Ahead of this week’s Champions League quarter-final matches, GiveMeFootball decided to try its hand at picking the 11 best players to ever grace the competition.
Changed to the current format from the old European Cup in 1992, only Barcelona have won the competition four times over the past two decades whilst Real Madrid and AC Milan won the trophy three times in that same period.
But, with plenty of other top-quality competition winners, it’s an unenviable task to select just XI players from an illustrious list of world football’s elite.
See if you agree with our choices and have your say below:
Goalkeeper – Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
The Spanish international stopper has made more appearances in the competition than any other player in the position, helping Los Blancos lift the trophy in 2000 and 2002.
And, whilst the past few years have been baron in the competition for Madrid, Casillas remains an integral part of the current side chasing glory this season.
Defender – Paolo Maldini (AC Milan)
A legend of Italian football, Maldini played in six finals before retiring in 2009, lifting the trophy on three occasions as captain of the Rossoneri.
Maldini was a legend of the came over more than two decades, appearing over 900 times for the San Siro outfit and earning 126 caps for Italy.
Defender – Marcel Desailly (Marseille, AC Milan & Chelsea)
A shock winner of the tournament with Marseille in 1993, Desailly then became the first player to claim back-to-back glories after a move to AC Milan the following year.
Part of a ferocious back line with the Serie ‘A’ giants, the French international also helped Chelsea make their first big mark in the competition alongside Frank Leboeuf.
Defender – Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
Captain of one of club football’s greatest ever sides; Puyol has lifted the trophy three times with Barca – in 2006, 2009 and 2011. He’s chasing a fourth title this season.
Additionally, the Catalonian defender has won 99 caps for Spain, helping his nation win Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010.
Defender – Roberto Carlos (Inter Milan, Real Madrid & Fenerbache)
The Brazilian international made his name at Madrid, winning the trophy three times (’98, ’00 and ’02) during his 11-year stay in the Spanish capital.
Carlos was famed for his free-kick ability, and was regarded as the most dangerous full-back of his generation. He also lifted the World Cup in 2002.
Midfielder – Luis Figo (Barcelona, Real Madrid & Inter Milan)
The Portuguese legend rose to prominence after a 1995 switch to Barcelona, but followed that with a controversial La Liga move to Madrid in 2000.
It was at the Bernabeu that Figo won his only Champions League trophy, lifting ‘big ears’ in 2002 as part of the great ‘galacticos’.
Midfielder – Clarence Seedorf (Ajax, Real Madrid, AC Milan)
The Champions League’s most successful player, lifting the trophy in ’95 with Ajax, ’98 with Madrid and ’03 and ’07 with AC Milan.
Still plying his trade at 35, Seedorf is chasing a dream fifth success this season at the San Siro to move further ahead from any of his rivals.
Midfielder – Zinedine Zidane (Juventus & Real Madrid)
The French legend lost in two finals with the Serie ‘A’ side, but became a winner in 2002 after moving to Spain with Madrid.
Regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all-time, Zidane now works as director of football for Jose Mourinho’s side and will hope for more success this season.
Midfielder – Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
The Welsh wizard has lifted the trophy twice – in 1999 and 2008 – and has also lost in two finals against Barcelona.
At 38, Giggs continues to defy the odds as a major part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, and has featured in the competition every year over the past 15 years.
Forward – Raul (Real Madrid & Schalke)
Another of Madrid’s three-time winners, Raul is a Champions League legend with more goals in the competition than any other player.
Of his 71 goals in the competition, five have come since the move to Schalke in 2010, with whom he reached the semi-final last season before defeat to Giggs and United.
Forward – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
The Argentine magician has already won club football’s biggest prize three times at the age of 24, and is on course to become the greatest player in history.
With 49 goals in the competition, he’s also already tied fourth on the list of all-time scorers, with plenty of time to add to the 0.76 goals-per-game ratio.