Only Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben were missing. Having just unfurled a huge FCB banner on the halfway line, the duo were gazing up into the London night sky. They had been there in 2010 and 2012 to witness at first-hand how Internazionale Milano and Chelsea FC celebrated gaining possession of the 'big-eared cup.' Now, it was their turn.
“I haven’t forgotten what happened last year,” said Robben. “That was a huge disappointment. My whole career didn’t flash through my mind, just a few special moments - and this is absolutely incredible.” The Dutch winger’s classy 89th-minute strike sealed Bayern’s win, leaving Dortmund no time to regroup and respond, as Chelsea had done after going behind in the 83rd minute in Munich last year.
Heynckes among the greats
Head coach Jupp Heynckes was delighted that the discussion over a lack of a major European title had been stubbed out. “I’m incredibly pleased for the players of Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Robben and Ribery’s generation,” said the 68-year-old. “The senior players know that, sooner or later, time runs out for them to win titles like this, and you don’t get into the final every year.”
For the veteran tactician himself, it is the second Champions League triumph after 1998, when he led Real Madrid CF to the title against Juventus in Amsterdam. Heynckes thus joins Ottmar Hitzfeld, Jose Mourinho and Ernst Happel in an elite group of coaches to have won the trophy with two different clubs.
Reason enough, should one be needed, for Schweinsteiger to lavish his boss with particular praise. “It’s a dream come true to win this title, especially with this club,” said the 98-time Germany international. “We’ve played a sensational season. The coach has to take the most credit for it all. He really adapts to developments in the game and leads the way for the rest of the team.”
Bayern's fifth ascent to the top of the European pile after 1974, 1975, 1976 and 2001 was a hard day's work, though. In the opening stages in particular, Dortmund really got at the record German champions. “The pressure was immense,” said captain Philipp Lahm. “When you lose two finals and then play against German opposition, it’s gigantic.”
But the German record champs held their nerve and gradually found their way into the contest. By the end, they were the far fresher side, letting the ball do the work for them and driving their opponents even closer to exhaustion chasing after it. The strain was only evident once the final whistle sounded. “I’m absolutely knackered,” said Thomas Müller. "I’m drained. I’ve got cramp left and right. It was an intense game and there was a lot of pressure out there.”
Sleepless night - job still to finish
They still had enough energy in the tank to celebrate into the night, however. At the banquet inside the luxurious Grosvenor House hotel, Bayern’s players continued to dance and leap around in front of 1,800 invited guests. Schweinsteiger led the way, and really let himself go. “Drink lots!“ he yelled. "Night will turn to day and we can head home without even sleeping.”
There, it will be time to swiftly refocus on the last assignment in this extraordinary season as Bayern take on VfB Stuttgart in the final of the DFB Cup in Berlin this coming weekend. The first treble in the history of German football is within touching distance and the feeling in the Bayern camp is unanimous: “We desperately want it.”
The domestic trophy may not quite measure up to old big ears in terms of size or weight, but when Saturday comes, Bayern will certainly not turn down the chance of another dance.
Michael Reis reporting from London / adapted by Ben Gladwell