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Saint-Denis was blaugrana on a Wednesday night fourteen years ago, the month of May 2006 being one of the most prolific in Barça's history. The team, then coached by the Dutchman Frank Rijkaard, had won the league title on May 3 against Celta in Balaídos, thereby achieving a second consecutive domestic championship, and had the opportunity to win the second Champions League in the history of the club. Paris would host the final and Arsenal were the opponents, with striker Thierry Henry - a player who would later join Barça - as the main offensive danger. Things didn't start well, but fourteen years after Wembley 1992, Barça became European champions again, winning the double in the process.
Werder Bremen, Udinese and Panathinaikos - in the group stage -, Chelsea - in the round of 16 -, Benfica -in the quarterfinals -, AC Milan - in the semifinal - and Arsenal - in the final - were all beaten in that edition of the Champions League. Thousands of Barça fans traveled to the French capital, and even though Xavi Hernández and Leo Messi were both missing due to injury, the team overcame that adversity to win on that Wednesday night.
The starting eleven that played Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League final
A comeback win
It was Barça's fifth appearance in a Champions League final and was an opportunity to forget the last loss, in Athens against AC Milan (1994). The Gunners went ahead in the final stretch of the first half, thanks to a header by Sol Campbell, and remained ahead until 13 minutes from time despite only having 10 players - after Jens Lehmann had been sent off - and after the referee had also ruled out a Ludovic Giuly goal. It was a difficult final for Barça, but a goal by Samuel Eto'o in the 77th minute and another by Juliano Belletti in the 81st, both from an assist by Henrik Larsson, handed the title to the blaugranes.
The team celebrates Belletti's goal, which saw Barça ahead 2-1
The start of a new world paradigm
The final in Paris was not only the only consequence of a great year, but the beginning of a cycle that led Barça to achieving three more Champions League titles in nine years: Rome (2009), London (2011) and Berlin (2015), in addition to four semi-finals in which the blaugranes were defeated.
The win put Barça back on the front page of European and world football, and demonstrated that the team could win by playing a very particular style, a unique methodology that came from the time of Johan Cruyff's Dream Team.
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