This week’s Champions League football has inspired a walk down memory lane. The destination? An all-time best XI to never life the hallowed cup.
GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
Buffon will easily go down as one of the greatest keepers of all time as he comes into his twentieth season as a professional footballer. The Italian keeper has had plenty of success in his career, winning a World Cup with Italy in 2006 while also lifting 7 Serie A titles, 4 Supercoppas and being named in the UEFA Team of the Year three times. The keeper did play in the Champions League final in 2003 but Juventus lost to AC Milan on penalties.
RB: Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy)
Zambrotta was a talented right back that played for many top clubs such as Juventus, Barcelona and AC Milan. The defender won 3 Serie A’s and 2 Supercoppas but just like Buffon was also on the losing side in the 2003 Champions League final. (skip to 1:00, 2:00, 2:48, 3:30 and 3:54 for Zambrotta moments)
CB: Laurent Blanc (France)
Laurent Blanc won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000 making him a legend in French football. There was also plenty of club success as the defender won a Coupe de France with Montpellier, Copa del Rey with Barcelona and a Premier League title with Manchester United in the 02/03 season but the Champions League was always a trophy that eluded the defender.
CB:Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
At one point in football history, Cannavaro was regarded as the best defender in the world. Strong, quick, versatile and consistent, he had it all. This talent was acknowledged when he won the Ballon d’Or in 2006 after leading Italy to World Cup success. The defender had club success in Italy and Spain as he won 2 Coppa Italias and two La Liga’s but he never managed to lift the Champions League trophy.
LB:Lilian Thuram – (France)
Thuram was part of the dominant French side that won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euro 2000 while he enjoyed success with Parma, Juventus and Barcelona. The defender won 2 Serie A titles, a Super Copa de Espana while his only success in European club football came when he won the UEFA Cup with Parma in 1999.
DM: Lothar Matthaus (Germany)
Matthaus will always be known as a legendary midfielder for his physicality, control of the midfield area and impressive shooting and passing ability. The defensive midfielder won the World Cup with Germany in 1990, 7 Bundesligas with Bayern Munich and a Serie A with Inter Milan. Matthaus managed to win the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan in 1991 and Bayern Munich in 1996 but never managed to experience the same kind of success in the Champions League.
RCM: Patrick Vieira (France)
Vieira enjoyed massive success as the backbone of a legendary Arsenal team that won 3 Premier League titles and 4 FA Cups during his time in England while he also won the World Cup in 1998 and a European Championship in 2000 with France. This success continued when he moved to Italy to play for Juventus and Inter Milan as he won 5 Serie A titles. Vieira seemed to dominate as a strong, skilful and controlling midfielder but that wasn’t enough for him to lift a Champions League trophy.
LCM: Michael Ballack (Germany)
The German midfielder had a great passing and finishing ability, able to use both feet but he did prefer his right foot. This made him a versatile player who enjoyed plenty of success in his career, clinching 4 Bundesliga titles and 1 Premier League title. The German did have highs in European football but he was unfortunate to lose two Champions League finals – one with Bayer Leverkusen who lost to Real Madrid 2-1 in the 2002 final and one with Chelsea who lost on penalties to Manchester United in the 2008 final.
AM: Pavel Nedved – (Czech Republic)
Nedved had skill, pace and vision which led to him enjoying success in the Czech Republic and in Italy. The attacking midfielder won the Czech league with Sparta Prague and also won 3 Serie A titles during his stints at Lazio and Juventus. Nedved never lifted the Champions League trophy and was suspended for the 2003 Champions League final where Juventus lost to AC Milan on penalties.
ST: Ronaldo (Brazil)
Ronaldo lit the football world up with his skill, creativity and unbelievable finishing ability which saw him score 247 career goals in 343 appearances. The Brazilian also won two World Cups and two Ballon d’Or awards. The striker lifted two UEFA Cups, a La Liga title, Supercopa de Espana and a Copa del Rey during his stints at Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid but never managed to lift the Champions League trophy.
ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
The confident and skilful striker believes that he is one of the greatest footballers in the world and he would only love to lift a Champions League title to prove it. The Swedish attacker has won six Serie A titles during his time at Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan while he also won a La Liga title with Barcelona. Individually, the striker won the Golden Foot award in 2012, the FIFA Puskas award in 2013 and has been named in the UEFA Team of the year four times. Ibrahimovic is currently in France with PSG and has so far won two Ligue 1 titles and a Coupe de la Ligue but we will have to wait and see if he ever gets his hands on the Champions League trophy.