The ULTIMATE Warriors: "All-Time Champions League Best XI"
With the UEFA Team of the Year 2019 and the Ballon D'Or nominees announcement coming very soon, let's have a look at what could be one of the best teams in the world: The All-Time UCL Champions!!!
GK: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid/Porto & Spain)
Is Casillas the best goalkeeper we've seen in the UCL?
Maybe... But what's for sure is that he's a complete legend:
Spain's captain at UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012, he also lifted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, three of the six times he made it into Team of the Year. And with Real Madrid, 5 Champions Leagues, 3 LaLiga, and 2 Copa del Rey titles, before leaving to Portugal in 2015. In the second place, there was Gianluigi Buffon has been picked on five occasions, however, the Spaniard is a beast under the posts.
LB: Carles Puyol (Barcelona & Spain)
On left-back... Oh, wait!
Anyway, the Catalan enjoyed a golden run from 2005 onwards, winning the UEFA Champions League with Barça in 2006, 2009 and 2011, as well as UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 World Cup as a cornerstone of his country's defense. At his electric best, Puyol could not only mix it with the most difficult of forwards, but he could also get on the end of crosses himself.
Undoubtedly, the Barcelona man has been a legend of this 2000' football decade as he became the big-haired wall at the beating heart of Pep Guardiola's famous winning machine.
CB: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain)
On the first center back position... Seven straight selections, 2012 to 2018 inclusive, Ramos needed to be in this list (even if people hate him after what he did to Salah); the Spanish center-back was rewarded for his role helping Spain to UEFA EURO 2008 glory. In 2017, he pulled clear as the most selected defender ever. (I don't want to say more...I'm a Liverpool fan so... I hate you!)
CB: Gerard Piqué (Barcelona & Spain)
On the other defensive role, nominated nine times in the last ten editions, and picked on five of those, Piqué remains a hugely consistent performer for club and country. Dani Alves drew level on five selections in 2017 but is edged out on all-time nominations.
Even if he prefers tennis more than football now, Piqué is an all-time legend of this competition.
RB: Philipp Lahm Bayern (Munich & Germany)
What can I say about Joshua Kimm... I mean Lahm? (Those two look exactly the same, am I right?)
One of Europe's supreme defensive practitioners whose excellence endured for a decade. Lahm's sequence of three successive Team of the Year appearances came to an end in 2015, when he finally retired. The full-back's full-back was by far one of the greatest players of his generation. His ball-winning, positional sense, passing and ability to get forward make him a German legend.
CDM: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool & England)
One of seven midfielders chosen three times, with Luka Modric the latest to hit that figure with his inclusion in the most recent UCL line-up. Anfield's greatest and the man that drove the Reds to the famous final win in 2005.
While he is constantly at the heart of the debate over whether himself, Frank Lampard or Paul Scholes was greater, however, Gerrard's seven nominations suffice to get him into the ultimate XI at the expense of Modric, Kaká, Ronaldinho, Toni Kroos, Pavel Nedved and Zinédine Zidane.
CM: Xavi Hernández (Barcelona & Spain)
Into the creative side... Xavi!
Though a contender in 2005, it was not until his second involvement in 2008 that Xavi actually made the cut, and then there was no dislodging him as unprecedented success with club and country kept him in the side five years running.
The livewire dynamo that allowed it all to knit together under Pep Guardiola and Frank Rijkaard. While his team-mate Andres Iniesta (SPOILER!) put the polish in the midfield, Xavi was the uncompromising all-rounder that provided drive, grit and unwavering passing accuracy.
CM: Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona & Spain)
Like his midfield partner Xavi, once he forced his way into the Team of the Year Iniesta proved impossible to displace until 2013; he also returned in splendor in 2015 and 2016.
A hero and a midfield sensation and a joy to watch, Iniesta could make painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel look easy. Another piece in Guardiola's incredible team, who also proved he could win big without Lionel Messi with three titles for Spain.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo (United/Real Madrid/Juventus & Portugal)
Nominated a record 15 times, Ronaldo has featured in the Team of the Year on no fewer than 13 occasions, three more than anyone else. The 2018 line-up marked his 12th consecutive appearance. Obviously, the machine Ronaldo now with 5 Champions League wins and 121 goals at his back needed to be on this list.
RW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
Like Ronaldo, Messi was initially classed as a midfielder, collecting thus the first of 13 straight nominations in 2006. He has missed the Team of the Year cut just once, in 2013, since his 2008 debut, however, the Argentine has grown to be THE BEST player in the world.
A magician, a wonder and a footballing icon, his 106 Champions League goals speak for themselves, so do his 4 Champions League titles.
ST: Thierry Henry (Arsenal & France)
Finally, the man that made the team, Henry was arguably the Premier League's greatest ever player. At Arsenal, he single-handedly demolished teams like Inter Milan and Real Madrid as the Gunners made the final in 2006. Moreover, he has been a candidate in the first six editions of the UEFA vote.
Clearly, Henry's consistency was such that he got into the final selection five times, including the first four; the only player to achieve that. Absolute legends!