Champions League Finalists Perfect XI

Who are the finest players to have appeared in a Champions League final?

As Europe's top competition comes to a close, Editor Gary Parkinson chooses a Perfect XI of its finalists from the list at – choose your own and you could win a 50in Panasonic VIERA TV. 

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas

A champion of Europe four days after his 19th birthday; a fortnight later he won the first of 153 (and counting) Spain caps. Casillas has seen and done it all, and will be as keen as any against Atletico to make it his hat-trick – and Real Madrid's Decima.  

Right-back: Philipp Lahm

Can play right-back, left-back or defensive midfield – and under Pep Guardiola, that's just in the first half. If he were Dutch, he'd be a Total Footballer - but he's German, Bayern and a three-time finalist in the last four years, finally tasting victory last time out.

Centre-back: Alessandro Nesta

Not to indulge in stereotypes, but no country makes more top-class defenders than Italy, and Nesta was among the best. Immaculate in his timing – his dispossession of Messi tops our 11 Best Tackles list – he won just about every prize in the game, including the Champions League. Twice.

Centre-back: Marcel Desailly

The steel behind Nesta's silk, although The Rock was no slouch in possession, so much so that he could happily play in midfield. A Champions League winner in successive seasons with Marseille and Milan, he would also go on to win the World Cup and European Championship with France.

Left-back: Bixente Lizarazu

Another diddy-man of a full-back – he's 5ft 7in, like Lahm – but the Basque wasn't easily bullied at the back or stopped when he flew forward, which arguably makes him a more complete full-back than Paolo Maldini or Roberto Carlos. The 2001 Champions League winner also became a champions of Europe after retiring – at jiu-jitsu. So if you disagree, you tell him.

Right-wing: Cristiano Ronaldo

One of those goal-a-game wingers that your team would be unwise not to accommodate. A Champions League winner in 2008 but a beaten finalist the following year, the Portuguese is more of a forward than a chalk-booted touchline-hugger, but he's got Lahm behind him, so it'll all be fine.

Central midfield: Xavi

Thrice a champion of Europe at club level, not to mention at international level, Xavi makes very good things happen in very good teams. "That's what I do: look for spaces. All day. I'm always looking," says this Perfect XI's third 5ft 7in player. He may be small, but you try getting the ball off him.

Central midfield: Andrea Pirlo

The former No.10 turned deep-lying playmaker is a three-time Champions League finalist and twice a winner. A dab hand at set pieces, he's the kind of thoughtful chap who names his autobiography Penso Quindi Gioco (I Think, Therefore I Play).

Left-wing: Ronaldinho

Another potent weapon disguised as a winger: given the overlapping full-backs, this 4-4-2 is more like a 2-4-4, and they won't need to do much defending. Dinho won more praise (and individual gongs) than team trophies, although he'll need the Brasso for his 2006 Champions League and 2002 World Cup winner's medals.


Pick your own Champions League Fantasy XI at, and enter our simple competition to be in with a chance of winning an amazing 50in Panasonic VIERA TV.

Forward: Leo Messi

He's really good. And 5ft 7in.

Forward: Andriy Shevchenko

Unfairly remembered by the Brits for his spluttering spell at Chelsea, Sheva was one of Europe's most feared strikers and would have a rare old time at the business end of this team. He could take the pressure, too, having scored the winner in the 2003 Champions League final penalty shootout.