The 2020/21 UEFA Champions League season reached its end this weekend with Chelsea crowned as champions of Europe, the west London side edging Manchester City in an all-Premier League final in Porto.
Thomas Tuchel’s side have upset the odds to win club football’s biggest prize, their success built on a formidable defensive record since the German’s arrival as head coach in January.
Manchester City’s wait for a maiden triumph extends for a further season at least, as does that of Paris Saint-Germain who once again reached the latter stages before falling short in their bid to be crowned the continent’s finest.
Following the conclusion of the campaign, we’ve picked out some of the tournament’s leading performers, here is The Football Faithful’s Champions League Team of the Season.
Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy – Chelsea
Chelsea’s triumph was built on a brilliant defensive record, with the Blues conceding just four goals on their way to a second Champions League trophy.
Edouard Mendy has proven a shrewd acquisition after arriving as a relative unknown from Rennes last summer, providing Chelsea with a reliable presence and keeping a tournament-high of eight clean sheets in 2020/21.
Seven years ago, Edouard Mendy was unemployed, lining up at a local job center and ready to quit football.
Now he's a Champions League winner with the most clean sheets in the competition this season 👏
Never. Give. Up. pic.twitter.com/NUfvP1FSiE
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 30, 2021
The Senegal international also boasted the best save percentage (90.9%) of all regular goalkeepers and earns our number one position ahead of Ederson and Keylor Navas, the latter having made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Champions League this season.
Right-back: Juan Cuadrado – Juventus
Juventus endured a disappointing season both domestically and in Europe, the Italians making a shock exit to Porto in the last-16.
Juan Cuadrado excelled despite much mediocrity around him in his role as a rampaging right-back however, ranking second in the tournament for crosses attempted and providing more assists than any other player despite Juventus’ early elimination.
Juan Cuadrado assisted against every side he faced in the Champions League this season:
🅰️ vs. Kyiv
🅰️🅰️🅰️ vs. Ferencvaros
🅰️ vs. Barcelona
🅰️ vs. Porto
Six games, six assists. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/3jDSeDlekE
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 30, 2021
The Colombian international also completed the most crosses in the 2020/21 Champions League, providing six assists in just six appearances for the Bianconeri.
Centre-back: Ruben Dias – Chelsea
Ruben Dias’ impact on Manchester City this season has been well-documented, the centre-back transforming the club’s defensive vulnerability into a position of strength.
Dias’ arrival has brought leadership and aura to a City backline that conceded just five goals throughout the tournament, their new-found defensive strength a key reason behind the club’s run to a maiden final.
Pep Guardiola’s side ultimately fell short in their quest to be crowned champions of Europe, though it would be foolish not to expect City to return with renewed ambitions in this tournament next season.
Centre-back: Antonio Rudiger – Chelsea
Chelsea upset the odds to emerge as surprise Champions League winners this season, an incredible defensive record under Thomas Tuchel having seen the west Londoners conceded just four goals throughout the entire campaign.
Tuchel’s change to a back three system saw the reintroduction of Antonio Rudiger to the side, the Germany international having fallen out of favour under predecessor Frank Lampard before returning to prominence with a series of strong performances.
The 28-year-old was exceptional in the quarter-final win over Atletico Madrid, whilst his brilliant block to deny Phil Foden in Saturday’s final proved crucial in Chelsea emerging as champions.
Left-back: Ben Chilwell – Chelsea
Ben Chilwell arrived as part of Chelsea’s summer of spending and has filled a problem position at left-back, the England international a model of consistency for much of his debut campaign with the newly-crowned European champions.
Chilwell brings both quality and balance to the flanks and has adapted following the arrival of Tuchel, adjusting to the more advanced wing-back position to provide Chelsea with a continued outlet.
Provided a typically assured performance in the final victory against City and looks set to be a fixture in this side for seasons to come.
Midfield: N’Golo Kante – Chelsea
Simply brilliant in the latter stages as Chelsea secured the ultimate success, N’Golo Kante restated his claim as the world’s best defensive midfielder during the 2020/21 Champions League.
Kante swarmed Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals before an outstanding performance over two legs against Real Madrid in the semi-finals, overpowering and outrunning a midfield that had showed signs of a renaissance against Liverpool earlier in the campaign.
Kante in the Round of 16 2nd leg: Player of the Match
Kante in the semifinal 1st leg: Player of the Match
Kante in the semifinal 2nd leg: Player of the Match
Kante in the final of the Champions League: Player of the Match
Give this man the Ballon d'Or 💙 pic.twitter.com/InbmjEURyV
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 29, 2021
The France international was the best player on the pitch in the final win over Manchester City, a masterclass from a player who has been the finest of a generation in his position, a footballer capable of ending opposition attacks and driving past players at will to get his side on the frontfoot.
Midfield: Ilkay Gundogan – Manchester City
Amongst Manchester City’s leading performers this season, Ilkay Gundogan features alongside Kante in our Team of the Season midfield.
The Germany international has taken his game to new heights this term to play a starring role in City’s success, performing in a number of different roles in the engine room and scoring three goals throughout the club’s run to the final.
Gundogan’s class has shone through and he was excellent in the semi-final win over PSG, a breakthrough moment for Pep Guardiola’s side as they rode their luck early on before triumphing over two legs in comfortable fashion.
Gundogan edges out Jorginho and Toni Kroos to feature here, with competition for places fierce in our midfield pairing.
Right-wing: Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
Riyad Mahrez showed he can be the man for the big occasion for Manchester City this season, the winger’s performances helping Pep Guardiola’s side to a first ever final.
Mahrez scored four goals throughout the tournament including stepping up to take a crucial penalty against Borussia Dortmund in the last eight, before starring over both legs as PSG were beaten in the semi-finals.
The Algerian’s free-kick secured a vital win at the Parc des Princes in the first leg, whilst it was Mahrez’s double that secured a second leg success and City’s place in the final.
Robert Lewandowski is the only player to have ever scored more than Mahrez’s three goals across a Champions League semi-final tie.
Left-wing: Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
Last season’s runners-up ultimately fell short once again following a semi-final exit, though PSG’s superstars once again shone throughout their passage to the last four.
There were few teams that had a more daunting run than the Parisians in this season’s tournament, facing Manchester United and RB Leipzig in a tough group stage before meeting Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City in the knockout rounds.
Neymar continued his excellent record on the Champions League stage with six goals and two assists in just nine appearances, scoring a decisive winner against Leipzig and two goals in an away win at Old Trafford.
The Brazilian continued to be influential in the latter stages despite the disappointing manner of PSG’s exit to City, and hopes will be high he can improve again next term as the Ligue 1 side seek a maiden Champions League success.
Forward: Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain
Perhaps this was the season that the baton was truly handed to the next generation of superstars, with neither Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo featuring beyond the last 16.
In their absence Kylian Mbappe exploded with some truly defining performances on this stage, scoring a scintillating hat-trick against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and another clinical double as holders Bayern Munich were beaten in the quarter-finals.
No player had more touches inside the opposition box, whilst his eight big chances were the most created by any player ahead of Cuadrado and Joshua Kimmich.
Mbappe is a special, special talent and capable of taking control of Champions League ties when it matters most, his fitness issues perhaps preventing PSG from having the chance to mount a second leg comeback against City in the semi-finals.
Forward: Erling Haaland – Borussia Dortmund
Partnering Mbappe is the second forward who looks set to define a generation, Erling Haaland continuing to make the Champions League stage look like a playground.
Haaland finished as the leading scorer in this season’s competition despite Dortmund’s exit in the quarter-finals, scoring 10 goals in just eight appearances at an average rate of one every 71 minutes.
It is a frightening rate of productivity for a player who has already shattered a whole host of records, becoming the fastest and youngest player in history to reach 20 goals in the competition, achieving the feat in just 14 games – 10 fewer than second-placed Harry Kane.
Erling Haaland scored more goals than any other player in the Champions League this season:
◎ 8 games
◉ 10 goals
Averaging a goal every 71 minutes. 🤖 pic.twitter.com/oxAIpbmUZS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 30, 2021
Haaland is already amongst the best in Europe and it is scary to think what he could achieve on this stage if placed in a side with a genuine chance of making an impact in the latter stages.