"It's a fairy tale," says Rabah Madjer when asked to describe his career, a stunning rise to footballing fame that was littered with trophies throughout. An icon of North African football, the Algerian legend earned his place in the annals of the game when he back-heeled Porto's opening goal in the final of the 1987 UEFA European Cup. Known as the "Madjer back-heel", the impudent finish has been imitated many times but rarely bettered.
Now an expert summariser for the Al Jazeera channel, the 1987 African Golden Ball winner spoke exclusively to FIFA.com at his home in Qatar and looked back on a career filled with highlights, including that glorious May evening, and the occasional lowlight, such as an ultimately frustrating experience as national coach.
"It's a registered trademark," says Madjer when the subject of his legendary equaliser against Bayern Munich comes up. "That match is the greatest memory I have off my career. I scored a goal, I set up another and I won a title that will always be with me. I never thought for a moment I would end up playing in a match like that. When I walked out on the pitch that night I was even asking myself if I was really there about to play the mighty Bayern."
"The day before the final I was wondering how I was going to perform," continues the Algerian, who had joined the Portuguese giants from unheralded Racing Club de Paris just two years earlier. "Jozef Mlynarczyk, my room-mate at the time, was really worried. But I told him that we were going to win 2-1. Fortunately, God was listening."
As for his stunning goal, Madjer remembers it as if it were yesterday. "I had my back to goal and the only way I could score was with a back-heel. It was an instinctive thing and I just did it. I didn't have any time to think about it. I tried it again in a league match just after the final and it went in that time too."
After being crowned European champions courtesy of two moments of Madjer inspiration, Porto scaled the summit of world football when they defeated Penarol to win the Toyota Intercontinental Cup. Not surprisingly it was the magical Algerian who was their match-winner on that occasion too.
"I scored in extra time," he recalls. "The timing was perfect. It was a nice goal too, a lob from distance. It was a great honour to play in a match like that and even more so to go on and win it."
"It was a fairy tale for me," continues Madjer as he relives his glory days of the late 80s. "I'd come out of nowhere, from a small club, to join Porto and it was difficult at first to make a mark. They had so many good players I had to make some sacrifices and I'm immensely proud I was able to earn a place in the team."
On the international front, the striker appeared at the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cup™ finals for Algeria, scoring a famous goal against West Germany in Spain. His finest achievement, however, came when he was named player of the tournament in the 1990 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, helping the Desert Foxes to become continental champions on home soil.
"I'm just pleased to have served my country," he says. "That tournament was a first for Algeria and I have wonderful memories of it." Madjer's heroics put him in the running for the African Ballon d'Or for the second time in three years, although on this occasion he was to come home third.
If at first you don't succeed
After retiring from the game Madjer turned his hand to coaching, enjoying a brief spell with Algeria before steering Qatari outfit Al-Wakrah to their maiden championship success in 1999. The following year he was back in the Algerian hotseat, only to be dismissed in 2002, leaving a scar that has yet to heal.
"After the Africa Cup of Nations in Mali I decided to rebuild for the future," he recollects. "We played really well to get a draw against a Belgium side that went on to beat France away before the 2002 World Cup. We were on the right track so I just didn't understand their decision. It's a shame but I've got no regrets because I went about my work in a professional way. I know full well that a coach is always dependent upon his players and that if things don't work out he's the one who has to carry the can."
Madjer brought an end to his coaching career in 2006 and having now moved into TV, he shares his time between Qatar, Algeria and Porto. "I've got my houses there and that's where I feel at home," he says.
But whatever the future may hold, magic Madjer is determined to keep his options open. "I tried to combine my TV work with a coaching post at Al Rayyan for a year but it was too difficult to do the two things at the same time. I'm enjoying it at the moment but I'm not closing any doors just yet."
Clubs (player): NA Hussein Dey (1973-1983), RC Paris (1983-1985), Porto (1985-1988), Valencia (1988-1989), Porto (1989-1992), Nadit (1992-1993)
Clubs (coach): Porto (youth team: 1995-1997), Al-Sadd (1997-1998), Al-Wakrah (1998-1999), Al Rayyan (2005-2006)
National team (player): 87 caps (1978-1992)
National team (coach): 1994-1995, 2000-2002
Honours: UEFA European Cup winner (1987), Toyota Intercontinental Cup winner (1987), UEFA Super Cup winner (1987), Portuguese championship winner (1985, 1987, 1990), Portuguese cup winner (1988, 1991), African Ballon d'Or (1987), CAF Africa Cup of Nations winner (1990), Player of the Year in Portugal (1985, 1987), Algerian Sportsman of the Year (1982), appearances at two FIFA World Cup finals (1982, 1986) and six CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals