All-Time UEFA Champions League Best XI
Since the inception of the UEFA Champions League in 1992, several all-time greats have excelled in the world’s premier club tournament.
When some people think about the Champions League, they think about those great players.
Personally, I have Tony Britten’s epic Champions League anthem ringing in my head.
Anyway, here is my all-time Champions League best XI.
Goalkeeper: Oliver Kahn
I can't believe it has almost been 11 years since the 2001 UEFA Champions League final.
I vividly remember Oliver Kahn consoling Santiago Cañizares, who had broken down after Valencia lost on penalties.
It was like Lothar Matthäus putting his arm around Chris Waddle after the Englishman missed his penalty during the 1990 FIFA World Cup semifinals.
Kahn denied Zlatko Zahovič, Amedeo Carboni and Mauricio Pellegrino during the penalty shoot out.
Kahn has to be the most dominant goalkeeper I've ever seen.
Centre-Back: Alessandro Nesta
Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini stopped Juventus from scoring during the 2003 UEFA Champions League final.
In his pomp, Nesta was flawless, intelligent, calculated and efficient.
Mind you, he did turn back the years when AC Milan held Barcelona scoreless for the first time in 30 UEFA Champions League games.
Centre-Back: Carles Puyol
Carles Puyol is the modern-day version of Migueli.
All those years of throwing his body around for Barça has limited Puyol's ability to consistently play games.
His body has broken down in the past two years, and his tackles and interceptions per game have decreased.
He was a vital part in Barça's three UEFA Champions League triumphs.
Centre-Back: Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini was an outstanding left-back, yet he wasn't left-footed, and it's a testament to his football IQ that he managed to shield weakness for so many years.
He won three European Cups and two UEFA Champions League titles whilst being a runner-up three times.
Towards the end of his career, he showed how versatile he was by playing excellently at centre-back.
He was the best player on the field during the 2003 UEFA Champions League final win over Juventus.
When he lifted the cup, it was almost 40 years to the day that his father, Cesare, had lifted the 1963 European Cup.
Right-Winger: Steven Gerrard
The conventional choice would be Luís Figo, but I will never forget Steven Gerrard's performance during the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final win over AC Milan.
He didn't just inspire his team for those pulsating six minutes, but also, who remembers him playing on the right to stop Serginho?
Such selflessness from Gerrard against all odds is the reason why he deserves a place in this XI.
Plus, some of his best games have come from the right wing, so it's not as if this selection is entirely controversial.
Centre Midfielder: Clarence Seedorf
Clarence Seedorf has won four UEFA Champions League titles with three different clubs.
He won with the youth of Ajax, a Real Madrid version preceding the Galácticos era and an underachieving AC Milan side—a side that had more chances of winning the Champions League than Serie A.
Seedorf has been a model professional, an underrated technician and a great footballer.
Centre Midfielder: Xavi
Xavi is living proof that you don't need to run the 40-yard dash in 4.30 seconds or be 6'0" tall.
All you need is technique, high football IQ, tactical discipline and positional awareness.
Attacking Midfielder: Zinedine Zidane
If Zoltán Sebescen had kept track of Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane would never have had the chance to score one of the greatest goals ever.
People often forget that it was Santiago Solari's excellent vision which precipitated the events leading to Zidane's audacious volley.
He volleyed the ball with his "weaker foot."
Zidane only won a single UEFA Champions League title, but I believe he would have won more if Claude Makélélé was retained as a Real Madrid player.
Prior to Lionel Messi, Zidane was the best player I had ever seen.
Left-Winger: Ryan Giggs
A decade after being inducted into the UEFA Champions League 10 Seasons Dream Team, Ryan Giggs is still in my greatest Champions League team ever.
He's doing his best impression of Sir Stanley Matthews, which should mean he has a decade left in him.
Deep-Lying Forward: Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is the greatest player I have ever seen and possibly could become the greatest ever if he manages to win two or more FIFA World Cups and score more than 757 goals.
He's such a lethal dribbler but also a wonderful passer.
Centre Forward: Raúl
What about Cristiano Ronaldo? He doesn't have the goals or the achievements to match Raúl.
Ruud van Nistelrooy has a better strike rate than Raúl, but the Dutchman never won a UEFA Champions League title.
Raúl won three, and he's the Champions League all-time top scorer.
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