Advertisement

The best Champions League players of 2023/24 in every position

The best Champions League players of 2023/24 in every position
The best Champions League players of 2023/24 in every position

The Champions League final is upon us once again, so it’s time to look back at the players that got us here.

Every deep run in Europe’s elite competition needs a hero or two and the same goes for giant killings or memorable comebacks. But who has delivered the goods time and again in this season’s competition?

We’ve picked 33 of the best players in the Champions League in 2023/24 and used the Comparison Matrix to decide a combined XI team of the tournament.

Goalkeeper

Andriy Lunin has been inspirational covering for the injured Thibaut Courtois this season, while Manuel Neuer was back to his old self, right until a high-profile error in the semi-final second leg against Real Madrid. However, Gregor Kobel comes out on top, with the Swiss stopper saving 84% of the shots he’s faced and performing brilliantly with the ball at his feet.

Right-back

There’s a tie here between Dani Carvajal and Achraf Hakimi, but surely the spot has to go to the Spaniard, who continues to be a key component for Real Madrid in terms of leadership and sheer quality, despite never really getting the credit he’s deserved over his career. The 32-year-old was particularly impressive in the second legs against Manchester City and Bayern Munich, perhaps benefiting in the latter by sitting out the first leg with a suspension.

Centre-back

At 41 years old, Pepe had to at least get an honourable mention, if only for his stunning round of 16 first-leg performance against Arsenal. Antonio Rudiger, meanwhile, remains one of the best on the planet, despite being oddly underrated by many.

However, it’s Rudiger’s compatriot, Mats Hummels, who comes out on top. Despite turning 35 in December, Hummels has rolled back the years with some stunning defensive displays, finding the perfect balance between grit and grace. It’s still hard to think of a better ball-playing centre-back right now.

Centre-back

It’s Hummels’ partner at Dortmund, Nico Schlotterbeck, who lines up next to him in this side as well, beating Eric Dier and Gabriel to the punch. Without Hummels and Schlotterbeck, there’s simply no way Dortmund could have made it past the likes of Atletico Madrid and PSG.

Dortmund taking up both centre-back spots and goalkeeper? Yellow Wall by both name and nature.

Left-back

Whenever a player falls out of favour with Pep Guardiola, it can be very easy to forget just how good that player actually is. Joao Cancelo has set about reminding us all with Barcelona this season and has put in some excellent two-way performances. As an out-and-out defender, the Portugal international is very underrated.

A special mention must be paid here to Ian Maatsen, who has thrived at Dortmund on loan from Chelsea and can count himself very unlucky not to make the Netherlands squad for Euro 2024.

Defensive midfield

The last dance of Toni Kroos may well be his most graceful yet, spraying the ball around the pitch without a care in the world. The German veteran has been so good, he’s even beaten the all-conquering Rodri into this team. Kroos has already won La Liga. Now, can he sign off with Champions League and European Championship crowns?

Central midfield

It takes a special sort of player to make Declan Rice look ordinary these days, but Konrad Laimer did just that as Bayern Munich beat Arsenal in the quarter-finals. The Austrian was dominant in every aspect of that particular battle, which was key in turning the tide for the Bavarians.

Warren Zaire-Emery has enjoyed a superb breakthrough Champions League campaign, but just faded a little as the tournament progressed.

Attacking midfield

We have a three-way tie here but the only way to go has to be Jude Bellingham. The England star already has three goals and four assists in this season’s competition, but think about it: Real Madrid’s No.5, playing in a final against German, opposition on British soil. What could possibly happen next?

Jadon Sancho might have saved his career by returning to Dortmund on loan this season, while Rodrygo continues to be sensational despite not quite getting the level of plaudits his compatriot on Real Madrid’s other flank does.

However, neither of them have lit up the Champions League like three-goal, four-assist Bukayo Saka. The England international’s best moments came during the group stage, but he continued to be a terror for defenders with his pace and trickery as the tournament progressed.

Left wing

There’s still one more game to go for Vinicius Jr, who is well capable of deciding the final against Dortmund and walking away with numerous individual awards. However, in this instance, he and the sensational Phil Foden lose out to Galeno, who was undoubtedly the key in getting Porto to the round of 16. The 26-year-old hit four goals and three assists in the group stages alone, before scoring a memorable 94th-minute winner against Arsenal in their round of 16 first leg.

Porto couldn’t hold onto that lead, but Galeno’s reputation has been done no harm at all by his showing this season.

Striker

Kylian Mbappe’s wait for a Champions League title goes on, but his failure to lift old big ears to this point surely cannot be solely blamed on him. After all, he did bag himself another eight goals in this season’s competition, with only Harry Kane able to match that return.

Given Kane also weighed in with four assists and looked far more threatening in the semi-finals than Mbappe, the Englishman may feel a little hard done by to miss out. But the stats don’t lie…