After winning the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League respectively, Boca Juniors and Real Madrid were playing in Tokyo for the ultimate title, the Intercontinental Cup, where the winner would be crowned as the best team in the world. Some of the biggest names in football were in that Real Madrid squad, coached by Spain’s future World Cup winning manager Vicente del Bosque, such as Raul, Casillas, Figo, Makelele, Hierro, Roberto Carlos, McMannaman, Guti and Morientes, to name a few. The Spanish press assumed that the match was in the bag as obviously this was the best team in the world at the time, right?
Well, Boca was not going to roll over so easily. This was a team that had been together for the last 2 ½ years, that had been in fierce battles together, that knew how to play and understood that football is a team sport. And us fans knew this. This is why some 10,000 fans travelled over the entire globe to be there, why most of us got up early in the morning to follow our team on the other side of the world and missed work, or school or whatever it was that would prevent us from watching it.
Madrid came on the pitch looking like they believed what the press said, that the cup was already won. And that was a fatal mistake. Boca hadn’t read the script for the night. Within two minutes, Delgado sped down the left wing and put a ball in the box where Palermo stormed in to put the ball past a helpless Casillas. Madrid looked shell shocked, they were not expecting this. 3 minutes later Riquelme played a sublime long ball to Palermo, who with his first touch again beat Casillas again and sent the fans into ecstasy. From then on, Boca never looked back. Within 5 minutes, Palermo single handedly had put the cup firmly within Boca’s grasp. This was his, and Boca’s night. Real Madrid attempted to fight back and got a consolation goal through Roberto Carlos, but the damage was done, and for the rest of the match Boca controlled the match. That night Tokyo was painted in Blue and Gold.
This match confirmed Boca’s place as one of the greatest club in the world, and confirmed Palermo as one of the most effective and dangerous strikers around. This was a man who was on his way to the top when a brutal knee injury took him off the pitch for more than half a year. People doubted whether he could ever be as good as he was before the injury. Well that night he proved he was better than ever, and became a hero, a legend. He was never the quickest or the most skilled player you will see on a football pitch, but how many players have scored 2 goals in the space of 3 minutes against one of the best keepers the world has ever seen? Only one, Martin Palermo, and for that reason he is one of the true greats of the game.