The German goalkeeper is a bona fide Gunners legend after playing his part in the club’s historic ‘Invincible’ season of 2004, and is now back at the North London club as a coach.
The former Borussia Dortmund stopper has just finished writing his autobiography, and the passages that standout the most are those surrounding the 2006 final in Paris, where Barcelona eventually triumphed 2-1.
Lehamnn was sent off for bringing down Samuel Eto’o outside the area in the first-half, with Roberts Pires withdrawn so that replacement goalie Manuel Almunia could come on.
The defeat still seems to rankle with Lehmann, as he writes, via the Telegraph: “I could see Eto’o sprinting towards me. ‘I can manage this,’ I thought, setting out for a long sliding tackle.
“Suddenly, I realised that the Cameroon forward was even faster than I had anticipated. My path-time calculations, applied intuitively like so often before, got mixed up for the first time in ages.
“No matter how much I stretched my leg, Eto’o would touch the ball before my foot did, and put it past me. ‘No goal,’ my mind yelled. It served as a warning but also a reminder that I had not yet conceded in this Champions League season – an unprecedented record, a mark for eternity.
“The streak would have to end at some point, of course, but not now of all times, not during the first 20 minutes of a the final. Was this the reason my hand suddenly grasped at Eto’o’s leg?
“To this day, I do not quite know why I had not been able to simply keep my fingers to myself in the 19th minute on that May night at the Stade de France in Paris, 2006.
“Following the dismissal, I slunk into the dressing room to put on a clean shirt. What was I to do now? For a few minutes, I sat around, irresolute, before climbing up the steps to the stands.
“I bumped into Sir Alex Ferguson, who stared at me wide-eyed, as if he had seen Lucifer himself.
“‘Bad luck,’ I said with a shrug, continuing on my way. When I had eventually found a seat, I was joined by Lasse and Mats [his children], who had been sitting with my wife and brother.
“I pulled them onto my lap and finally began to tear up. There is no apt description nor any solace for this moment, in which all aims, hopes and ambition of the previous months disappear in a black hole of disappointment. Nonetheless, all was not lost.
“I spurred on my team, and indeed, we took the lead with a beautiful Sol Campbell header – with ten men to boot. Barcelona attacked in vain, and we carried the lead into the break.”
Alas, Barcelona were too strong for a ten-man Arsenal team, and a Larsson inspired comeback sealed a 2-1 victory. But, just think how different history could’ve been if Wenger’s men had managed to hold on and claim the famous trophy.
Who knows – perhaps Barcelona wouldn’t be the incredible force they are today. Just a thought.
What do you make of Lehmann’s comments?