With yet another incredible year of Champions League football, there’s no better time to round up with a Champions League XI. Of course, these are always hotly debated and somewhat a subjective topic, but that’s what football is all about! Check here for the latest sport news.
The player with the most minutes in Champions League history, 16267, has to be included in an all-time eleven. To have that amount of game time in such a prestigious competition shows a player’s quality and longevity to perform at the highest level. Iker Casillas, the goalkeeper for Real Madrid from 1999-2015, was an exemplary goalkeeper who won it all over his career. Not only was his goalkeeping ability of the highest level, but to be captain of a team of superstars and being able to lead these types of players shows his leadership qualities and an undoubting reason behind the success of Real Madrid.
Dani Alves, the Brazilian and Barcelona Right back, has to be a definitive pick in an all-time Champions League eleven. He was part of, arguably, the best team of all time, a dominant Barcelona under Pep that conquered the world of football during the years 2008 – 2012. He was part of an early footballing strategic change which saw full backs change from being simply a defender, to an integral part of an attacking team.
If one player symbolises Real Madrid in recent times, it is Sergio Ramos with 129 Champions League appearances. The right back turned centre back epitomises everything a top-class defender has to be. His tackling and consistent fouling may be controversial, but it cannot be denied that he wears his heart on his sleeve and would do anything for the cause. He is a born winner and the last defender an opposing striker would want to see.
Carlos Puyol, aka Mr Barcelona, is the rock that every team needs at the back. Similarly to Sergio Ramos, he would give everything for his team. Marshalling his defence, he led his team to three Champions League victories. He would get the unglamorous part of the job done to allow the likes of Ronaldinho, Pedro, Messi and others to play more freely.
The fight for left back is a close one. Players such as Roberto Carlos and Ashley Cole have great arguments to be included. However, multiple Champions League winner Paolo Maldini takes the spot. His unique ability to read a game meant that even as a left back, he looked like a graceful midfield player with his technique and composure.
The heartbeat of his team, Xavi was the calm, cool composer who instrumented and captained his Barcelona team to several Champions League victories. In a team studded with superstars, with the likes of Messi, Neymar and Ibrahimović, Xavi’s role to anchor the team in a more unglamorous role of keeping the team ticking was just as essential to the Champions League success of the team. He has become synonymous with his midfield partner, Iniesta. The duo dominating the midfield of any team they came up against. To choose one player out of these two is as difficult a choice as you are going to get. Both offered something completely different to the team but equally as valuable.
He may not have won several Champions Leagues like some other players from the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Barcelona, but Steven Gerrard drove his Liverpool team from a 3-nil deficit against AC Milan in the 2005 final to a glorious comeback win. To be a driving force in the most memorable final comebacks of all time, tips Gerrard as an all-time Champions League great.
Cristiano Ronaldo – what can be written that hasn’t been said already. Highest goal scoring (136 goals), most appearances (183), multiple winning with 5 Champions League medals to his name, Ronaldo has established himself as a living legend in modern football. Through his time at Manchester United and Real Madrid, he has become the only player to ever win 5 Champions Leagues. The perfect athlete, Ronaldo and proven time and time again he is a big player for the big occasions.
When Ronaldo’s name is mentioned, Messi’s is sure to follow. The two have gone through their footballing career almost hand-in-hand. He had big boots to fill, from a 17-year-old tipped as the heir to Maradona’s throne, to perhaps becoming the greatest player of all time. With four Champions League medals to his name, he has racked up 120 goals – on the heels of his rival Ronaldo.
Karim Benzema had to take the backseat in the Real Madrid Ronaldo era. With the Portuguese world superstar being the main man, Benzema still managed to consistently score goals season after season. Testament to his character, he has grown into a true leader, captaining Real Madrid and enjoying his best goal-scoring season as of yet. In the 2022 season alone he has amassed an incredible 15 goals.