Lyon - Ivica Olic's rise to prominence in the Champions League is coming at just the right time for Bayern Munich.
The 30-year-old Croatia striker's clinical hat-trick helped Bayern beat Lyon 3-0 on Tuesday night to reach the Champions League final for the first time in nine years.
It was his fifth goal in his last four European outings for a career journeyman who has played at seven clubs, and came after he'd scored crucial goals in both legs against Manchester United in the quarter-finals.
Olic described his performance as "the best game of my career." Bayern will need him to continue his scoring run against either Inter Milan or Barcelona in the May 22 final in Madrid.
"I thought my game against Manchester United was (the best), but this one is," better, Olic said. "I can't find the words to express how happy I am. Scoring three goals in such a game is outstanding."
Bayern has won the European title four times, but not since it beat Valencia in a penalty shootout in 2001.
Olic has been a revelation in the latter stages of this season's competition. He scored in injury time to give Bayern a 2-1 home win against Manchester United, and then grabbed a crucial goal just before halftime at Old Trafford when United led 3-0 and seemed bound for the semifinals.
During his time as coach of Ajax and the Netherlands national team, Bayern's boss Louis van Gaal worked with strikers such as Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Kluivert stood out for his skill, mobility and flair; Van Nistelrooy for his ruthless finishing. But Olic has impressed van Gaal with his work ethic.
"(Olic) had a fantastic game, he scored three goals and worked very hard all game. He is very important to the way we play," Van Gaal said. "You can really count on him both as a coach and as a teammate."
Arjen Robben has scored more goals for Bayern than Olic this season, but Olic's attitude has impressed the Dutch winger.
"He's unbelievable, what I like about him is that he always gives more than 100 percent in every game," Robben said. "He keeps running and sometimes you have to stop him. He's so energetic, a great player and very important for us."
Olic began his career 14 years ago with NK Marsonia, and he returned there following an unhappy spell at German club Hertha Berlin before joining NK Zagreb on loan during the 2001-2002 season, when he scored 21 league goals in 29 games.
That earned him a move to Dinamo Zagreb, where 16 league goals in 27 games attracted the attention of CSKA Moscow.
He joined the Russian club in '03, scoring 35 goals in 78 league games and winning several Russian league titles and the UEFA Cup in 2005 before another move back to Germany took him to Hamburger SV.
During his time at Hamburger, Olic scored a crucial goal for Croatia in the 3-2 win over England in a European Championship qualifier that led to Steve McLaren's dismissal as manager after the English failed to reach Euro 2008.
After three seasons at Hamburger, he got the big move his talents deserve, and now Bayern is reaping the benefits.