It’s a piece of music that Lionel Messi said motivated him, a tune that captivated Zinedine Zidane and one that compelled Cristiano Ronaldo to sing along. For nearly three decades the Champions League anthem has galvanised fans and players across Europe’s greatest football stadiums – and it was all created and composed in the space of a few weeks by a man from Croydon.
The Champions League has become football’s elite club tournament and on Sunday Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain will battle it out to become the latest kings of Europe.
But, before the famous star ball is kicked the players will line-up in Lisbon and listen to the Champions League anthem – a piece of music that drew inspiration from the coronation of a king nearly 300 years ago.
“I still get royalties but it’s not millions,” composer Tony Britten says. “It’s mainly from the broadcasters but there are territories such as China and Russia where I don’t get a penny – which is crazy.
“Any composer will tell you, when you do have royalties it makes up for the times where you made something that wasn’t successful.”Back in the summer of 1992 Barcelona, whose team featured now Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, had just lifted the European Cup for the first time at Wembley and composer Tony Britten was writing and producing jingles for TV ads.
A marketing agency said Uefa had plans to revamp the European Cup format and create the Champions League. Britten was told it needed a song to galvanise the new tournament to help repair and improve the image of the beautiful game.
“It was a long time ago and to be honest it was just another job,” Britten recalled. “The old European Cup had become a very tired competition and to Uefa’s credit they wanted to elevate the sport around the time when there was of a lot of hooliganism right across Europe.
“Uefa wanted this competition to be about the best of football rather than the worst and said they must have an anthem. The World Cup in Italy had just had the three tenors so classical music was all the range.”