Europe’s biggest football carnival has finally come to an end. With Chelsea being crowned the Champions of the Champions League a hard-fought season has ended. This edition of the UCL didn’t prove to be a disappointment of any sort. Porto’s fairytale run or Chelsea’s revival, the UCL had a lot of iconic moments and performances.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 29, 2021
A few players reached new ceilings whereas some of them never lived up to the promises. FootTheBall takes a look at the Best Champions League eleven who earned praise from pundits and football fans around the globe.
Choosing the best goalkeeper in the Champions League this season was a daunting task. With Navas and Meny both presenting a strong case, the Chelsea shot-stopper edged out the Costa Rican. Edouard Mendy was brought in at Stamford Bridge to help in the resurrection of a rather depleted Blues squad.
Cool customer 😎
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 29, 2021
Kepa’s shaky hands in goal meant Chelsea needed a safe house in between their posts and the Senegalese have turned out to be a star for Chelsea. One of Thomas Tuchel’s favourites, Mendy has kept an astonishing 8 clean sheets in the 11 games he has played in Europe’s biggest football carnival. The Blues’ goalkeeper has a mouth-watering save percentage of almost 91 percent, the highest in this season’s UCL.
Juan Cuadrado is one of the only positives for Andrea Pirlo’s side. A dejected Juventus squad was knocked out by underdogs Porto in the round-of-16. But the Old Lady tried their level best to brush aside the Portuguese outfit. And Cuadrado ignited the comeback in the second leg of the tie. Though the dream didn’t turn into reality, Cuadrado’s inch-perfect crosses meant Porto’s heart must have been in their mouths for most parts of the game.
10 – Juan #Cuadrado provided 10 assists in the Serie A 2020/21, more than any other defender; a record for a Juventus defender in a single campaign since 2004/05 (since Opta collected this kind of data). Arrow.
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) May 24, 2021
Cuadrado and Juventus were sent home packing early on in the knockouts but still, Cuadrado remains to be leading the assists charts. With 6 beautiful assists served to his striker, Cuadrado is known for serving the perfect deliveries for the likes of Morata and Ronaldo. With an unimaginable 26 crosses, the Columbian is the table-topper for the most successful crosses played into the area.
Pep Guardiola’s ship has been full of world-class players. Ruben Dias’ addition to City’s roster meant the Citizens have become an undefeatable force in Europe. With a bulky body, the Portuguese love to stamp his authority on the football pitch. And since his arrival, the Citizens have conceded fewer goals. With 7 clean sheets, Dias was presented with the Man Of the Match award for his dominant and exemplary performance against the galacticos of PSG.
— Rúben Dias (@rubendias) May 4, 2021
Powerful challenges and stopped attempts are among the highlights of his game. Dias gives very little breathing space to his opposite number and those long dangling legs can tackle you from behind quite comfortably. Ruben Dias loves to battle it out in the air too, rarely losing aerial battles against his opposition. The Portuguese has not only been the best centre-back in UCL but the whole world.
Chancel Mbemba, who had the highest accuracy percentage in his role with 76.9% of the challenges he undertook has been a revelation for the Porto squad. The Dragons defence routinely locked horns with some of Europe’s best like Chelsea and Juventus. But Mbemba proved to be a headache for his rivals.
CM 19 🐉 pic.twitter.com/VRWTIw47bj
— chancel mbemba (@mbemba22) April 15, 2021
It’s no surprise that he leads the league in recoveries and goals prevented, as well as being at the summit in aerial efficiency. His tenacious, dominant defence deserves a lot of praise. Cristiano Ronaldo could take you for a ride any day of the week but Mbemba was very successful in keeping him silent throughout the two legs. Porto’s fairytale story soon came to an end, Mbemba didn’t leave the biggest European stage without proving himself as the protagonist.
Another City player who marches his way into the Best-Champions League XI this season is their English full-back, Kyle Walker. Considered to be a smart-buy Walker’s glittering campaign has finally arrived. The city’s parade to the final of the competition is because of a solid backline. Kyle Walker has been at the heart of it.
— Kyle Walker (@kylewalker2) March 16, 2021
The duo of Dias and Walker constantly frustrated strikers with their flying tackles and blocks through the 90 minutes of the game. And Walker provides the extra attacking flare with his steaming runs down the line causing a lot of trouble to his oppositions. Lastly, Walker runs like a cheetah and rarely lets his man outrun him and even if a miracle like that happens, the English fullback is capable of falling back and recovering the ball back quite comfortably.
The German maestro has been the fulcrum of Madrid’s midfield. The 3 time UCL winner with Los Blancos once again played a pivotal role in Madrid’s journey to the semi-finals. His magical ball to Vinicius Junior in the quarterfinals helped Liverpool demolish Jurgen Klopp’s side. Kroos has a vision like no other and spots passes players just dream of.
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) April 6, 2021
A rhythmic distributor in the middle of the park for Los Blancos, Kroos rarely loses the ball to his rivals. Playing with possession, the German prefers to play the ball to his strikers rather than just distributing it needlessly. And if he’s given even an inch of space he’s not afraid to run into the box or score a beautiful goal for Real Madrid. Once again his passing consistency and domination in the centre make him qualify into the UCL eleven.
A machine in Chelsea’s midfield, N’golo Kante is a special talent. The dimunitive Frenchman never gets tired and it seems eleven Kante are playing a match. Counting how many times Kante recovers the ball or how many times he initiates a Chelsea attack is a daunting task for anyone. A fan-favourite at Foxes and now at Stamford Bridge, don’t be fooled by his wide smile. When on the pitch, Kante is a robot who turns into a beast for the Blues.
N'Golo Kante was MOTM in both semifinal legs against Real Madrid.
What a player 😍 pic.twitter.com/GZIfg35xI8
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 5, 2021
The Blues playmaker ventured 29 dribbles in aggregate, and no other player in Europe could even try that many dribbles. Kante is surely a monster while attacking. There are several tactical statistics in which Kante shines, such as having the sixth most interceptions per 90 minutes, but it’s his attacking style of play that has caught the attention of football fanatics all around the world.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE
The best midfielders list is never complete without Kevin De Bruyne’s name in it. The Manchester City captain has once again proved himself as the best midfielder in the Premier League and Europe. The talismanic Belgium can cause destruction in the middle with his trustful passes and an unimaginable vision.
— Manchester City News (@ManCityMEN) April 28, 2021
De Bruyne can pop in with some crucial goals and thunderous strikes if given space. His beautiful curler against PSG in the first leg started the City’s second-half comeback and the amount of silverware he has won is a perfect example of that. De Bruyne is a creator who usually loves to operate centrally but can be a threat on either flank. His brilliance in the centre of the park makes him a remarkable player and stopping him is a difficult task for any defender.
PSG had adopted the famous galacticos policy when they splashed big-bucks to get some huge names from Europe. And one of them was Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe. Since he arrived at PSG, Mbappe has been a robot scoring goals day in and day out. Considered the future of world football, Mbappe’s pace is unbeatable.
🎵 Oh What A Night 🎵 pic.twitter.com/cUjtSztFX6
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 16, 2021
If he goes behind a defender, then the only option is to wave him goodbye because there’s no way you are catching the Frenchman. Netting 8 wonderful goals this campaign, his moment of the tournament came against Barcelona when the outstanding striker scored a hattrick of goals.
Mbappe was the driving force for PSG as he established himself as PSG’s go-to guy. Unbelievable performance in the quarter-finals knocked out the reigning European Champions, Bayern Munich, out of the tournament.
The Bundesliga Player of the Season, Erling Haaland has been phenomenal since he arrived at Dortmund. The tournament’s top scorer, Haaland has bagged 10 goals in just 705 minutes he has been on the pitch. With quick feet and insane shooting skills, Haaland can unleash a rocket if given space and time. Lately, Dortmund wasn’t successful in Europe but since Haaland’s appointment, BVB has turned into a reckoning force.
20 – Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland has now scored 20 goals in 14 UEFA Champions League appearances; the quickest a player has ever reached 20 goals in the competition, and in 10 fewer appearances than the previous record holder (Harry Kane, 24). Astonishing. pic.twitter.com/jaUCwVmIks
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 9, 2021
Though they were knocked out by English Champions Manchester City in the quarter-finals, Haaland’s journey was terrific. Carrying all the weight of goalscoring on his young but muscular shoulders, Erling Haaland guided Dortmund’s ship throughout this season. The Norweigan can also chip in with a few beautiful balls and the 2 assists under his belt provide a perfect reflection of his quality.
A product of the Manchester City academy, Phil Foden has impressed one and all in England. A youngster in the same brackets as Mbappe and Haaland, Foden’s vicious shooting skills and decisive playmaking make him an exceptional prospect.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 14, 2021
The headline maker at Etihad loves to cut inside from the flank and hit shots as strong as rockets. Pep Guardiola went without a perfect number nine throughout the whole CL period and Foden’s impact on the pitch encouraged the manager to continue with his tactics.