The year is quickly coming to an end as we reach the festive period, and with it the close of a decade that has brought us some memorable occasions on European football’s biggest stage.
The Champions League remains the pinnacle of the club game and throughout the decade we have seen some iconic figures secure their legacy in the tournament.
Six sides have shared Europe’s biggest prize over the past ten seasons, and we’ve decided to compile a dream XI of those who have starred in continental competition.
Here is the Football Faithful’s Champions League Team of the Decade…
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich
The Germany international has been regarded as arguably the finest goalkeeper in world football for much of the decade, being part of the Bayern Munich side which reached consecutive finals in 2012 and 2013 and a further four semi-finals over the course of the past ten years.
After defeat to Chelsea in the 2012 final they would bounce back with victory the following year, Neuer helping his side to Champions League success after beating Borussia Dortmund in the first ever all-German final.
Regarded as one of the most complete goalkeepers of all-time, Neuer earns his place in our side.
Right-back: Dani Alves – Barcelona/Juventus/Paris Saint-Germain
The most decorated footballer of all-time, Dani Alves would twice lift the Champions League with Barcelona during the past decade before reaching a further final with Juventus and later starring with Paris Saint-Germain.
The Brazilian international followed the trail blazed by compatriots Cafu and Roberto Carlos as an all-action full-back, offering threat and quality at both ends of the field and playing a key role in Barcelona’s modern successes.
The stand-out right-back of the past ten years, Alves cements his place in our Champions League Team of the Decade.
Centre-back: Gerard Pique – Barcelona
Joining Alves in our backline is former Barcelona teammate Pique, the centre-back having been a cornerstone of the Catalan side throughout the decade and continuing to be a key figure.
Winner of the tournament in both 2011 and 2015, Pique has been a modern defender of the highest quality, combining physical stature with assured technical skills to play a key role in Barcelona’s possession-based style.
Centre-back: Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
Real Madrid have dominated the Champions League over the past few years, winning four of the past six editions of the tournament with Ramos at the heart of their success.
Twice the Spanish defender has come to his side’s rescue on the biggest occasion of them all, scoring a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser in the all-Madrid final of 2014 to force extra-time, before scoring against the same opponents two years later with Los Blancos victorious on both occasions.
Love him or loathe him, Ramos has proven the man for the biggest occasions for his side over the past decade.
Left-back: Marcelo – Real Madrid
The second of five Real Madrid stalwarts to make our side, like compatriot Alves, Marcelo has been amongst the finest in his position throughout the decade.
A brilliant attacking threat from left-back, Marcelo would play a key role in four Champions League winning teams at the Bernabeu, memorably scoring in extra-time of La Decima success against Atletico Madrid in 2014 before converting a penalty in the shoot-out win against the same opponents two years later.
His combinations down the left-hand side with Cristiano Ronaldo would prove crucial to the success of the Spanish giants, a fixture in the side’s story of modern success.
Midfield: Andres Iniesta – Barcelona
A generational great who would win every major honour in the game during a glittering career at the Camp Nou, former Barcelona captain Iniesta would become synonymous with the tiki-taka style that would deliver so much success to Spanish football.
A winner in a dominant final performance against Manchester United in 2011, Iniesta would later inherit the armband and captain the side to victory against Juventus four years later, being named Man of the Match in the 3-1 victory in Berlin.
Midfield: Luka Modric – Real Madrid
The likes of Xavi and Toni Kroos may feel aggrieved to have missed out on a place in our side, however, we’ve opted for Real Madrid’s Croatian pass master to partner Iniesta in our midfield.
Modric would come a long way from being described as La Liga’s worst signing following a difficult debut season in Spain, eventually establishing himself as a key cog and conductor of the side’s rhythm of play.
The former Tottenham star would help the Spanish side to four Champions League trophies over the course of the decade, the final of which, along with a run to the World Cup final with Croatia saw him break the Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly to be crowned as the winner of the Ballon d’Or.
It was just reward for a career that perhaps saw him under appreciated in its beginning, Modric a crucial part of the most successful Champions League side of the past decade.
Right-wing: Lionel Messi – Barcelona
Regarded by many as the greatest footballer of the past ten years, if not of all-time, Lionel Messi was a certainty to feature in our Team of the Decade.
The second highest goalscorer in the competition’s history has continued to thrive on the biggest stage of all, twice lifting the trophy and producing countless displays of breathtaking brilliance.
Mazy dribbles, deft chips and fantastic free-kicks, Messi has produced it all over a career that has proven to be a joy to watch for the modern football fan.
No player in world football is as captivating to watch as Messi in full flight, and Champions League viewers should savour him whilst they still can.
Left-wing: Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid/Juventus
Placing Cristiano Ronaldo in the same team as Lionel Messi has been a hypothetical dream for fans worldwide, but one that is a reality for our Champions League Team of a Decade.
Ronaldo’s impact on European football’s biggest stage has been well documented, with a look at his list of his personal accolades and achievements all that is needed to gain a concept of his legacy.
The highest goalscorer in the competition’s history, he has also provided the most assists, whilst he is also the only player to have won the tournament five times in the Champions League era, with four of those coming in the past decade.
The only player to score in three finals, he holds the top three records for most goals in a single campaign and having now departed the Spanish capital for Juventus, he will look to win the trophy with a third club.
Simply put, Cristiano Ronaldo is the Champions League king.
Forward: Karim Benzema – Real Madrid
Perhaps overshadowed by some of his more illustrious teammates, Karim Benzema has been a constant throughout the decade for Real Madrid and has quietly established himself amongst the greatest goalscorers in the tournament’s history.
Only Ronaldo, Messi and Raul have scored more than Benzema’s 64 Champions League goals, none more crucial than his fortuitous opener in the 2018 final success over Liverpool.
That victory was the most recent of four Champions League triumphs for Benzema over the past decade, whilst he will remain crucial to his side’s hopes of further success in the coming seasons.
Forward: Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund/Bayern Munich
A controversial choice for our side, given that Lewandowski is yet to lift the Champions League, though there can be no denying his consistency as one of the leading players in European football over the past decade.
Having emerged in Jurgen Klopp’s exciting Borussia Dortmund team, the Pole would truly announce himself to world football with a four-goal haul in the German’s side’s semi-final success over Real Madrid in 2013.
It was a clinic in finishing that would ultimately end in final defeat to Bayern Munich, the club he would join the following year and continue to score prolifically at the highest level.
The forward has scored 63 goals in just 85 Champions League appearances over the past ten years, scoring at a goal-per-game rate only marginally less than Cristiano Ronaldo throughout his career in the competition.
Bayern will be strongly fancied to go far this season, and Lewandowski will hope to begin the new decade with a maiden trophy.