13 players who surprisingly played in Champions League finals
Djimi Traore, Liverpool (2005)
Rafael Benitez’s greatest managerial achievement? Not winning two La Liga titles with Valencia, nor securing a mid-table finish with Newcastle this term, but guiding a Liverpool side featuring Traore at left-back to Champions League glory in 2005.
The Malian made 42 appearances in all competitions for the Reds that season and duly started the final against Milan alongside Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia. Traore’s suspect positional play contributed to Liverpool’s 3-0 half-time deficit – and, indeed, he would have been taken off but for Finnan's injury – but a remarkable fightback after the break meant the future Charlton, Portsmouth and Birmingham man ended the night as a Champions League winner.
Carlos Alberto, Porto (2004)
Jose Mourinho announced himself to the world during the 2003/04 campaign, when his Porto team pulled off the biggest shock in Champions League history by winning the trophy. Their most memorable victory before the final came against Manchester United in the last 16, with Benni McCarthy’s brace in the first leg vital to Porto’s progression.
McCarthy had to content himself with a place on the bench in the Gelsenkirchen showpiece against Monaco, though, with Carlos Alberto – scorer of the opening goal in a 3-0 victory – given the nod alongside Derlei up front. The Brazilian, who went on to represent Corinthians, Vasco da Gama and Figueirense in his homeland, played just 34 times for Porto overall.
Nordin Wooter, Ajax (1996)
Watford fans couldn’t help but get excited when the Hornets broke their transfer record to snap up a winger with Champions League pedigree in 1999. Wooter, signed for £950,000, spent three seasons at Vicarage Road without ever really hitting the heights expected of him, scoring just three goals in 63 league games before departing for RBC in the Netherlands.
Wooter’s playing career later took him to Portugal, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, but it was at Ajax where the uncapped Dutchman made the breakthrough in the mid-90s. The then-teenager appeared as an extra-time substitute in the 1996 Champions League Final, which Ajax lost to Juventus on penalties.
Mario Lemina, Juventus (2017)
Lemina was locked in a relegation battle with Southampton this season; a year ago, he was getting ready for a Champions League final with Juventus. The Gabonese featured six times on the road to Cardiff, helping the Bianconeri advance to their second final in three seasons at the expense of Porto, Barcelona and Monaco.
Named among the substitutes against Real Madrid, Lemina was introduced with 12 minutes left to play. By then, though, Juve’s race was run: Zinedine Zidane’s side held a 3-1 lead which was extended by Marco Asensio late on.
Fabio da Silva, Man United (2011)
Rafael, not Fabio, was the twin who made the bigger impact at Old Trafford, playing 169 games (113 more than his brother) in all competitions during his seven seasons on Manchester United's books. He missed the 2011 Champions League Final through injury, however, so it was Fabio who got the nod at right-back against Barcelona.
The Brazilian was largely a squad player throughout his time with the Red Devils, and he struggled to shackle Lionel Messi, Pedro and David Villa at Wembley – although he was far from alone in that regard as United were outclassed by Pep Guardiola’s brilliant bunch.
Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea (2012)
The lack of academy graduates in Chelsea’s first team has been a major talking point for several seasons now, but it’s often forgotten that Bertrand – a player who joined the Blues from Gillingham at the age of 15 – was involved in their greatest achievement club history in 2012.
The Southampton skipper was deployed in an unfamiliar left-wing role against Bayern Munich – his first ever Champions League appearance – with Ashley Cole selected in his favoured left-back position. Bertrand spent much of the game in defensive areas, but a resolute Chelsea won the final on penalties.
Gael Givet and Sebastien Squillaci, Monaco (2004)
Premier League fans will know Givet and Squillaci from their mixed success at Blackburn and Arsenal respectively, but before that the duo formed a dogged centre-back partnership at Monaco.
Squillaci was a substitute for the 2004 final against Porto – Jose Mourinho’s men triumphed 3-0 – but he was afforded 18 minutes in the second half. Givet, meanwhile, started alongside Julien Rodriguez at the heart of defence, but was powerless to resist as Porto proved too strong at the Arena AufSchalke.