Barcelona were favourites to win their second European Cup/UEFA Champions League in three years, having just won La Liga for the fourth year in a row. Milan's preparation before the final was in disarray: legendary striker Marco van Basten was still out with a long-term injury, and £13 million young sensation Gianluigi Lentini (then the world's most expensive footballer) was also injured; sweeper and captain, Franco Baresi was suspended, as was defender Alessandro Costacurta; and UEFA regulations at the time that limited teams to fielding a maximum of three non-nationals meant that coach Fabio Capello was forced to leave out Florin Răducioiu, Jean-Pierre Papin and Brian Laudrup. On Barcelona's side, the rule saw Johan Cruyff choosing not to pick Michael Laudrup in his squad for the final which caused Capello to state after the game: "Laudrup was the guy I feared but Cruyff left him out, and that was his mistake". Laudrup was to leave Barcelona at the end of the season for their arch-rivals, Real Madrid.
Milan played in their all-white away strip, which historically they use in finals of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League, while Barcelona played in their red and blue strip. Milan dominated early and were rewarded when Dejan Savićević ran down the right flank and passed to Daniele Massaro, who tapped the ball into an empty net. Massaro banged in his second just before half-time to make it 2–0 after a solo run by Roberto Donadoni down the left wing.
In the 47th minute, Savićević capitalised on a defensive error by Miguel Ángel Nadal to lob goalkeeperAndoni Zubizarreta for the third goal. Eight minutes later, after Savićević had hit a post and the Barcelona defence had failed to clear, Milan defenderMarcel Desailly beat the offside trap to make it 4–0, which ended up being the final score. Many pundits have described Milan's performance against Barcelona in the final as the greatest ever by a team in European Cup/UEFA Champions League history. Desailly became the first player to win the trophy in consecutive years with different clubs after winning with Marseille in 1993.