The Champions League has showcased the greatest talents in the history of world football. 

Only the best, however, have gone on to lift the prestigious trophy.  

Here's a look at perhaps the best Champions League XI of all time:

Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes | Barcelona

While greater goalkeepers have lifted the Champions League trophy, no other stopper has celebrated three victories in the final of the biggest club competition in the world - helping Barcelona win the title in 2006, 2009 and 2011, all of which were against English opposition.

The Catalan club defeated Arsenal in 2006 and Manchester United in 2009 and 2011. Valdes has also made over 100 appearances in Europe for Barcelona and, having played in the same team as Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and many others, is more than worthy of a place in this ultra successful line-up.

Right-back: Carles Puyol | Barcelona

Almost 15 years of service to the Spanish giants, the crazy-haired Puyol was also part of the three recent Champions League wins for the Catalan club. 

Normally at the heart of Barca's defence, Puyol earned the Best European right-back award from UEFA in 2002 for his outstanding performances in Europe with Barcelona.

Puyol has played more than 650 times for his beloved club and more than 120 of these appearances have been in Europe. The World Cup winner captained Barcelona in all of the club's recent Champions League triumphs.

Centre-back: Paolo Maldini | AC Milan

Arguably the greatest defender of all time. 

The Italian legend won an incredible five European Cup/Champions League trophies during his career. Another candidate to captain this team, Maldini wore the armband in an outstanding four Champions League finals for the red-and-black half of Milan, lifting the trophy in three of these finals.

Maldini formed a legendary defensive partnership with fellow Italy international Alessandro Nesta and together the pair formed the most feared centre-back partnership in Champions League history. 

With more than 150 appearances in European competition for the Rossoneri, Maldini is one of few players guaranteed to be in any Champions League dream team.

Centre-back: Fernando Hierro | Real Madrid

The most successful club in the history of the European club competition have had their fair share of legends that helped the Spanish giants remain the biggest club in the world.  

Hierro is certainly in that category of players who have made the Champions League what is today. The centre-back won his first Champions League title with Los Blancos in 1998 and was named UEFA Champions League Best Defender that year. 

If that's not enough, Hierro also lifted the trophy in 2000 before captaining Real Madrid to the same title in 2002 as the club celebrated an unprecedented nine European trophies.  

Hierro was the focal point of Madrid's defence and could certainly give both Puyol and Maldini a run for the captain's armband in this team.

Left-back: Bixente Lizarazu | Bayern Munich

The French full-back just edges this position ahead of Brazil's Roberto Carlos for his efforts in Bayern Munich's Champions League triumph in 2001.

Lizarazu was part of the great France team that won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000. The Frenchman was also selected for the 2001 UEFA Team of the Year and was part of the Bayern side that narrowly lost to Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League final. 

Lizarazu is remembered for his superior defending and ability to get up and down the flanks to create opportunities for his teammates.

Centre-midfield: Clarence Seedorf | Ajax/Real Madrid/AC Milan

No other player in the history of the Champions League has lifted the prestigious trophy with three different clubs. 

Clarence Seedorf's first win came with Ajax when the Dutch club defeated the team he'd later win the trophy with, AC Milan, in 1995. The second came with Real Madrid three years later, a 1-0 over Juventus in 1998. Despite not lifting the trophy in 2002, Seedorf was selected in the UEFA Team of the Year but success was once again around the corner.

In an otherwise forgettable final, AC Milan defeated Serie A rivals Juventus on penalties following a 0-0 draw in 2003 and with that Seedorf secured his third champions league medal. Seedorf missed out on another Champions League triumph when Milan lost to Liverpool in the final in 2005.  Two years later, however, Seedorf and Milan got their revenge when the Italian giants defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the final.

Seedorf, who now plays for Botafogo, played over 100 games in Europe during his glittering career.

Right-wing: Cristiano Ronaldo | Manchester United/Real Madrid

The Real Madrid superstar took a while to make his mark in the Champions League but once he did there was no stopping the Portuguese winger.  

Ronaldo won the Champions League with United in 2008, when the Red Devils defeated domestic rivals Chelsea on penalties in the final. Less than a year-and-a-half later after constant speculation, Ronaldo finally joined Spanish giants Real Madrid for a world-record fee of £80m.

Ronaldo has since gone on to challenge Barcelona rival Lionel Messi for the moniker of "World's Greatest Player" and although the winger is yet to regain the trophy, Ronaldo scored against his old team earlier this month to put Los Blancos through to the quarter-finals where they will face Turkish side Galatasaray.  

Ronaldo has scored almost 47 goals in Europe for Real Madrid and United, making him the seventh highest scorer since the competition began in 1992.

Left-wing: Ryan Giggs | Manchester United

A legend for both club and country, the Welsh wizard as he's affectionately known is a two-time winner of Europe's most prestigious trophy with the club he has played his entire career for, Manchester United. 

Giggs was an integral part of the famous United team that defeated Bayern Munich in 1999 and Chelsea in 2008 to win the giant trophy. The Welshman has been a part of every Champions League campaign that the Red Devils have participated in and will go down in history as one of the competition's greatest ever players.  

With almost thirty goals to his name in Europe for his beloved club, Giggs has been indispensable for United for the last twenty years and made the 1000th appearance of his career against Real Madrid in the Champions League first round knockout phase. Despite being on the losing side that night, the Welshman's contribution to the competition and to the football world will never be forgotten.

Attacking midfield: Zinedine Zidane | Juventus/Real Madrid

When you talk about players who have won it all and done it all in their career, you don't have to look any further than the legendary Frenchman Zinedine Zidane.

His first taste of Champions League action came with Italian giants Juventus in 1996. Zidane and Juventus reached the final in 1997, only to lose 3-1 to German side Borussia Dortmund.  The Frenchman also missed out on a Champions League medal the following year once again as Juventus were defeated by his eventual club, Real Madrid, in the final.

In the summer of 2001, Zidane joined the Spanish giants for a then world-record fee in the region of £46m. The Frenchman's first season with the club would end with him lifting the famous trophy for the first time in his career.  

The match is remembered for Zidane's fantastic match-winning goal against Bayer Leverkusen in the final in 2002. Zidane was voted man of the match in the final and was voted UEFA Footballer of the Year as his list of honours continued to grow.  

The Frenchman is described by many as football's greatest ever player and having won the Champions League with Real Madrid, the World Cup and European Championship with France, it's not hard to see why.

Striker: Lionel Messi | Barcelona

The greatest player in the world right now has been the focal point of Barcelona's two most-recent Champions League triumphs, in 2009 and 2011.  

Lionel Messi made his debut in the competition in 2005 against Udinese.  Even then the Argentine forward was being touted as the next big thing in football. Standing at 5ft 7in, Messi doesn't have the presence of a Zinedine Zidane or even his domestic rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, on the pitch, Messi is machine-like with a deadly eye for goal as so many opponents have witnessed. Messi played in his first Champions League final in 2009 and scored the second goal in a 2-0 win over Manchester United. In 2011 he did the exact same thing against the same team with the second goal in a 3-1 win to give Barcelona their second Champions League title in three years.

Messi has scored 58 goals in Europe's most prestigious club competition and has his sights set on surpassing Spanish striker Raul's record which stands at 71.  The Argentina international has earned four Ballon d'Or awards and has been named as UEFA's Best Player twice to name just a few of the honours that the magician has won. 

And the most scary thing about Messi? He is still only 25 years old.

Striker: Raul | Real Madrid/Schalke

The top scorer in the competition's history with 71 goals, it's not hard to see why the Spanish striker makes this list.  

An integral part of three Champions League triumphs with Real Madrid, Raul is arguably the greatest forward that has played for the biggest team in the world. 

The striker scored the third goal in Madrid's 3-0 over domestic rivals Valencia in the 2000 Champions League final and played in the same team with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos in 2002 as Los Blancos defeated German side Bayer Leverkusen and thus the Spanish giants won the European Cup for an unprecedented ninth time meaning Real Madrid had become the most successful club in football history.

Raul is also remembered for his loyalty to his hometown club after serving the team for more than 15 years and playing over 700 times for the Spanish side before moving to Germany with Schalke.  Raul also played a number of games in the Champions League with the German side as he career spans almost twenty years. The striker has scored more than 350 goals in his career and will surely go down in history as one of the all-time greats.

Do you agree with this Champions League XI? If not who would make your greatest European team?

 

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeFootball.com or SportsNewMedia.The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeFootball.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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Ryan Giggs
Football
UEFA Champions League
Cristiano Ronaldo