22 Champions League players the streets will never forget

  • Rob Swan

The Champions League is the most prestigious competition in world football.

In terms of technical quality, it’s now the best football tournament on the planet – ahead of the World Cup.

And many of you reading this will, like us, have grown up watching all the drama unfold on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

We can all reel off the names of various Champions League legends – including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka and so on – but what about the lesser-remembered players who, for various reasons, all left us with lasting memories thanks to their contributions on big European nights.

These are the Champions League players that the streets will never forget – and we salute them all.

Roy Makaay

One of the most underrated strikers of his generation, Roy Makaay was an absolute goal machine in the early-2000s.

The Netherlands international was prolific during his spells with Deportivo and Bayern Munich, netting over 30 goals in all competitions between the 2002/03 and 2004/05 seasons.

He scored nine goals for Depor during the 2002/03 Champions League campaign. Only Ruud van Nistelrooy and Filippo Inzaghi bagged more goals in the competition that season.

He also scored the fastest goal in Champions League history in 2007 while playing for Bayern.

Juninho Pernambucano

Make no mistake: Juninho Pernambucano is one of the best free-kick takers in Champions League history.

The former Brazil international, who lit up Europe’s premier club competition with Lyon between 2001-2009, could score from just about anywhere inside the opposition’s half from a dead-ball situation.

Diego Ribas

A technically gifted Brazilian playmaker, Diego Ribas is best known for his spells with Werder Bremen, Juventus and Wolfsburg.

He also spent time with Atletico Madrid and earned a Champions League runners-up medal during the 2013/14 campaign, although he didn’t manage to get off the bench in the final against Real Madrid.

Ivica Olic

A tenacious forward who played for a host of European clubs including CSKA Moscow, Hamburg and Wolfsburg, Ivica Olic was the third-highest goalscorer during the 2009/10 Champions League season with finalists Bayern Munich, behind only Messi and Ronaldo.

The Croatia international scored a hat-trick against Lyon in the semi-finals in the same year.

Diego Milito

Olic may have been the star of the 2009/10 Champions League semi-finals, but it was Inter Milan’s Diego Milito who stole the show in the final.

The Argentine striker scored both goals in a 2-0 victory in Madrid and won’t be forgotten by the streets as a result.


Another player who was part of Inter’s 2009/10 Champions League-winning squad, Brazilian centre-back Lucio was a colossus on the European stage.

He first rose to prominence with the excellent Bayer Leverkusen team which reached the 2001/02 Champions League final.

Lucio went on to play for Bayern Munich and then Inter, with whom he finally lifted the European Cup under Jose Mourinho in 2010.

Diego Tristan

Like Makaay, Diego Tristan is another underrated striker who played for Deportivo during the early 2000s.

The Spanish forward bagged six goals in the 2001/02 Champions League campaign and also scored one of the goals in Depor’s infamous 8-3 defeat to AS Monaco in November 2003.

Dado Prso

On the subject of that bizarre 8-3 – which became the Champions League’s highest-scoring match – four of AS Monaco’s goals were scored by Dado Prso, the Croatian striker who went on to enjoy a spell with Rangers.

For this reason alone, he’ll always be remembered by Champions League fans of a certain age.

Ludovic Giuly

Yet another player who scored in the aforementioned 8-3, Ludovic Giuly enjoyed some of his best moments in the Champions League.

The French winger finished as a runner-up with AS Monaco during the 2003/04 season but lifted the European Cup two years later with Barcelona.

Shortly afterwards, however, he was replaced on Barça’s right-wing by Lionel Messi and the rest is history.


Ah, man. It’s such a shame how Adriano’s career panned out.

In terms of pure talent, Adriano is one of the best strikers of his time. He had pace, fierce power and could score all types of goals.

The Brazilian striker was sensational for a couple of years around the mid-2000s, finishing as the 2004/05 Champions League’s second top scorer with seven goals for Inter Milan.

Even though he failed to fulfil his huge potential, football fans will already have fond memories of the South American, who was also unstoppable around the same time on Pro Evolution Soccer.


Part of the FC Porto side that won the Champions League in 2004, Maniche was a workhorse in midfield but also loved a shot from range.

The Portuguese midfielder went on to play for Atletico Madrid and also had spells with Chelsea and Inter Milan.


AC Milan’s goalkeeper during the mid-2000s, when the Rossoneri were among Europe’s most formidable teams, Dida is never spoken about as one of the best goalkeepers of the past 20 years – but does he deserve more respect?

The Brazilian was a top ‘keeper in his prime, although his reputation was sullied somewhat in 2007 following an incident with a Celtic fan, which led to UEFA charging him for breaching rules upholding “loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship” by allegedly feigning injury.

Gabriel Batistuta

A beast of a striker, Gabriel Batistuta scored goals for fun during his nine-year spell with Fiorentina, netting 207 in 333 games.

One of his most famous goals was scored against Manchester United at Old Trafford during the 1990s. Check out the power on this strike. Outrageous!

Ze Roberto

Ze Roberto’s career seemed to go on forever. He played for Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich between 1997 and 2006.

The 45-year-old then played for several clubs outside Europe until his eventual retirement in 2017 after a couple of seasons with Palmeiras.

Dejan Stankovic

Another member of Inter Milan’s 2010 Champions League-winning side, Dejan Stankovic scored one of the great goals of the competition’s history in April 2011 against Schalke.

Manuel Neuer cleared the ball with a diving header outside his penalty area, but Stankovic walloped the ball in with the most perfect first-time volley into the unguarded net. Class.

Juan Carlos Valeron

A midfield baller who provided many assists for the aforementioned Makaay and Tristan, Juan Carlos Valeron is also famous for his spell with Deportivo in the 2000s.

He had the talent to play for one of Europe’s biggest clubs but suffered a couple of serious injuries midway through his career.

Luis Garcia

The scorer of one of the Champions League’s most infamous goals.

Luis Garcia’s ‘Ghost Goal’ at Anfield in the 2004/05 Champions League semi-final clash between Liverpool and Chelsea will never be forgotten – especially by Jose Mourinho.

The Spanish midfielder went on to lift the European Cup that season and probably hasn’t needed to buy another drink on Merseyside since.


Alex – or Alexsandro de Souza to give him his full name – was a brilliant player who scored 179 goals and registered 139 assists in 344 games for Fenerbahce.

Some of his best performances came in the Champions League with Fener between 2004-2016. The 5ft 8in Brazilian playmaker beat players, shoot from distance, pick a pass and strike a mean free-kick.

Rustu Recber

It was always fun seeing Rustu Recber playing in the Champions League because of the distinctive black paint that he wore under his eyes during matches. It just looked pretty cool.

The Turkish shot-stopper was a decent goalkeeper too. He spent most of his career playing for Fenerbahce but also spent a few seasons with Barcelona and made 120 appearances for Turkey.

Juan Sebastian Veron

Juan Sebastian Veron struggled in the Premier League with Manchester United but came alive on Champions League nights.

The Argentine midfielder, who had previously starred for Lazio, produced some magnificent performances in Europe for the Red Devils and shouldn’t be regarded as a total flop as a result.

He also played in Europe with both Chelsea and Inter Milan.

Walter Pandiani

Yet another Deportivo striker of the early-2000s, Walter Pandiani popped up with a few goals in the Champions League around this time.

Not the most talented striker the competition has ever seen – he ended up signing for Birmingham City in 2005 – but a player we all remember nonetheless.

Juan Roman Riquelme

And last, but by no means least, we have the magisterial Juan Roman Riquelme.

The Argentina international was a classic foot-on-the-ball playmaker who dictated the tempo of games and was blessed with unbelievable vision.

He went close to inspiring Villarreal to a place in the 2005/06 Champions League final but cruelly missed a penalty against Arsenal in the semi-finals that year.

A genius and the final player on this list that the streets will never forget.

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