MANY GREAT players have graced the world’s most prestigious club competition, but we’ve ruthlessly dispensed with the one-tournament wonders and sifted out the showboaters to bring you the top five players in Champions League history. And don’t forget you can watch some of the best action live on ITV1 and Sky Sports 2 with BT Vision.
How so much skill fits into a player who’d struggle to meet the height requirement for rides at Thorpe Park is a mystery Dan Brown couldn’t unravel. But, as a dazzling cog in the brilliant Barcelona machine, the best player of his generation has landed three European titles, netted 37 Champions League goals, and has the entire Manchester United defence hanging in his locker. Messi-meric.
Part of Alex Ferguson’s golden generation of Man United players who put the Red Devils back on the European football map, Giggs evolved with his team to become an expert European operator. The Welsh winger has teased, tormented, and stolen the dinner money from a succession of top Champions League fullbacks. He’s won a brace of titles, scored in 11 consecutive Champions League campaigns, and ‘set up’ Teddy Sheringham to score in that famous 1999 injury time win over Bayern Munich. Miss hit shot, or perfectly weighted pass? Perfectly weighted pass, obviously.
Catch the Man Utd legend in action
Zidane may have only one Champions League medal to polish, but he played in three finals and lit up the tournament for almost a decade for Juventus and Real Madrid. When he finally got his hands on the trophy, he did it in style with an outrageous goal in the 2002 final against Leverkusen. Roberto Carlos’ lobbed cross hung in the air for about five days before Zidane wrapped his left peg around it to score a sublime volley from the edge of the area. His left leg was his weak one. Fact.
Among the stats that don’t lie are Raul Gonzalez’s record-breaking 71 goals in 144 Champions League matches for Real Madrid, and current club Schalke. Raul’s won it three times with Los Merengues, and his goals against Valencia in 2000 and Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 made him the first player to score in two Champions League finals. In 2003, Alex Ferguson called him the best in the world. You’d put that on your CV.
When pace, leadership, tackling ability and smouldering good looks were being passed out, Maldini put on a false beard and went round for seconds. During 25 seasons at AC Milan Maldini embodied the great era of the Rossoneri, scooping five Champions League titles, most recently against Liverpool in 2007. Simply put, the greatest defender in the Champions League ever.
Are these the Champions League crème de la crème? Who would make your all-time list? Let us know by leaving a comment. And for sport, film and TV chit-chat, follow @tvfrombt on Twitter/tvfrombt