The Champions League is the most prestigious club competition in world soccer. The sheer number of high quality teams in the competition make it incredibly difficult to win, and today, most consider it a more challenging tournament than the World Cup. Formerly known as the European Cup, it became the Champions League in 1992 and has been Europe's premier club competition since 1955.
For more than half a century Europe's top teams have battled it out in the competition, meaning the list of winners contains many of the game's greatest ever players. The likes of Ferenc Puskas, Eusebio, George Best, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller, Marco Van Basten, Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and countless other legends of the game are among the impressive list of winners. Listing them though, as you've just seen, is far too tedious and easy, we thought it'd be much more interesting to look at the worst players to ever win the Champions League.
Given that the Champions League is the greatest prize Europe has to offer, and is generally won by one of the continents greatest teams, there should be no 'bad' Champions League winners. However, after a look at the names to come on this list, you can decide for yourselves whether that is the case. Of course, many of these players have had very respectable careers, but none should have won the great trophy. Here are the top 15 worst players to win the Champions League:
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15 Ryan Bertrand
Ryan Bertrand is a very capable full-back who is currently proving his worth to Southampton in the Premier League, but he should never have been in the starting XI of a Champions League final team back in 2012. Bertrand played only seven league games that season, showing that he was very much a back-up player for the Blues. He was thrown into the starting XI for the final despite not even being named on the bench in Chelsea's semi-final win over Barcelona. Bertrand was played further forward as a left winger and put in a shift as Chelsea won their first ever Champions League in remarkable fashion.
14 Nuno Valente
A number of Jose Mourinho's 2004 Champions League winning Porto team could have made this list, and a few more will. It is testament to Mourinho's extraordinary man management that Ricardo Carvalho and Deco are the only names that stand out among Mourinho's cup winning squad. Valente joined Porto from Uniao Leiria, and played 58 times for the club. He later joined Everton, where he played only 45 games in 4 years, before retiring at the age of 34, looking rather plump.
13 Sulley Muntari
Sulley Muntari showed a great deal of potential in his early years, but the fact is, despite playing for a number of big clubs and racking up more than 80 caps for Ghana, he has never really reached those levels, and for much of his career, he has been something of a liability. His ability to break up play and know what to do once he won it made him a fine prospect at Udinese, but there were always question marks over his fitness and commitment at both Inter and AC Milan. He won the Champions League, like Valente, under Jose Mourinho, and joined Saudi side Ittihad FC this summer.
12 Jose Bosingwa
Jose Bosingwa has won 15 major titles over his career, and as such, it's difficult to believe that he isn't a very good player. Yet if you ask most Chelsea or QPR fans what they think of Jose Bosingwa, odds are the verdict will be fairly unanimous. The Portuguese left-back or wing-back had good pace in his prime and could look a threat going forward, but he was always seconds away from a mistake in defense. He won two Champions Leagues; one with Porto in 2004, when he was a sub, and one with Chelsea in 2012, when he was a regular starter.
11 David May
David May was a decent and honest professional who was never really good enough for Manchester United in their prime. He was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson by virtue of necessity, with the Scotsman requiring a domestic player to meet the restrictions on foreign players set in place by European competitions. Unable to get in the team as a central defender, May played only on the right side of defence, where he looked average at best and was soon replaced by a young Gary Neville, as well as never winning an England cap. Still, May was a part of Manchester United's legendary treble winning 1999 squad, and deserves his place on this list.
10 Pedro Mendes
The second member of the victorious 2004 Porto team, Pedro Mendes was a good but not exceptional player who wouldn't make many Champions League winning starting XIs. On the right of Mourinho's midfield diamond, Mendes played the full 90 minutes as Porto beat Monaco 3-0. He left Porto that summer, heading to Tottenham, where he played a peripheral role and soon moved to Portsmouth. He looked good for both Portsmouth and Rangers, which should be expected, as that was truly his level.
9 Jesper Bolmqvist
There is no doubt that Jesper Bolmqvist was capable of doing great things on a soccer pitch, but his general play and consistency was nowhere near the required level to play for AC Milan and Manchester United, as Bolmqvist did. Aged only 20, he helped Sweden reach the 1994 World Cup semi-finals, and he scored as Goteborg beat Manchester United 3-1, knocking the English club out of the Champions League. Skip forward five years and Bolmqvist had won the competition with Manchester United, although he was never truly good enough to be in a midfield which boasted the likes of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, he played only 25 times for the Red Devils in three years at the club.
8 Benni McCarthy
That's right, another member of that Porto squad. Benni McCarthy was prolific at Porto, where he spent the peak years of his career, but was never one of Europe's top strikers. He impressed in South Africa, Holland and Portugal, but did not in Spain and England. McCarthy was a composed and accurate finisher, but his all-round game was not there. He came on for the last 10 minutes of Porto's Champions League final victory, which came in his best ever season of goalscoring. He later played for Blackburn, West Ham and the Orlando Pirates, and is South Africa's all-time leading goalscorer.
7 Carsten Jancker
Carsten Jancker is a rare example of a giant target man who was terrible in the air. He was decent technically but not outstanding and managed to play almost 150 games for Beyern Munich, scoring just under 50 goals for the Bavarian giants. He was fortunate to have the far more gifted Giovane Elber alongside him, providing him with chances, and after he left Bayern his goal scoring record was very poor, he even failed to score when he joined Shanghai Shenhua in China. He won the Champions League with Bayern in 2001.
6 Ivan Campo
Ivan Campo played for four sides in Spain, where he displayed that he was effective at breaking up play, but few could believe that Real Madrid would sign the defensive midfielder in 1998. He played only 60 games in five years at Real, but one of those 60 was a full 90 minutes in the 2000 Champions League final, when Real defeated Valencia in an all-Spanish final. Campo's next club was a reflection of his performances at Los Blancos, as he joined Bolton in 2003, where he would remain for the next five years.
5 Igor Biscan
Rather like the victorious Porto team of 2004, the Champions League winning Liverpool team of a year later is deemed one of the weakest on paper to have won the tournament. When one compares the AC Milan and Liverpool teams of that final it is truly staggering the achievement made by the English club, and surely stands as the greatest final of all-time. Steve Finnan, Milan Baros and Vladimir Smicer could all have made this list, but it is Biscan and one other who feature. Biscan joined Liverpool in 2000 and never quite cut it, playing only 72 games in 5 years and left just months after the final victory.
4 Michele Padovano
Italian striker Michele Padovano is without question one of the most fortunate men to have won a Champions League winners medal. In his best ever season before joining Juventus he managed only 10 goals. He spent just a season with the Old Lady, where he recorded his best ever goal tally, still only 12 in 41 games. Padovano came on as a substitute in the 77th minute but scored one of the winning penalties as Juventus overcame Ajax in a penalty shoot-out in the 1996 Champions League final. After Juve, Padovano had a failed stint with Crystal Palace before heading to the Italian third tier.
3 Jonathan Greening
Jonathan Greening was the least prominent member of a Champions League winning team on this list, but he was a substitute when Manchester United dramatically beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the famous 1999 Champions League final. Like May earlier in this list, who was also an unused sub, Greening was never good enough for the Red Devils. He had joined from lowly York City and played only 14 games in 3 years before joining Middlesbrough. He has since played for West Brom, Fulham, Nottingham Forest, Barnsley and currently Tadcaster Albion.
2 Jovan Kirovski
Jovan Kirovski is currently the assistant coach of the L.A. Galaxy, but at one time he was a Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund. Born to Macedonian immigrants, Kirovski played 62 times for the USMNT. He began his career at Manchester United, but joined Dortmund in 1996, where he played 20 times in 4 years. Kirovski was left out of the final squad but he did play in the run-in, making him the first American Champions League winner. Kirovski was more successful in the MLS but still managed only 40 goals in 281 games over his career, a terrible record for a striker.
1 Djimi Traore
Poor old Djimi Traore. You will seldom see a list of this ilk where his name doesn't crop up. The truth is, Traore just wasn't very good. He was calamitous, error-prone and inconsistent, all attributes that you don't want from a defender. Traore has almost become defined in Britain by his comical own-goal in the 2005 FA Cup, and the fact that same player won the Champions League that year is a laughable occurrence to some. He played the full 90 minutes and extra-time at left-back as Liverpool came from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties. He joined Charlton and Portsmouth soon after, always looking a liability in the Premier League and ended his career with the Seattle Sounders in 2o14.
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