Here's the greatest Champions League XI ever – according to ChatGPT

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates victory with his winner's medal round his head after his side beat Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final at the Olympic Stadium on May 27th 2009 in Rome, Italy
(Image credit: Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)

"Choosing the greatest Champions League XI ever is a subjective task as there have been countless world-class players who have graced the competition over the years," ChatGPT told FourFourTwo when we asked it the ultimate question, somewhat sitting on the fence. 

We thought that we'd get the definitive GOAT team ever from that question but this fancy AI seems recognises that there's no correct answer. Still, it gave us a decent line-up, all the same.

"Of course, there are many other players who could have been considered for this team, but this selection represents a good mix of individual skill, tactical awareness, and team success," ChatGPT confirms. How many out of 11 did the computer get right?

The greatest Champions League XI ever – according to ChatGPT: 

Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon is ChatGPT's keeper of choice (Image credit: Getty)

An interesting start from the AI. Gigi Buffon is, of course, a legend of the game but has infamously never won the Champions League. Iker Casillas is overlooked between the sticks, as is Manuel Neuer.

Intriguingly, Buffon is listed simply as having only played for Juventus, with ChatGPT apparently erasing that season at Paris Saint-Germain. Well, you would, wouldn't you?

2. Cafu (RB)

Cafu in action for AC Milan against Inter during the 2005 Champions League match

Cafu won just a single Champions League title (Image credit: christian/Corbis via Getty Images)

Again… interesting. While some may have thought Dani Alves would get the spot at right-back, ChatGPT opts for his countryman Cafu, who won just a single European title at AC Milan in 2007, perhaps when he was past his peak.

Cafu is renowned for his efforts in international football, playing three World Cup finals in a row and winning two. Great full-back, questionable whether his Champions League legacy is quite worthy of his place here, though. 

3. Paolo Maldini (CB)

Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini gets the nod at centre-back (Image credit: PA)

OK, no questions about this one. ChatGPT goes with arguably the greatest defender of all time as its first centre-back. 

With five European titles, it would be bizarre not to include Big Paolo. The AI opting for the Italian centrally rather than at left-back is interesting. 

4. Sergio Ramos (CB)

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos won four Champions League titles at Real Madrid (Image credit: Getty)

The backbone of four Champions League title wins, it's easy to see why Sergio Ramos is picked by ChatGPT for the other centre-back spot.

Given that the AI suggested that there was a range of skills involved with its lineup, maybe putting the more aggressive, goal-getting defender next to a calm Italian capable of anticipating moves as they develop is deliberate. Perhaps ChatGPT studied Jose Mourinho methods…

5. Philipp Lahm (LB)

Greatest German players ever

Philipp Lahm is in at left-back (Image credit: Getty)

Philipp Lahm is a great choice at left-back, with the German capable of playing either side or in the centre of midfield. ChatGPT knows its stuff.

The Bayern Munich man only won one European title but was renowned as one of the most intelligent footballers of a generation. The AI plumps for him over the likes of Ashley Cole, Maldini at left-back or Marcelo. 

6. Andres Iniesta (CM)

Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta is selected in midfield (Image credit: Getty)

ChatGPT knows ball. It's good to know that Andres Iniesta still gets the nod from the AI despite his lack of goal involvement, with robots clearly understanding that there's more to a midfielder than final product.

Perhaps as part of its training, it got to watch the Spaniard's majestic cameo in the the 2006 final or that goal against Chelsea in 2009.

7. Xavi (CM)


Xavi sits next to Iniesta in midfield (Image credit: Getty)

ChatGPT knows that you can't have one without the other, as Xavi partners his old pal in midfield.

The now-Barcelona coach is one of the most revered footballers of a generation, so it's perhaps no surprise to see him here. With four European titles, he's got the ammunition behind him, too. So who completes the midfield?

8. Zinedine Zidane (CM)

Champions League

Zizou completes ChatGPT's midfield (Image credit: Getty)

OK, this is interesting. ChatGPT has gone with three attack-minded midfielders, rather than fielding a natural DM like Sergio Busquets. 

Zinedine Zidane certainly deserves his place for big moments: he won two Champions Leagues. But spare a thought for the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, even Steven Gerrard who also had iconic European nights and stacked trophy cabinets but missed out. Did ChatGPT make the right decision?

9. Lionel Messi (RW)

Lionel Messi

Of course Leo had to make the team (Image credit: Getty Images)

Once again, ChatGPT omits PSG to just state that Lionel Messi has played for Barcelona. Understandable. 

One of the more straightforward picks on the list, the only question was going to be whether the Argentine slotted in on the right or whether the AI was particularly inspired by his stint as a false nine. Right-wing it is, though. 

10. Cristiano Ronaldo (LW)

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Juventus and Club de Atletico Madrid at Allianz Stadium on March 12, 2019 in Turin, Italy.

He had to be included, right? (Image credit: Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

It would be a sign that the machine had broken if it didn't include the record goalscorer and appearance-maker.

Cristiano Ronaldo slots in on the left of this XI, opposite his biggest rival on the opposite flank. Not that we ever expected him to be left out of this line-up. 

11. Ronaldo (ST)

Ronaldo of Inter Milan celebrates during the Champions League match between Inter Milan and Spartak Moscow played at the "Giuseppe Meazza" in Milan.

ChatGPT appreciates the classics (Image credit: Claudio Villa / Getty Images)

Finally, ChatGPT opts for another Brazilian to complete this line-up… and it's no surprise at all.

Or is it? Ronaldo never won a Champions League title in his career. In fact, R9's Champions League record is impressive considering the injuries but actually pales in comparison to other legends. What about Karim Benzema? Robert Lewandowski? Luis Suarez, even, or Samuel Eto'o?

The AI has spoken, though. There's no arguing… right?

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.