By the end of May, if the football season hasn’t finished already, it’s normally wrapping up.
2020 aside, domestic competitions have usually reached their conclusion by this point in the year, with only the odd outstanding final left to contest.
Don’t let the dearth of actual football convince you that 31 May is an uneventful day in the history of the sport we all love, however. Between the European finals, high-profile birthdays and managerial appointments that changed the game, we’ve got plenty to discuss.
So let’s get into it.
Neste dia em 1961, o Benfica derrotava o Barcelona por 3-2 e sagrava-se campeão europeu pela primeira vez na história. pic.twitter.com/Q0DLn7ebSD
— Militância Benfiquista (@1904Militancia) May 30, 2020
Chances are you don’t remember a time when Benfica were the dominant force in European football. Chances are you also don’t remember a time before Barcelona had ever won a European Cup, and had just the eight league titles to their name.
That was the situation heading into the sixth-ever European Cup final, however, as Bela Guttman’s Portuguese champions unknowingly kicked off a mythical dynasty – if also a short-lived one – by edging out Barça on the biggest stage of them all.
A thrilling end to end final saw Benfica emerge victorious by three goals to two, as they won the first of two successive finals.
You can watch the full 90 minutes here, if you’ve got nothing better to do with your Sunday.
#OTD in 1972… ?
✓ Total football in EC 1 final
✓ Two goals @JohanCruijff
✓ Best of Europe – 2nd time in a row pic.twitter.com/JG8CqgwVR9
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) May 31, 2020
By the dawn of the 1970s, Benfica’s flickering dominance had waned, and it was Ajax’s time to shine.
Inspired by the legendary Johan Cruyff, the Dutch giants were slap bang in the middle of the most successful period in their history, and brushed aside Inter 2-0 to claim the second of three straight European Cups.
Cruyff, naturally, scored both goals, including a towering header for number two, because he could do literally anything with a football.
?? Is there a better sound than the ball hitting the bar before going in? ?
?? Happy birthday, Marco Reus ?@DFB_Team | @DFB_Team_EN | @woodyinho pic.twitter.com/21mCFgdUt3
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) May 31, 2020
Marco Reus’ unvacillating loyalty to Borussia Dortmund means he may never be spoken about in the same terms as Robert Lewandowski, or even Germany teammate Thomas Muller.
Unlike his more esteemed contemporaries, Reus is yet to win a league title, but with more than 200 goal involvements in 289 appearances so far, you won’t find a more consistent forward in his generation.
The manner in which he has recovered from an injury-hit two-year spell to re-establish himself as one of the best in the business has only furthered his already unbreakable bond with the BVB fanbase, who have flooded social media to wish him a very happy 31st.
Happy Birthday, Marco Reus ?
Our Captain, our Legend ? pic.twitter.com/Cvu01VPjZA
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) May 31, 2020
Happy Birthday ??? @woodyinho Reus pic.twitter.com/0DIaguYfgL
— Md Yousuf (@MdYousuf544754) May 31, 2020
????? ???? ??? ?????????? @woodyinho!
the legend turns 31 on may 31st. Im just here to say to u enjoy your birthday. we, the fans who stan the most amazing captain of all the time and a wonderful human, wish you all the best. Ich liebe dich??? pic.twitter.com/bkQm8ph3o3
— ???? ? #reusday (@reusIand) May 31, 2020
All the best, Woody!
On this day in 2009, Paolo Maldini played his last football match & goes down as the most capped Milan player ever…
Grazie Capitano ❤️? pic.twitter.com/zeIa3Ir9db
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) May 31, 2020
Seven league titles, five European cups, and more appearances than any other player in your boyhood club’s history.
You’d probably take that at the outset, wouldn’t you?
It’s not very often you can talk about a left-back as one of the most complete players ever, but Milan legend Maldini had it all; killer defensive instincts, composure on the ball, mind-bending dribbling ability and the capacity to score a key goal or 30.
It’s been 11 years since the coolest man to ever play football pulled on a red and black shirt for the last time to face Fiorentina; a heartbreaking day for Italian sport, but one that will be celebrated forever.
We are delighted to confirm the arrival of @Nuno as the club’s new Head Coach. #WelcomeNuno?? pic.twitter.com/Tw0VeL7SPE
— Wolves (@Wolves) May 31, 2017
What a difference three years has made at Wolves.
Since 2017, they have transformed from a bog standard, mid-table, Championship no mark, into one of the best Premier League teams not called Liverpool, and a genuine contender for the Europa League.
No one can take more credit for their explosive emergence than Nuno Espirito Santo, their soft-spoken, fearsome, bushy-bearded, definitely-knows-some-form-of-karate leader, who was appointed exactly three years ago today.
?? ???? ??? | 31st May 2017
Nuno was announced as Wolves manager.
1st in Championship
⬆️ Promoted to PL
7th in PL
✅ Europa League qualification
Third season (so far):
6th in PL
✅ Round of 16 Europa League pic.twitter.com/fmX0Pt8fFB
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) May 31, 2020
Who would have thought goalkeepers make good managers?
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