Champions League 2012: Veterans Who Will Be Key to Their Team's Success

Andrew BurtonCorrespondent IIISeptember 19, 2012

Champions League 2012: Veterans Who Will Be Key to Their Team's Success

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    UEFA Champions League is off to a great start. Many team's are looking in form and the veterans are shining as always.

    Although the group stage just began, we can already pick out which teams are going to depend on their veterans to lead their franchise to a successful 2012 season.

    In this slideshow, I'll take a look at a select five whose team's success hinges on their outstanding performances day-in and day-out. 

Lukas Podolski, Arsenal

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    Arsenal's Lukas Podolski is a well-oiled machine that is certainly going to play his part in an admired Arsenal club. 

    In yesterday's matchup with Montpellier, the 5'9" forward scored a goal in the 16th minute of the game. 

    As is evident from the match, Arsenal's success will thrive on Podolski's progress.

    He's clearly a work horse—he wasn't subbed for until the 90th minute—and who doesn't like having a player willing to put in the time and effort for his club? 

    If Podolski can give Arsenal quality minutes while getting great looks at the goal, the club will be successful. 

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

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    Manchester United's midfielder Wayne Rooney is viewed as one of the best players in the world. Rooney's presence alone is a boost to the club, who had a disappointing campaign in their last Champions League appearance.

    While Rooney is expected to return from an injury to his league, it's not certain that he'll start in Man U's opener against Galatasaray. 

    The striker is far more valuable to the Manchester United than they are to him, so it's a no-brainer that the club's season depends on how successful he is.  

Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus

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    Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will be critical to the team's success in 2012.

    Juventus took on Chelsea today, and they pulled back from down 2-0 to go home with a tie. 

    Hopefully Gianluigi's play will show on the field, especially after he claimed that Juventus could win the Champions League, as per Barney Corkhill over at SportsMole.com. 

    "Before Chelsea won the Champions League, in the previous years, they were always the team to beat and they always failed. And then, when they started struggling, when they were in a declining phase, that's when they actually won the Champions League. What's beautiful about football is that it's not always the team that's considered the stronger one that's actually going to win," said the veteran keeper. 

    "Obviously, we're an emerging team at the moment. We've got many young players but they're all coming up strongly." 

    If Buffon can hold Champions League winners Chelsea to just two goals, the sky's the limit for Juventus. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

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    When Cristiano Ronaldo is on his game, he is one of the best footballers in the world. Unfortunately, he's been unhappy with Real Madrid and it's been effecting his play. 

    But for the first time in a while, Ronaldo put the drama behind him and led his team into battle.

    Battling a tough Manchester City, Ronaldo led Real Madrid to a comeback win with a last minute goal—literally. He scored in the 90th minute. 

    In an article on ESPN.com, Ronaldo proclaimed just how content he was at the moment. 

    "The most important thing was to win and we did that. The team is good, the fans are good and I'm good," said Ronaldo, who returned to the Bernabeu for the first time since saying he felt "sad" at the club. "It was a crazy game."

    If this is a symbol of the season that's to come, Real Madrid fans should buckle up for the bumpy ride. 

Lionel Messi, Barcelona

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    Barcelona's Lionel Messi is clearly the veteran of the team and is the key to a successful season. Everyone has heard of Messi—even if you're not familiar with football. 

    His resume speaks for itself: 50 goals in 37 league appearances, plus 16 assists. 

    The standout fact—261 goals for Barcelona. 

    In this evening's game against Spartak Moscow, Messi single-handedly saved Barcelona. He scored two goals in the final 19 minutes of the match to earn his team a 3-2 victory.

    Clearly Barcelona's success is tied to Messi's.