Lionel Messi (2011) and Ronaldo (2017) stand out as we look out for the top ten greatest player performance in the UCL final of the 21st century.
One of the most prestigious football tournaments in the world, the UEFA Champions League is the dream of every football player to show his calibre. It’s no surprise that the competition has seen a plethora of outstanding individual performances over the years.
From Lionel Messi’s masterclass in the 2011 final to Didier Drogba’s heroic effort in the 2012 final, these performances have gone down in football history as some of the greatest moments in the sport. So, in this article, we’ll take a look at the top ten greatest player performance in Champions League finals from the 21st century.
Ranking Top 10 Greatest UCL Final Player Performance Of 21st Century
#10: Paolo Maldini – AC MIlan vs Juventus (2003)
It is not a common sight to see a defender winning the Player of the Match in big finals. But that was the case in the 2003 Champions League final between AC Milan and Juventus. Paolo Maldini put in a commanding defensive performance, as he was the man on the mission. His heroics helped AC Milan to a 0-0 draw after extra time and eventually winning the Champions League title on penalties.
#9: Oliver Kahn – Bayern Munich vs Valencia (2001)
Goalkeeper to the rescue of Bayern Munich as Oliver Kahn emerged as the hero for them in the penalty shoot-out. After 120 minutes of hard-fought battle, it was nothing to choose between Bayern Munich and Valencia as the scoreline was tied at 1-1. In the penalty shoot-out, Kahn made three outrageous saves to help Bayern Munich win the European title once again.
#8: Andres Iniesta – Barcelona vs Manchester United (2009)
The Pep Guardiola team of 2009 was full of team players like Xavi, Messi, Puyol, and Eto’o to name a few. But one player who stood out in the 2009 final was Andres Iniesta. His performance in the final against Manchester United was nothing short of sublime.
He controlled the midfield, providing an assist for the first goal of the game, as Barcelona claimed their third Champions League title by winning it by a scoreline of 2-0 against the previous year’s champions.
#7: Zinedine Zidane – Real Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen (2002)
The French magician chose the biggest stage of European football to show his charm. His volley finding the top corner of Leverkusen’s net just before half-time surely lives in the memory of those who saw it.
Zizou’s control of the ball was mesmerizing to the eyes and he certainly dictated the pace of the game. The goal scored by him was the difference as Real Madrid won with a scoreline of 2-1 to win their 10th European final.
#6: Diego Milito – Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich (2010)
Milito took Bayern Munich’s defense for a toss as he made them look ordinary with a wonderful display of his footwork. He put in a clinical performance, scoring both of Inter Milan’s goals in a 2-0 victory, on either side of the halftime. His wonderful gameplay won him the Player of the Match award.
#5: Kaka – AC Milan vs Liverpool (2007)
This game is remembered as the game of redemption. AC Milan were against the same opponents Liverpool just after one year’s gap to settle the score. And they won it by a 2-1 scoreline. Though Inzaghi scored both goals for AC Milan but certainly Kaka was the best player on the field on that night. He mastered the no. 10 position that night and provided a peach of an assist to Inzaghi to give 2 goals lead to his team in the dying minutes of the game.
#4: Didier Drogba – Chelsea vs Bayern Munich (2012)
It was nothing less than a fairytale for Drogba. He overcame his previous disappointment in the 2008 final where he was red-carded just a few minutes before the penalty shootout. Ultimately, he saw his team lose to arch-rivals Manchester United on that forgettable night.
But 2012 was a different story altogether. Drogba equalized in the 2012 finals against Bayern Munich in the 88′ through the corner taken by Mata. He placed a thundering header at the top of the near post. In a high-pressure penalty shoot, he kept his nerves and tricked Manuel Neuer to win it for Chelsea.
#3: Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid vs Juventus (2017)
A final best remembered for the sheer dominance of Real Madrid in back-to-back CL finals. Certainly, the best player for them in the finals was CR7. He opened the floodgates by scoring the first goal of the match at the 20′ mark with the right-footed grounded strike in the left corner beating Buffon by all means.
The match was at a cliffhanger after 1 hour of play with a scoreline of 2-1 in Madrid’s favour. Ronaldo put an end to the contest by scoring one more time in 64′. One can say that he was in a different league altogether on that particular night.
#2: Lionel Messi – Barcelona vs Manchester United (2011)
What makes great players different from the rest? They have the artistry to bring their A-game when it mattered most. In the 2011 final against Manchester United, Lionel Messi put on a masterclass performance. He scored a brilliant goal from outside the box in 54′ to make the scoreline 2-1. The Argentinian showcased a beautiful individual play that helped Villa to make the scoreline 3-1. It was no coming back after that for the Red Devils.
#1: Steven Gerrard – Liverpool vs AC Milan (2005)
In the 2005 final against AC Milan, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard put in a stirring second-half performance. He scored a crucial goal to start their comeback from a 0-3 deficit. The talismanic captain also won the crucial penalty for the Reds.
Alonso took the penalty and scored on the rebound to make the scoreline 3-3 from 3-0 in the span of 6 minutes. It eventually helped Liverpool to win the title in the penalty shootout. His leadership skills and halftime talk is still fresh in the ears of his teammates who mention it every now and then in some interviews.
Thanks for reading! Seeing the greatest individual player performance in the UCL final of 21st-century, which is your favourite one? Please email your thoughts to email@example.com
Akshay is an author at Footbalytics. His love for football started way back in 1998 when Ronaldo (Not Cristiano) was his first football hero, and the list keeps getting longer ever since.
Though Akshay is a Teacher by profession, he firmly believes that there is no better classroom than the Sports field and no better Teacher than Sports.