We’ve combed through the last 11 Champions League finals to come up with an XI of the best players across those games, one per season. Quite a team, this…
GK: Thibaut Courtois (Liverpool 0-1 REAL MADRID, 2022)
Quite possibly the best individual performance by any player in the last 11 iterations. Courtois called for English fans to “put respect on my name” after a game in which he produced at least four world-class saves to deny Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
RB: Joshua Kimmich (Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 BAYERN MUNICH, 2020)
Started the move for the winner in front of an empty stadium in Lisbon before clipping a delightful cross straight onto Kingsley Coman’s bonce, who could hardly have missed the header.
CB: Joel Matip (Tottenham 0-2 LIVERPOOL, 2019)
Slim pickings and Matip’s centre-back partner Virgil van Dijk could easily have made it instead as the pair dealt very comfortably indeed with an entirely crocked Harry Kane in a truly awful Champions League final.
CB: Ruben Dias (MANCHESTER CITY 1-0 Inter Milan, 2023)
His fellow centre-backs and the centre-back-cum-midfielder were all very good, but Ruben Dias gets the nod for his desire to get things going for City when they were going a bit stale and for frequently illustrating his almost irritating composure under some pretty significant pressure from Lautaro Martinez.
LB: Jordi Alba (Juventus 1-3 BARCELONA, 2015)
The peak of MSN saw both Luis Suarez and Neymar score while Lionel Messi caused havoc, but Jordi Alba produced a delightful cross for Neymar’s header and continually raided down the left, as has been his wont for the last decade at the Nou Camp.
CM: N’Golo Kante (Manchester City 0-1 CHELSEA, 2021)
There is absolutely no chance Chelsea would have won this game, or indeed made it to Porto, without N’Golo Kante, who won Player of the Match in both semi-final legs against Madri before claiming the same accolade against a City side who weren’t given a moment’s rest against the Duracel dog without a bone. He’ll be a huge miss.
CM: Angel Di Maria (REAL MADRID 4-1 Atletico Madrid, 2014)
With Diego Simeone ordering his b*astards-in-chief to kick Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Di Maria was about the only player on the pitch with space to provide quality, and it was one of his many driving runs that gave Real Madrid the lead.
CM: Luka Modric (REAL MADRID 1-1 Atletico Madrid (5-3 pens), 2016)
We had to get him in somehow and in a game in which Bale was Man of the Match, for – as the Daily Mail put it – ‘monstering’ Atletico Madrid, Modric came a close second, doing that thing where he passes the ball quickly, precisely and cuttingly to his teammates.
LW: Arjen Robben (Borussia Dortmund 1-2 BAYERN MUNICH, 2013)
A goal and an assist for the Dutchman and neither came from his more customary right-wing position. He cut the ball back from the byline on the left for Mario Mandzukic’s opener before latching on to Frank Ribery’s backheel through the middle to sweep the ball home for the winner.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus 1-4 REAL MADRID, 2017)
Scored a brace to put him out on his own as the player with the most Champions League final goals on four, the first a beautifully slotted finish into the far corner after Dani Carvajal’s pull-back and the second a neat clipped finish at the near post.
RW: Gareth Bale (REAL MADRID 3-1 Liverpool, 2018)
A final remembered for Mohamed Salah’s tears, Loris Karius’ f*** ups and perhaps the greatest impact from a substitute of all time, as Bale rose 6ft 6in in the air to hit an overhead kick at 38mph with his seventh touch of the game to score arguably the greatest Champions League final goal in history.