Michael Owen has selected his all-time Champions League XI while chatting with his former Manchester United and England teammate Rio Ferdinand.
Owen was asked to choose his dream XI for BT Sport’s UCL Immortals series.
The retired striker-turned-pundit’s team is a strong one but there are a few selections that might raise one or two eyebrows. The first player he selected has never even managed to win the Champions League, for example.
There was also no place for Virgil van Dijk, who Owen described as the “best centre-back of all time” ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final second leg clash against Villarreal on Tuesday night.
The talismanic Dutch defender was not one of the players shortlisted by BT Sport.
Here’s Michael Owen’s all-time Champions League XI:
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
“I’m going controversial straight away! Not much pedigree in terms of winning the Champions League but, on pure ability, Buffon.
“I played with [Iker] Casillas and [Edwin] van der Sar. Between them two, I was way more impressed with Van der Sar. You have a view of every player before you get to play with them, then you get to train with them every day and [my opinion] certainly went up with Van der Sar.
“Casillas, if I’m honest, didn’t wow me in training. But in games, which is obviously the most important thing, he did the business throughout his career.
“But I think Buffon, for pure ability, was the best of the lot of them.”
“Growing up and watching him play, he almost redefined the right-back spot. You got tired watching him, he did so much running! He was just incredible.”
Left-back: Roberto Carlos
“He’s the best left-back I played with. He could defend, he could attack, he had loads of energy, good passer of the ball, read the game well and scored some unbelievable goals.
“Ashley Cole I did think about but I thought Carlos was worthy of it.”
Centre-back: Paolo Maldini
“You have to go back in your memory to remember what a great player he was, but wow was he a good player. His reading of the game, unbelievable left foot, won everything – and he was good looking as well!”
Centre-back: Sergio Ramos
“He’s a great player, people don’t give him enough credit as he’s due. That’s because of factors: he gets sent off a lot, he’s injured one or two players, things like that.
“How many goals he’s scored as a defender as well, you’ve got to point that out.
“Massive game temperament, whenever he’s missing you can see it. He throws himself in front of the ball, scores goals, he’s just been a rock for so many years.
“They literally sold me and used the money to pay for Ramos, so Madrid fans should be thanking me for all this! He probably scored more goals than me!”
Holding midfield: Xavi
“He was just poetry in motion. Great passer of the ball, found space, set things off – he was the orchestrator of the whole [Barcelona] team. Just an unbelievable talent.”
Central midfield: Andres Iniesta
“Iniesta was a bit different to Xavi, he would play a bit further forward. When you see some of his showreels… his touch, his awareness, his balance, creativity, scorer of big goals – everything about him.
“That duo set the benchmark.”
Central midfield: Steven Gerrard
“It’s not because he’s my mate that he’s in the team. If I was playing in a World Cup final tomorrow and I said ‘I want one player from my generation’, I would just have to say Gerrard. He absolutely had everything.
“I started playing with him aged 10 and he was always very, very good. His physical development enabled him to be absolutely elite.
“He was always a great passer, great vision, great awareness, a crunching tackler… he was amazing in every single way. But as he got older, he got bigger and stronger and became an animal.
“He’d run past people, he was strong, could score goals, create goals, tackle, head, left foot, right foot, play him in any position… the guy was just a freak, an absolute freak.
“Stevie’s naturally quite shy and I think he’s developed and grown these leadership skills, certainly towards the end of his Liverpool career.”
Attacking midfield: Zinedine Zidane
“Zidane and Gerrard are the best two players I ever played with. You know when you’re a kid and you have one of those balls on the end of a rope and the ball just never went more than a metre-and-a-half away? He had that rope and it was just invisible.
“Everything he did oozed class: the way he ran, the way he touched the ball. He had this body that moved one way or the other and could do everything in one touch.
“He had strength, skill in short areas and then would burst away from you.
“He was quiet, studious, he looked out of the top of eyes at everyone. You’d get into the dressing room and he’d be surveying the scene. You were always nervous about what he was thinking!
“Of all the Galacticos, he was the one that I was in awe of. You didn’t want to disappoint Zidane!”
Forward: Lionel Messi
“Messi is the most naturally gifted player we’ve ever seen. He was born to play football.”
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
“I had to take Ronaldo’s No. 7 shirt after he left Man Utd which was a little bit heavy, I’ve still got a sore back!
“You have to take your hat off to Ronaldo. Despite him being naturally brilliant, he’s managed to work his way [up] through sheer guts, drive, dedication. Still to this day, he gets in before everyone else, leaves after them, his diet… everything about him is professional.
“I remember going over to Madrid to present Ronaldo with the Ballon d’Or on the pitch. I was given a tour of the new training ground and it was about 7 o’clock at night. I was walking round and there was one person and one physio in the dressing room at the time. Ronaldo was getting a massage and doing all the stretches!
“[Emilio] Butragueño who was given me the tour said: ‘This is normal – you can’t get him out of the place!’
“It just shows why he’s been so great for so long. He’s got the dedication as well as the ability.”
Here’s Owen’s final line-up:
Pretty good, eh?
Is the man himself pleased with his team?
Owen concluded: “There’s debates in there but you can’t not be happy with that team!”