Ronaldo, Messi, De Bruyne: What are the best individual displays in Champions League quarter-final history?


We’re down to eight in the Champions League as the competition continues in unprecedented circumstances.

Instead of two-legged quarter-final and semi-final ties, it’s a ‘winner stays on’ situation in Lisbon to determine the champions of Europe.

So away goals are out of the picture, but there’s still plenty of excitement to be yielded from one-legged games.

The action gets underway today (August 12) with Serie A’s surprise package Atalanta taking on French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Here’s how the quarter-finals look:

  • Atalanta vs Paris Saint-Germain (August 12)
  • RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid (August 13)
  • Barcelona vs Bayern Munich (August 14)
  • Manchester City vs Lyon (August 15)

It’s time for the best players in the world to step up and earn their stripes, which is something we’ve seen several times over the years.

Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be present but the Portuguese is responsible for some of the most sublime quarter-final performances ever witnessed.

We’ve had a go at ranking our eight favourite individual performances at this stage of the competition. Take it away, Cesc Fabregas…

8. Cesc Fabregas | Arsenal 2-0 Juventus | 2006

Arsenal’s route to the final in 2006 included wins against Real Madrid and Juventus.

A superb performance from an 18-year-old Cesc Fabregas helped Arsene Wenger’s to a 2-0 win against a Juventus side that featured former Gunner Patrick Vieira at the heart of its midfield.

Fabregas scored the opener and later set up Thierry Henry in a fine display at Highbury.

7. David Beckham | Manchester United 2-0 Inter Milan | 1999

It’s easy to forget how good a footballer David Beckham was.

His delivery was outstanding and he showed it at Old Trafford in 1999 with two pinpoint crosses that Dwight Yorke scored from.

“We had a lot of good performers, and David Beckham was absolutely outstanding,” Sir Alex Ferguson said at full-time, per BBC.

“I am not surprised he tormented them all night. He is the best crosser of a ball in Europe.”

6. Kevin De Bruyne | Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur | 2019

Kevin De Bruyne was at the peak of his powers when Tottenham travelled to the Etihad Stadium in 2019.

The Belgian playmaker recorded three assists – THREE – in a pulsating second leg.

It was a sublime performance that confirmed De Bruyne’s status as the best midfielder in the world.


5. Cristiano Ronaldo | Real Madrid 4-2 Bayern Munich (AET) | 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo can often be relied upon to step up when he’s needed to and that was the case during Real Madrid’s second leg tie against Bayern Munich three years ago.

Ronaldo scored to put Los Blancos in the driving seat in the tie but Sergio Ramos’ own goal sent the game to extra-time.

But Ronaldo put Real back in charge in the 105th minute – his 99th in the Champions League – and he reached 100 by completing his hat-trick five minutes later.

4. Manuel Neuer | Bayern Munich 1-2 Real Madrid | 2017

Real’s route to the semi-final would have been easier were it not for Manuel Neuer’s heroics in the first leg.

The German shot-stopper made 11 saves at the Allianz Arena, including a fine one-handed stop from Ronaldo.

Neuer’s highlights serve as a reminder of how good he was in his prime.

3. Ronaldo | Manchester United 4-3 Real Madrid | 2003

Ronaldo single-handedly took Man United down in a truly iconic Champions League performance.

The Brazilian forward scored a stunning hat-trick at Old Trafford to book Real Madrid’s place in the semi-finals, leaving the pitch to a standing ovation from all four corners of the stadium.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo | Real Madrid 3-0 Wolfsburg | 2016

A 2-0 defeat in the first leg would have spelled doom for many teams, but not Real Madrid.

They had Ronaldo, after all.

The Portuguese star put his team on his back and carried them to the semi-finals with a brilliant hat-trick, made complete with a beautiful free-kick.

Ronaldo delivered when Real Madrid needed him the most.

1. Lionel Messi | Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal | 2010

“I believe we lost against a team that is better than us and that has the best player in the world.”

That was Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s assessment after Lionel Messi ended the Gunners’ Champions League hopes with one of his finest performances in the competition.

Messi scored four goals, three of which came before half-time, to send Barcelona through to the final four.

The first goal was a fierce blast that Manuel Almunia was helpless to keep out and his third was nice too; the Argentinian casually dinked the ball over the Arsenal ‘keeper to send the Camp Nou crowd wild.

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