The top 10 final-day showdowns in European history

David Beckham’s glorious Real Madrid swansong, Ronaldo’s tears at Inter Milan (and don’t forget Agueroooooo!)… 15 years on from ‘Helicopter Sunday’ seeing Rangers snatch the league from Celtic, the most dramatic final-day title wins in European history

  • Celtic conceded twice in the dying moments in 2005 to hand Rangers the title
  • But there have been many other dramatic final day showdowns across Europe
  • David Beckham’s Real Madrid had to come from behind to win LaLiga
  • But Inter Milan’s Ronaldo was left empty handed after final day loss in 2002 
  • Arguably England’s most dramatic encounter featured Sergio Aguero’s heroics 

It’s the time of year where usually in some corner of Europe we can expect to see a dramatic final day title decider. 

One of the greatest of them all came 15 years ago today when Rangers snatched the title from Celtic’s grasp in dramatic fashion in what is now famously known as ‘Helicopter Sunday’.

But how does it compare against other famous day finales where the title seemed to go on a country tour before landing at its final destination? Sportsmail looks as the greatest final day showdowns in Europe where you didn’t know where to keep your eyes. 

Rangers snatched the title away from Celtic in dramatic fashion in the 2004-05 season

It appears some things never change in Spanish football. After a close title battle between Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid throughout the year, the final day in 1992 came down between the former two, with Real a point ahead.

With just two points awarded for a win Barca needed to defeat Atletic Bilbao, while hoping relegation threatened Tenerife at home could deny Real victory.

With an equal head-to-head record with their rivals, goal difference was in Barca’s favour heading into the final day should the top two finish level on points.

Despite Barca winning 2-0 it didn’t look like being a factor when Real also raced out in front away from home by the same scoreline.

Tenerife hit back before the break but Real still looked on course for the title until they collapsed to concede twice with just over 10 minutes to play to hand Barca the crown. A year later they would once again lose against Tenerife with Barca picking up the pieces once more on the final day. 

A Barcelona side featuring Hristo Stoichkov (above) won LaLiga before going on to win the European Cup and complete a double

Stuttgart break Dortmund hearts after Frankfurt choke (1992)

Hard to imagine in the Bayern Munich-dominated world now but there was a time when the Bundesliga was arguably Europe’s best league for serving up final day drama.

Take the 1991-92 season for instance when heading into the final day, Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart went into their last fixtures all level on points.

Frankfurt had the advantage on goal difference but choked against an already relegated Hansa Rostock to lose 2-1 and miss out on a first ever Bundesliga title.

With Stuttgart being held in Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund looked set to capitalise as they led 1-0 over Duisburg. They were just four minutes from the title until Guido Buchwald popped up to head in a Stuttgart winner and hand them just their second Bundesliga crown.

Stuttgart players celebrate winning the 1992 Bundesliga title in the dressing room

Bayern strike in stoppage time (2001)

And yet Stuttgart’s late show may not even be the best Germany has to offer. Heading into the final day of the 2000-01 season a Schalke side chasing a first modern day Bundesliga title had to win against soon to be relegated Unterhaching and hope Bayern Munich lost in Hamburg.

Schalke did their bit. Just. Battling back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to eventually win 5-3. But with Hamburg and Bayern still goalless heading into the final minute, all looked lost.

Then Hamburg scored, prompting wild scenes in Gelsenkirchen with Schalke fans pouring onto the pitch to celebrate.

But with mere seconds left there was a devastating final twist. Bayern won an indirect free-kick, and with a touch laid off to Patrik Andersson he fired home an equaliser to score the only goal of his Bayern career and snatch the title away from Schalke in the most dramatic fashion.

Patrik Andersson (left) celebrates with Owen Hargreaves after his stoppage time goal earned Bayern Munich the 2001 Bundesliga at Schalke’s expense

Ronaldo’s Rome ruin (2002)

The script was in place. Ronaldo’s magic would finally capture a domestic trophy at Inter Milan by helping them win the Italian top flight for the first time since 1989.

Inter went into the final day top of Serie A but they were far from nailed on to win the title. They were just one point ahead of Juventus and two ahead of defending champions Roma.

They would travel to the Stadio Olimpico too in their last game, not to face Roma but their main rivals Lazio. However with Lazio needing a win to secure a European spot, they were in no mood to roll over and deny Roma back-to-back titles.

As it was they didn’t need to worry. Although Roma won 1-0 at Torino, Juventus’s 2-0 victory at Udinese ensured their reign as champions was over.

It meant Inter had to win and despite taking the lead twice it was they who suffered ruin in Rome as they crumbled to a 4-2 loss thanks to a double from former Manchester United midfielder Karel Poborsky, with Diego Simeone and Simone Inzaghi hitting second half strikes.

Shortly after Inzaghi’s 73rd minute effort, Ronaldo was substituted and was left in tears on the bench in his final game for Inter who ended the season in third.

Ronaldo was left distraught after failing to win the title with Inter Milan in 2002

Goals scored edges Norway thriller (2004)

Forget winner takes all. Norway’s final day title decider in 2004 was a case of who could score the most goals.

Heading into their final fixtures Rosenborg and Valerenga were level on points but also level on goal difference. With Rosenborg having scored more goals it was they who had the slender advantage when they kicked off at home against Lyn.

Late in the game they led 3-1, but news soon filtered through that Valerenga were 3-0 up following a late strike against Stabaek.

Needing a goal to win the title for a 13th consecutive year, they poured forward and were rewarded a minute from time to snatch the title by the slimmest of margins of goals scored.

Rosenborg players line up before a Champions League game with Arsenal in 2004

‘Helicopter Sunday’ (2005)

‘There are moments in your career you can’t forget and that was one of them. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that day.’

Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton still cannot get over the nightmare of how Celtic blew the title from a winning position on the final day of the Scottish Premier League season in 2005 and giftwrap Rangers the title.

He had fired the Bhoys into a 29th minute lead at Motherwell and that looked to be enough heading into the last two minutes despite Rangers also winning 1-0 at Hibernian.

The helicopter was already on its way to Fir Park to hand Celtic the title before a Scott McDonald equaliser two minutes from time stunned the visitors, who then conceded again two minutes later in a dramatic collapse.

A swift change in direction from the chopper put it on course for the capital where Rangers held on at Easter Road to secure the title. 

Didier Agathe (left) and Neil Lennon stand dejected following a final day defeat at Motherwell

Beckham signs off with silverware (2007)

David Beckham’s Real Madrid career had its ups and downs but he looked like he would be heading for LA Galaxy without a trophy to his name at the Bernabeu following his blockbuster arrival four years earlier.

Yet having battled back from the fringes of Fabio Capello’s squad, he had helped spur Real Madrid into a title charge heading into the final day of the 2006-07 season.

Madrid realistically knew they had to win against Real Mallorca to deny Barcelona the crown, especially as their rivals were playing rock bottom minnows Gimnastic.

Of course, Barca cruised to a 5-1 win, but Madrid stuttered falling behind early on. Beckham had endured one of his poorer games of the season but his replacement on the night ensured he could still end his Madrid career with a winners’ medal.

Jose Antonio Reyes came on in the second half to net a brace on the way to a 3-1 victory and hand Capello’s side the title. 

Draped in a St George’s flag, David Beckham celebrates winning LaLiga in 2007 along with manager Fabio Capello and team-mate Fabio Cannavaro

Louis van Gaal’s unfancied heroes choke (2007)

Some Manchester United supporters may find it hard to believe but back in 2007, Louis van Gaal was on the cusp of pulling off a magnificent achievement by landing unfancied AZ just their second ever top flight title.

They went into the final day level on points with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven but with a comfortable goal difference to ensure that victory would be enough for the title.

However, Van Gaal’s side suffered defeat against minnows Excelsior, meaning Ajax were in pole position on goal difference. They saw off Willem II 2-0 but were left stunned when PSV recorded a 5-1 thrashing over Vitesse Arnhem to snatch the title with a superior goal difference of just one. 

Louis van Gaal reacts during his AZ side’s final day defeat at the hands of Excelsior

Aguero spares City blushes (2012)

Few of us need reminding of the details of this, but this is classic example of why instead of helicopters the Premier League opts to have multiple trophies that can be lifted at various grounds.

Manchester United looked to have had the job done. A professional performance in a 1-0 win at Sunderland meant that at full-time they could taste the champagne of another Premier League title victory.

You could forgive the early, if a little cautious, celebrations too as the only team that could deny them the title were local rivals Manchester City who in a must-win game were losing 2-1 at home to QPR as their game ticked into stoppage time.

City’s equaliser in the second minute of stoppage time through Edin Dzeko came just as the United game was coming to a close but any remaining smiles among the United players and fans at the Stadium of Light soon turned to anguish and horror once they found out Sergio Aguero had completed a remarkable turnaround a few seconds later at the Etihad and earn City their first top flight title for 44 years on goal difference.

Sergio Aguero’s last gasp strike against QPR in 2012 claimed the title for Manchester City

Big spending PSG denied first title in 18 years (2012)

It’s hard to think of anything other than the French title heading to the French capital these days but in 2012, PSG had just started flexing their new found financial muscle in the hope of winning their first title since 1994.

They enjoyed an excellent campaign but despite spending £82million, including a French record of £37million for Javier Pastore, they were seen off by a Montpellier side who had an annual budget of just £29million but featured Olivier Giroud in attack. 

Heading into the final day Montpellier were top and needed just a draw at rock bottom Auxerre to claim a first ever top flight crown. PSG did their bit in seeing off Lorient 2-1 but there was a slight twist to proceedings.

Despite leaving it late to claim three points, PSG still did not know their fate at full-time, with Montpellier’s match delayed three times due to crowd disturbances.

But as PSG stars looked on at big screens they could do nothing to prevent Montpellier coming from behind to win 2-1 thanks to two John Utaka strikes to help his side land a shock maiden French crown. 

Olivier Giroud celebrates with a fan after helping Montpellier win the French top flight

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