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International Soccer
Bayern's Olic the best value in Europe

Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Bayern Munich's Ivica Olic has been worth as much as any player in Europe this season. Funny, especially considering he cost Bayern absolutely nothing.

In an offseason that included Cristiano Ronaldo's insane $132 million move to Real Madrid from Manchester United, Olic's free transfer from Hamburg doesn't exactly draw too much attention.

It's hard to overlook anymore.

Considered to be merely a backup when Bayern signed him to a three-year deal, Olic earned a starting role under Louis van Gaal and led his new club to the Champions League final.

Olic, who pushed $40 million signing Mario Gomez to the bench at Bayern, has 17 goals in all competitions - including three in Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Lyon in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals in France.

"I'm determined to reach the final but we still have a lot of work to do," Olic said before the second leg of the semifinals, which Bayern captured on aggregate 4-0 to advance to its first final since 2001.

"I for one will be giving my all."

That's all he's done since arriving in Munich.

The Croatian is the second-leading scorer in the Champions League this year, trailing only Barcelona magician Lio Messi. By the way, Ronaldo, whose club was eliminated in the first knockout stage (again), also scored seven.

Ivica Olic joined Bayern Munich last summer on a free transfer.
Olic's trademark work rate - certainly appreciated by teammates and coaches but frustrating for opponents - makes him an enjoyable player to watch. And while too many forwards are only focused on chasing goals, Olic chases just about any ball he can, even if it's just to prevent a corner or goal kick.

His finishing ability, of course, has been big for Bayern as well - even if he's been overshadowed by some more costly stars.

Dutch star Arjen Robben, who scored the series-winner against United in the second leg and the lone goal in the opening match against Lyon, and the $33 million Bayern spent on him last summer seems like a bargain.

But Olic has just three fewer goals than the impressive winger and has five goals in his last four Champions League games. Robben has scored four goals for Bayern in the Champions League.

Olic, who scored in his debut for Bayern in August, scored the winning goal against Maccabi Haifa in the group stage for his first of the event and has provided more significant strikes as the tournament progressed.

He scored in the second game against Juventus in the group stage, a 4-1 win that Bayern needed just to advance to the knockout round.

Although he was held scoreless in the Round of 16, he set up the winner for Miroslav Klose, the top scorer at the 2006 World Cup who has also watched a starting role vanish because of Olic, in the first leg against Fiorentina.

In the quarterfinals, Olic scored the game-winner in the dying seconds when United's Patrice Evra didn't see him sneak in from the side to make a steal, then score to hand Bayern a 2-1 win. He also scored for Bayern in the return match, when it rallied from a three-goal deficit in a 3-2 loss that was good enough for an away-goals victory.

Obviously, Olic wasn't finished yet. He scored a goal with his right foot, his left foot and his head against Lyon.

"I thought Manchester United was the game of my life, but the semifinal is a great big match too," Olic said. "The vital thing was playing as a team.

"It means you can enjoy it as a striker. I never thought we'd win like that. It's tremendous to score three in a game of this importance."

It's no surprise Olic once again rose to the occasion Tuesday, this time on his biggest stage yet at Bayern. And the result, well, it - just like Olic - is priceless for Bayern.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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