Another Champions League season has ended with the increasingly-predictable sight of Real Madrid lifting the trophy.
Zinedine Zidane’s side emerged victorious after Saturday night’s final against Liverpool in Kiev, winning the competition for the fourth time in five seasons.
It brought the curtain down on an enthralling European campaign, full of comebacks, near-comebacks, shock exits and controversy, and no small amount of goals.
But who stood out enough to make our Champions League combined XI?
Alisson Becker (Roma). The Brazilian’s reputation skyrocketed this season thanks to a number of fantastic performances for Roma. A key performer in the Italian side’s run to the semi-final, his five clean sheets out of six at the Olimpico provided a strong foundation for their success.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool). The teenager’s Champions League season began with a fantastic free-kick against Hoffenheim, and ended with his status as one of Europe’s best defensive prospects firmly cemented. Put in a strong performance in the pressurised environment of the final too, which bodes very well for the future.
Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich). Is picking two right-backs technically cheating? Even if it is, I don’t care. Kimmich was arguably Bayern’s standout performer in the Champions League this season, given his effectiveness from the back. With four goals (including two against Real in the semis) and three assists, the German international played a huge part in Bayern’s run to the last four. The club and country that produced Philipp Lahm has developed another star full-back.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid). Ramos is the living embodiment of Real Madrid’s otherworldly determination and will to win. The Spanish defender is rarely away from the centre of attention (be that for the right or wrong reasons), but the side’s performance without him in the defeat to Juventus showed just how vital he is to the backline and team mentality.
Marcelo (Real Madrid). Question marks regarding his defensive contribution aside, Marcelo is one of the most influential full-backs in the game. His ability in getting forward and making trouble for opposition right-backs is vital, and goals against PSG, Bayern and Juventus were crucial in getting Real to the final. The Brazilian then shone against Liverpool with two fine assists.
James Milner (Liverpool). Quiet yet dependable, Milner showed Jurgen Klopp this season why it was a waste to put him at left-back last year. The former England man set a new record for assists in the Champions League this season (9) and ended the campaign as the first name in midfield on the teamsheet.
Casemiro (Real Madrid). In a midfield surrounded by creative geniuses such as Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, Casemiro more than holds his own. Providing mental toughness to the midfield, the Brazilian’s tackling ability and interceptions are crucial in stopping opposition attacks and beginning his own side’s phases of play. It’s rarely pretty but it’s supremely effective.
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City). This season elevated De Bruyne from very good player to star performer and string-puller in a record-breaking team. The Belgian also made his presence felt in Europe, providing four assists and playing a key role in City’s path to the quarter-finals.
Mo Salah (Liverpool). The way in which Salah’s season ended was heartbreaking, but it doesn’t take away from a fantastic season from the Egyptian. Ten goals and four assists, consistently brilliant performances throughout and a masterclass against former side Roma in the semi-finals. His biggest problem right now is having to match or better it next season.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid). Before Christmas, it actually looked as though Ronaldo’s decline had begun to accelerate as he struggled to find the net in La Liga – and yet, his performances in Europe this season have remained consistent. A return of fifteen Champions League goals reflects this – even at the age of 33, Ronaldo is still going strong.
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool). After bubbling under the surface for a few years, Firmino has finally made his presence felt on a major stage. His tirelessness and phenomenal work rate make him stand out as a centre-forward unlike any other – and a return of ten goals and seven assists is the result of a stellar campaign for the Brazilian.