real Madrid. For the players in our squad who are 28 and over, tomorrow could be the crowning moment of their entire careers.”

Dortmund's gung-ho start to the game had Bayern on the back foot, with Lewandowski's strike from range forcing a fingertip save from Neuer. The Germany number one was called on again moments later, somehow getting a foot to Blazczykowski's close-range volley. Dortmund seemed relentless, but Neuer was at his unwavering best between the Bayern posts, gobbling up quick-fire efforts from Marco Reus and Sven Bender.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (l.) was at his brilliant best to deny Robert Lewandowski (r.) in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League final. - imago sportfotodienst

Twenty minutes had passed before Bayern finally woke from their slumber as Robben found Mario Mandzukic, whose header brought the best out of BVB goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. Martinez directed the ensuing corner over the bar and – with Klopp’s side rocking – Robben was played through but couldn’t lift his effort past the spread-eagled Weidenfeller.

Neuer saved at the feet of Lewandowski with ten minutes to go until the break, before Robben smashed a ball into the face of Dortmund captain Weidenfeller from close range towards the end of a pulsating first half.

Striker Mandzukic couldn’t turn in a header after the restart, but Bayern eventually got the opening goal on the hour mark. Ribery’s slide-rule pass found Robben, who rounded Weidenfeller before rolling the ball across goal for Mandzukic to tap home his third Champions League goal of the season.

Seven minutes later, though, Dante’s clumsy challenge on Reus sent the Dortmund attacker tumbling in the box. Midfielder Ilkay Gündogan calmly sent Neuer the wrong way from the penalty spot to level the game.

Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben finally beat Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller with a minute to play at Wembley. - imago sportfotodienst

The game was on a knife edge, but with 18 minutes to go Bayern thought for a moment that they were back in front. Müller broke free and glided past Weidenfeller on the right of the area, only for Neven Subotic to make a heroic goalline clearance at the feet of Robben. Dortmund's goalkeeper cut a relieved figure, and he then kept out two stinging drives from David Alaba and Schweinsteiger.

Bayern, though, summoned one final show of strength with a minute of normal time to play. Robben ran on to Ribery’s back heel and burst past Hummels before slotting past Weidenfeller.

"The ball rolled over the line really slowly, which made the goal even more beautiful,” Robben told ESPN FC.

The red half of Wembley went wild, as Bayern – having come up just short in 2010 and 2012 – were European champions for a fifth time.

Watch: Bayern’s treble-winning season

The aftermath

Bayern recovered to beat VfB Stuttgart in the DFB Cup a few days later, completing a historic treble of titles. That result also added weight to Heynckes’ opinion that the Champions League victory had been reward for a remarkably consistent season. The 68-year-old was in his final year in charge – soon to be replaced by Pep Guardiola – but he noted what the win meant to senior players like club captain Philipp Lahm.

“My team was determined to win this final,” the former West Germany striker said. “They had to. If you look at the ages of players like Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, it is time for them to win something like this. It is the honour that until now has passed them by.

“I was particularly pleased for Arjen Robben too, because last year he was a tragic figure. We had to make sure he was ready for this game, and he was.”

For Robben, who had missed a penalty in a crucial defeat against Dortmund in the 2011/12 title race – as well as in extra-time of the Champions League final against Chelsea – it was particularly sweet.

“It was like a fairy tale — winning the final at Wembley and scoring in the last minute,” he told The New York Times. “It can’t get any better.”

Dutch winger Arjen Robben was delighted to bounce back and win the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League with Bayern Munich after losing to Chelsea a year earlier. He also won the Bundesliga eight times with the record German champions. - 2013 AFP

Klopp would eventually get his hands on the Champions League trophy – at the third attempt – when Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur in the 2018/19 final. Hummels and Lewandowski ultimately followed Götze to Bayern, with the Pole becoming a seven-time Bundesliga top goalscorer and breaking Gerd Müller's record for most goals in a Bundesliga season in 2020/21 with 41 strikes. European defences breathed a sigh of relief when Robben and Ribery called time on their Bayern careers in the summer of 2019, but the Munich club soon left the rest of the continent trailing once more. 

Five members of the 2013 Champions League winning squad - David Alaba, Javi Martinez, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Jerome Boateng - would feature in the 2020 Champions League final as Bayern lifted Europe's most coveted club trophy again with a 1-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain

Mandzukic went on to fire Croatia to the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, while Neuer, Großkreutz, Hummels, Schweinsteiger, Müller, Lahm, and Weidenfeller were all part of the Germany squad that won the 2014 edition in Brazil. Götze, of course, scored the extra-time winner against Argentina in the final.

All of them, though, will also have strong memories of the part they played during a remarkable Champions League campaign, as well as a dramatic night in London on 25 May 2013.