Rio Ferdinand picks his top five Champions League players of all-time

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All of the greatest players in the history of football have graced the Champions League.

The trophy is the biggest prize in European club football and we’ve seen some incredible players compete in the tournament down the years.

From the Galacticos, to the sensational AC Milan line-up in the early 2000s and the current irresistible Barcelona team - the best sides in the world have competed, and lifted, the “big ears” trophy.


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Given the amount of world-class players that have played in the competition, it's incredibly difficult to pick the top five stars in the history of the tournament.

One man that is authorised to comment on the best players in Europe’s elite competition is Rio Ferdinand. The former defender reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with Leeds before moving to Manchester United.

Ferdinand played in the tournament every season during his 12 years at the Red Devils, lifting the trophy in 2008. He came up against world-class players on a regular basis in the 91 European matches he played at Old Trafford so he’s a pretty good person to ask to name the top five players that have competed in the Champions League.

It’s a tricky question but the BT Sport pundit has given it go. Here’s who he selected, and why:

Lionel Messi

Messi is bound to feature on everyone’s list. 83 goals in 106 Champions League appearances may have something to do with it. Or, maybe the fact that he’s already won it four times.

Ferdinand said: “A great player, took the Champions League off me twice as well and was instrumental in that.”

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo has won the competition for both Manchester United and Real Madrid. His goalscoring record is also pretty ridiculous - just the 78 goals in 73 matches in the competition for Madrid. His tally of 93 puts him at the top of the all-time goalscoring chart.

Ferdinand said: “This guy is relentless. Scores goals from all angles, any type of goal you want, he scores it.”


He may have represented Paris Saint-German, Barcelona and AC Milan but Ronaldinho only won the Champions League once - in 2006. What a player he was, though.

Ferdinand said: “A great player who played with a smile on his face. Personality, skills and put bums on seats.”

Zinedine Zidane

When he mention Zidane and the Champions League you instantly think back to Scotland in 2002. It was his only victory in the competition as a player but he’s hoping to now win it as a manager.

Ferdinand said: “He was poetry in motion. Artistic, beautiful, the subtlety he played with and scored that left-foot volley into the roof of the net in the Champions League final to win that.”


Here’s a fact that may surprise you: Ronaldo never won the Champions League. He played for PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan but never managed to lift the trophy in his career.

Ferdinand said: “My favourite player, could do everything. Speed, skill, goals the lot. And he scored a hat-trick at Old Trafford against me and got a standing ovation.”

It’s very hard to argue with Ferdinand’s five selections. Five of the best footballers in the modern day that we’ve had the privilege of watching on the European scene.

What is your top five Champions League players of all-time? Let us know in the comments box below!

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Wayne Rooney
Zinedine Zidane
La Liga
Real Madrid
Rio Ferdinand
Premier League
Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi
Manchester United
UEFA Champions League

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