Real Madrid hero Mijatovic: Sorry Juventus fans – my Champions League winner wasn’t offside!

The Bianconeri faithful still maintain that the former striker’s Champions League final winner should not have stood – but he still says otherwise


Nineteen years may have passed but Predrag Mijatovic’s memories of his Champions League-winning goal against Juventus are as vivid as ever.

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Roberto Carlos’s deflected shot breaking for him inside the six-yard box. The deft first touch to take the ball away from the scrambling Angelo Peruzzi. A second to steady himself. And a third to guide the ball past Paolo Montero on the line.

“It was the greatest moment of my professional career,” he enthuses in an exclusive interview with Goal. “An immense and unforgettable joy.”

Predrag Mijatovic Real Madrid Juventus 1998 Champions League final

Juve fans remember it well, too, albeit only because they are adamant that Mijatovic was in an offside position when Carlos struck the ball.

“No, it wasn’t offside!” insists Mijatovic. “And that’s proven by the fact that none of the Juve players protested.”

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Whatever the truth, Madrid merited what was their seventh European Cup triumph – but, crucially, their first in 32 years, a pivotal moment in the club re-establishing themselves among the continent’s elite.

It was also a significant game for Juve, as it was their second consecutive defeat in the Champions League final, with Marcello Lippi’s men having been upset by Borussia Dortmund in Munich just 12 months previously.

The Bianconeri have lost another two finals in the interim (2003 & 2015). On Saturday, they will attempt to end their 21-year wait for a European crown when they face Mijatovic’s beloved Madrid in Cardiff.

Predrag Mijatovic Real Madrid Juventus PS

Predrag Mijatovic Real Madrid Juventus 1998 Champions League

Real are the reigning Spanish and European champions this time around – a very different story to when they went into their 1998 meeting with Juve on the back of a dismal Liga campaign – but the former Yugoslavia international holds their Italian opponents in the highest esteem.

“Both sides are at the very top level and both are playing well,” he says. “The Spaniards are used to playing and winning finals. They have so much experience and they can overcome any obstacle.

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“However, Allegri’s boys are strong, complete in every department, tactically and technically of the highest level.

“The defence is always so solid but they also have players who can decide a game in an instant.”

Mijatovic believes that Gonzalo Higuain is one such player. He always has done, right from the time when, as Real’s former director of football, he signed the Argentine attacker from River Plate in 2007.

Predrag Mijatovic Real Madrid

“Yes, it was I who brought him to Madrid,” Mijatovic reminisces. “I know him very well as a player.

“But none of us are only discovering his qualities today. He’s a forward of the highest quality and he will have a big advantage in Cardiff in that he knows some of Real’s defenders very well indeed.

“But I also like Paulo Dybala. He has enormous talent and, against Barcelona in Turin in the quarter-finals, he played an incredible game.

“He’s doing all the right things at the moment and he can still improve.”

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When it comes to Juve’s squad, though, there is one player that Mijatovic rates above all others, one who is hoping to become a European champion for the first time.

“Gigi Buffon is a great champion, on and off the field,” he enthuses.

“And this could be the last opportunity for him to get his hands on the Champions League.”

And, as Mijatovic knows, such opportunities do not come around too often. When they do, one has to take them. Such moments – offside or not – can define an entire career.

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