It was meant to be the Champions League semi-finals this week, so here’s an XI made up from players who only went as far as the last four…
Goalkeeper: Nigel Martyn
Martyn may have played second fiddle to David Seaman when it came to England’s number one spot but he went one step further than the Yorkshire-born stopper in the Champions League. In the 2000/01 season, Seaman and Arsenal reached the quarter-finals of the competition, losing out to Valencia on away goals after Norwegian striker John Carew headed past Seaman late on in the second leg. The result prevented an all-English semi, with Valencia facing Martyn’s Leeds United in the next round. A 0-0 draw at Elland Road was followed up by a 3-0 victory for the Spanish side a week later. H-Team goalkeeper Joe Hart could also feature here but then so could most of Manchester City’s 2015/16 side…
Right-back: Pablo Zabaleta
One of the Premier League’s greatest ever full-backs, Pablo Zabaleta was part of the Manchester City team knocked out by Real Madrid in 2016. Fellow countryman Gabriel Heinze is another player who never made a Champions League final, despite playing for PSG, Manchester United and Real Madrid. He did reach the semis in 2007 with the Red Devils, losing out to eventual winners AC Milan.
2016 has been a fucking horrendous year, and just when you think it couldn’t get any worse you discover @pablo_zabaleta is leaving
— Mike Devlin (@BlueWolf1894) June 28, 2016
Centre-back: Vincent Kompany
The first Belgian to win the Premier League title couldn’t inspire Manchester City to a Champions League final. After the excitement of 2012, the subsequent European Cup campaign turned out to be a disaster. The Citizens went out at the first hurdle, finishing bottom in the group of death, losing out to Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax. Two last-16 knock-outs followed before City’s last-four appearance against Real, with Welsh Wonder Gareth Bale’s deflected shot enough to send Real Madrid through with a narrow 1-0 aggregate victory.
Centre-back: Gary Pallister
A hero for Manchester United in the 1992/93 season, Gary Pallister was a key figure for the club as they achieved domestic success throughout the nineties. The Englishman had departed by the time of United’s treble-winning campaign but he did reach the semis of the Champions League in 1997. Fellow Englishman Jonathan Woodgate is another centre-back option, with the undercapped star reaching the semi-final with Leeds. Legendary French defender Laurent Blanc also missed out on a Champions League final; he was part of Manchester United’s away goals loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the last four of the 2001/02 tournament.
Left-back: Cesar Azpilicueta
Azpilicueta joined Chelsea a few months after the club’s dramatic 2012 Champions League victory against Bayern Munich. The 2013/14 season saw the Spanish star come close but the Blues lost out to Atletico Madrid in the last four after a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge. Now in his thirties, the A-Team star doesn’t have much time left to reach the European showpiece. He won’t be lifting the trophy this season with the side all but out of the competition after a 3-0 defeat to Bayern in the first leg of the knockout phase. William Gallas also missed out on a final appearance whilst playing Chelsea and he suffered the same fate at London rivals Arsenal.
Same mourinho that went to Atletico and played 0-0, then when Chelsea hosted the 2nd leg he lined up with SIX DEFENDERS : Ashley Cole, John Terry, Cahill, Ivanović, David Luiz, Azpilicueta.
Atletico won 3-1.
— D.U.K (@DicksonKalu) March 13, 2018
Right wing: Eden Hazard
Just like Azpilicueta, Hazard joined Chelsea just after their 2012 triumph. The Belgian superstar will be hoping his move to Real Madrid lands him a first Champions League final appearance, although it looks unlikely this season, with the Spanish giants trailing to Manchester City. City star Raheem Sterling will be hoping the competition resumes so he can have another shot at European glory, although Liverpool fans will point out he could already have a Champions League title if he stayed at Anfield.
Central midfield: Fernandinho
There’s not much time left for Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho to win the Champions League; he’ll be 35 this month and Manchester City face a potential two-year European ban. Former City player Patrick Vieira never even made a semi-final appearance, having left Arsenal a year before the club reached the final in 2006. The French legend narrowly missed out in 2010 too, leaving Inter Milan for the Etihad a few months before Jose Mourinho led the Italian giants to the treble.
Central midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne was on Chelsea’s books when they won the 2012 Champions League, having signed for the London club in January of that year. However, he spent the rest of the season on loan at Genk and unfathomably failed to break into Mourinho’s first-team plans in the 2013/14 season. After a successful spell in Germany playing for Wolfsburg, the D-Team star made the move to Manchester City in 2015 and made the semi-finals of the Champions League in his debut season at the club. If City’s European ban is upheld, De Bruyne has a big decision to make if he wants to win European football’s biggest prize.
— Man City | Superbia (@SuperbiaProeIia) April 12, 2017
Left wing: David Silva
There’s definitely a recurring theme to this side. Quite possibly the Premier League’s finest player over the last decade, David Silva’s career looks likely to end without a Champions League final appearance. Another midfielder eligible for selection is Irish legend Damien Duff, a semi-finalist with Chelsea in the mid-noughties. Duff’s former team-mate Juan Sebastian Veron also missed out on a chance at Europe’s top prize, despite turning out for Manchester United, Lazio and Inter Milan.
Striker: Eric Cantona
The Premier League’s most influential player couldn’t inspire Manchester United to European glory, with Cantona’s semi-final appearance in 1997 the closest he came during his time in England. The Red Devils struggled in the nascent Champions League years; even the double-winning side of the 1993/94 season failed to make it to the latter stages of the competition. The Frenchman did play a small part in Marseille’s run to the 1991 European Cup final but didn’t make the squad for the side’s losing effort to Red Star Belgrade.
Gary Cahill now has as many Champions League goals as Eric Cantona.
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) March 11, 2015
Striker: Sergio Aguero
Manchester City’s all-time record goalscorer rounds off the side, although Sergio Aguero may get another crack at a Champions League semi-final if this season’s competition resumes. Another great striker who missed out is Ruud van Nistelrooy, who reached the semis with Manchester United in 2002 but couldn’t even get past the round-of-16 stage at Real Madrid. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made a semi-final appearance with Chelsea in 2004 and Nicklas Bendtner outrageously missed out on making the final in 2009 after Arsenal lost out to Manchester United in the semis…..luckily for Barcelona.
James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs
We could not keep away from the camera for long so we made a Football365 Isolation Show. Watch it, subscribe and share until we get back in the studio/pub and produce something a little slicker…