UEFA Champions League Best XI
The world, especially the 16 clubs hoping to win the UEFA Champions League, awaits the drawing for the knockout round.
While the suspense will hang for another week, it is a perfect time to take a look at the best players from the group stage.
With the top teams in Europe competing, there was a slew of talented players who put together great performances.
What follows is the Best XI.
Manuel Neuer, Schalke 04, GK
The 24-year-old German International has played in all six of Schalke’s games. He’s only surrendered three goals the entire phase and has kept three clean sheets.
Schalke won Group B, and their defense—headed by Neuer—played a huge role in the team’s success.
Things didn’t start off as well as the team would’ve hoped, losing the first game to Lyon 1-0, but Neuer and the rest of the squad bounced back with a 2-0 clean sheet over Benfica in their next game. The Lyon game would be their only loss of the stage.
Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea, D
Group F was tightly contested, but Chelsea rose to the top of the heap by three points.
Ivanovic, a Serbian International, was the only defender that played in all six games of the group stage—and 90 minutes each time out—providing some much needed consistency to the squad.
He got involved in the offense a bit as well, taking seven shots. He had his biggest game in the second match against Spartak Moskva. Ivanovic scored two goals in the 4-1 victory.
Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United, D
Vidic only played in four games for Group C champion Manchester United, but the towering defender makes his presence known each time he is out on the pitch.
When Vidic was on the field, Man U gave up only one goal. The team really needed Vidic’s talent on the backline early on, as the first two games he played in, United won by scores of only 1-0.
One of those games was against runners-up Valencia. The result proved to be vital, as Valencia finished only three points behind the Red Devils.
Gareth Bale, Tottenham, D
Group A was won by only one point, but it was Tottenham who came out on top.
It was a good turnaround for the club, who needed a playoff with Young Boys to even reach the group stage. Tottenham lost the first leg 3-2, with Bale registering an assist, but then they won the next match 4-0, where Bale dished out three more assists.
He played every game in the group stage, going the full 90 in all but one of them (he came out in the 81st minute of a 3-0 victory over Bremen). He would tally four goals, three of which actually came in a 4-3 loss to runners-up Inter Milan, and two assists.
He was the team’s leading goal scorer.
Xavi, FC Barcelona, M
Another Ballon d’Or finalist, Xavi has become one of the best midfielders and players in the world.
He is the general on the field for Barca. So far in Champions League, he has made five appearances and added one assist. However his class, talent and experience help bring the team to a different level.
Darijo Srna, Shakhtar Donetsk, M
Shakhtar Donetsk was a surprise group winner, taking Group H with 15 points, and midfielder Srna was instrumental to that success.
A key player in the midfield, he started every game and played every minute. He scored the game winning goal against Partizan in the first match of the stage. He then tallied an assist in each of the last three games, all wins. The first victory in that streak was a 2-1 win over second place finishers Arsenal.
Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona, M/F
One of the finalists for the Ballon d’Or, Messi led the way for Group D champion Barcelona.
Messi’s brilliant play has been on display, as usual. He’s played in all six games, is second in the Champions League in goals scored (6) and added an assist.
He was the only Barca player to score against Kobenhavn in a 2-0 victory and a 1-1 tie.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid, M/F
Real Madrid won group G, finishing undefeated and scoring the most points and having the highest goal differential.
Ronaldo led the way, playing in all six games, scoring four goals and adding two assists. The team was dominating in all phases of the game, and this creative midfielder was at the forefront of that pressure.
He led the group stage in shots taken and he really pressed the issue. One of the best players in the game, Ronaldo has exemplified Madrid’s dominance.
Mario Gomez, Bayern Munich, F
Bayern won Group E and were third in Champions League group stage in goals scored.
Gomez was one of only five players for the team to play in all six games, but he gave no reason to be taken off the pitch.
Gomez scored six goals, tied for second most in the entire tournament. He also added an assist.
He scored a hat trick in the fourth game, a 4-0 win over CFR Cluj.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, AC Milan, F
Milan just squeaked out of the group phase, but they made it. Ibrahimovic was, and has been, Milan’s best player.
Only three players played all six games and Ibrahimovic was one of them. In those six games, he led the team with four goals scored. The team had a total of only seven, so he provided more than half of their offensive productivity.
Samuel Eto’o, Inter Milan, F
The runners up of Group A had the fantasy stud of the group stage of the tournament.
Eto’o led all players in goals scored, netting seven. He added three assists and was a workhorse, playing every minute of every game.
He had his best game in a 4-0 win over Werder Bremen, scoring a hat trick on three shots, and adding an assist.