Jun. 03, 2017
Champions League Final Combined XI
On Saturday 3 June, European giants Juventus and Real Madrid face-off with the greatest prize in club football up for grabs, but which superstars from the two sides would make it into the ultimate Champions League Final combined XI?
There were only two options between the posts, and I am going to go for Juventus’ leader of 16 years, Gianluigi Buffon, selected ahead of Madrid’s Costa Rican shot stopper Keylor Navas. Italy’s number one, Buffon has amassed an unprecedented 168 caps for Gli Azzurri, and he holds more records and honours than one could even believe. A FIFA World Cup winner in 2006, there is just one trophy missing from the 39-year-old’s cabinet, and that is the Champions League.
Gianluigi Buffon is yet to win a Champions League title
Another player whose records speak for themselves, Juventus full back Dani Alves just pips Real’s Dani Carvajal to the spot at right back in this combined XI. And, whilst his goalkeeper is yet to lift the iconic trophy that the two teams will be playing for on Saturday night, Alves has experienced joy in this competition on three previous occasions, representing a Barcelona side that “The Old Lady” dispatched comfortably at the quarter-final stage this time out. The second-most decorated footballer in European competitions of all-time, the Brazilian has done an admirable job of replacing Cafu as his nation’s number two over the past 11 years.
One of the toughest players to set foot on a football pitch, Leonardo Bonucci has amassed over 300 appearances for Juventus since moving from fellow Serie A club Bari in 2010, and his achievements have gone largely under the radar as a result of playing alongside fellow Juve stalwart Giorgio Chiellini at the heart of the defence. A member of the UEFA Team of the Year and named Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2016, Bonucci rarely puts a foot wrong against even the best the game has to offer.
There may not have been a better central defensive partnership in world football since AC Milan’s Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta were separated by the former’s retirement in 2009, and Giorgio Chiellini just has to partner Bonucci in this combined XI. Italy’s 2006 World Cup win may have arrived too soon for Chiellini. However, having established himself in the Juventus back four that same season, aged just 21, the 32-year-old is an academic master off the pitch, and has also been honoured with a knighthood as a member of the Italian Republic.
Giorgio Chiellini has become an icon in the Juventus and Italian back lines
One of the most talented defenders of all-time, Real Madrid’s Brazilian left back has been commended by compatriot Roberto Carlos as possessing “better technical ability than me” as quoted by A Different League. Having joined Madrid as a teenager, Marcelo receives more recognition from his teammates and others involved in the game than he does from the media, yet his ability at both ends of the field deserve far more credit. Marcelo has frequently been one of this outstanding players for his team.
One of only two World Cup winners in this XI (along with Buffon), Real’s German midfielder Toni Kroos is perhaps the most gifted passer of his generation. Kroos developed as a player alongside compatriot Bastian Schweinsteiger, before he was replaced in Bayern Munich’s midfield by another magnificent player on the ball in Xabi Alonso. Credit to his ability, Kroos has represented his country on 76 occasions and has played over 400 times at club level, and he is still just 27 years of age.
Selected on multiple occasions for UEFA’s Champions League Team of the Season and often regarded as the greatest Croatian footballer of all-time, Luka Modric has thrived since joining Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2012. Spurs’ 2010-2011 player of the season has formed an outstanding partnership alongside Kroos in Real’s midfield, and, although Modric’s assist rate does not come close to that of teammates Kroos, Marcelo or Cristiano Ronaldo in a Madrid shirt, a major reason for that is because of his ability to create space for others to play that killer pass.
Another gifted playmaker in the Madrid line-up, Spanish midfielder Isco has done more than prove his worth since joining the 11-time Champions League winners in the summer of 2013. Acquired from Malaga for just €30 million, Isco was a recipient of the Golden Boy award in 2012 – either side of Mario Gotze and Paul Pogba – and has become such an influential player for Zinedine Zidane’s side that he looks likely to keep a fit again Gareth Bale out of the Real starting line-up on Saturday night.
Isco looks likely to keep Gareth Bale out of the Real Madrid starting XI for the Champions League Final
With Juventus dominating the back five and Real the front six, the one Serie A player who does feature in the attack of this combined XI is Paulo Dybala. Juventus’ outstanding player, Dybala has been nicknamed “La Joya” (“The Jewel”) for a reason. The Argentine forward left Palermo for just €32 million (plus €8 million add-ons) just two years ago, and, having replaced Andrea Pirlo as Juve’s number 21, has already netted 42 times for his new club. With Real all-too familiar with Dybala’s strike partner Gonzalo Higuain, it could be down to the 23-year-old to make the difference on Saturday night.
The first €100 million player, Gareth Bale has joined teammate Modric in improving his game since joining Los Blancos from Tottenham in 2013. Injuries have halted Bale’s progress over the past two seasons, however, a two-time UEFA Team of the Year member, the “Welsh Wizard” would never be far from a world XI should he be fully fit. If Isco does get the nod ahead of Bale, do not be surprised to see an inspired substitute appearance from the Welshman on his homecoming.
The debate can continue as to whether he is the greatest on the planet, or even of all-time. Nevertheless, one thing that is for sure is that Cristiano Ronaldo is a game changer. There are few better on the largest stage of all and there is not the scope in this article to name even a fraction a Ronaldo’s major honours, records and achievements. The one record that does standout however is his unassailable 103 UEFA Champions League goals, and it is that statistic which underpins his selection in any side. It wold take a brave man to bet against the Portuguese adding to that tally in Saturday’s final.
As is the case with any team selection, those choices are up for debate. With that in mind, let us see who the key men are in Saturday’s Champions League Final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, as Juve bid for a third European Cup and Real a 12th.
Who will guide their team to Champions League glory on Saturday night?