So here it is, the definitive verdict on the history of the Champions League. We charged off to quiz 118 football writers from around the globe with our questions about the greatest club tournament in the world. Check out their absolute gospel answers.
Infographic courtesy of the magicians at 8bit-football.
Here, in their full glory, are the results of the survey:
1. Greatest Player To Never Win The Champions League:
1. Ronaldo – 53%
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 14%
3. Gigi Buffon – 7%
4. Roberto Baggio 6%
=5. Pavel Nedved – 3%
=5. Michael Ballack – 3%
=7. Patrick Vieira – 2%
=7. Ruud Van Nistelrooy – 2%
=7. Fabio Cannavaro – 1%
=7. Eric Cantona – 1%
There’s little argument here, Il Fenomeno, was a true great and arguably the most complete striker of the modern era. Despite his two World Cups, umpteen titles and never ending list of scoring records, Ronaldo never cracked the Champions League – largely due to injury. He'd lead the line in any serious attempt to create a Greatest XI to Never Win The Champions League. Interestingly, former World Player of the Year and World Cup winning captain, Cannavaro, wasn’t much rated by our hacks, gaining just one percent of the vote, whilst the admiration for Roberto Baggio's regal skills remains undampened by the passing years.
2. Worst Player To Win The Champions League
1. Djimi Traore – 31%
2. Jonathan Greening – 29%
3. Scott Carson - 9%
4. Roque Junior – 7%
5. Carston Janker – 5%
6. Zelijko Kalac – 4%
=7. Edgaras Jankausas – 2%
=7. Ross Turnbull – 2%
=7. David May – 2%
=7. Jose Bosingwa – 2%
In the survey’s most hotly contested category, the man from Mali eventually pipped York City’s finest, Jonathan Greening, to the title. Djimi will forever be remembered for his quite spectacular ‘Zidane’-esque finish into his own net against Burnley and his heroics in Istanbul. I’ll leave the last line here to meek and mild TV football pundit, Eamon Dunphy, who’s alleged to have claimed of Carragher’s defensive partnership with the Malian, ‘Carragher would be better tying a wheelie bin to a bit of rope and trailing it around behind him'.
3. Greatest Ever Champions League Final
1. Liverpool v AC Milan: 2005 – 62%
2. Manchester United v Bayern Munich: 1999 – 25%
3. AC Milan v Barcelona: 1994 – 5%
=4. Chelsea v Bayern Munich 2012 – 3%
=4. Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid 2014 – 3%
6. Juventus v Borussia Dortmund 1997 – 2%
7. Barcelona v Arsenal 2006 – 1%
Another clear winner here. Whilst United’s late show in 1999 was special and AC Milan’s obliteration of Barcelona probably the most surprising, there’s no topping the sheer madness of 2005.
We spoke to James Dutton, editor of The False Nine and contributor to the Anfield Wrap, to sum up the evening:
'Istanbul. No other final is named after the city it was played in, and that should tell you everything about a night that will etch across eternity. The story of how Rafa Benitez masterminded a victory over one of the great AC Milan sides - Shevchenko, Maldini, Kaka et al - from three goals down at half-time, of Traore’s long legs and Jerzy Dudek’s spaghetti legs. Above all it’s the story of Steven Gerrard, the local lad captaining his hometown club, playing in three positions over 120 minutes and scoring the goal that gave the fans hope. The rest is history.'
4. Worst Team To Win The Champions League
1. Liverpool 2005 – 45%
2. Chelsea 2012 – 27%
3. Porto 2004 – 21%
=4. Bayern Munich 2001 – 1%
=4. Marseille 1993 – 1%
Something that made that 2005 final so special was the clear disparity between the two squads as Liverpool somehow prevailed despite the rag-tag bunch of oddballs and journeymen who turned up, drew inspiration from Carragher, Alonso and Gerrard, and put in the performance of their lives. The respective achievements of plenty of those Liverpool players either side of that wonderful night is telling.
Biscan - A man who knew exactly which side his bread was buttered.
1. Zinedine Zidane v Bayer Leverkusen: 2002 – 73%
2. Hernan Crespo v Liverpool: 2005 – 7%
3. Lars Ricken v Juventus: 1997 – 6%
4. David Villa v Manchester United – 5%
5. Dejan Savicevic v Barcelona 1994 – 3%
=6. Wayne Rooney v Barcelona 2011 – 2%
=6. Ole Gunner Solskjaer v Bayern Munich 1999 – 2%
8. Steven Gerrard v AC Milan 2005 – 1%
9. Fabrizio Ravanelli v Ajax 1996 – 1%
A goal truly worthy of winning the biggest game in club football, Zidane’s masterpiece remains awe inspiring. Swivelling to hit the ball at hip height with his 'weak' peg, as the ball dropped out of the dank Glasgow sky, the volley swooped into top left bins. Crespo’s effort in second place is also noteworthy for the sheer geometric wonder of Kaka’s laser guided through ball - woof!
6. Worst Manager To Have Won The Champions League
1. Roberto Di Matteo – 70%
2. Fabio Capello – 12%
3. Rafa Benitez – 8%
4. Frank Rijkaard – 7%
5. Raymond Goethals – 1%
Roberto Di Matteo’s stint as Chelsea boss was short and almost sickeningly sweet, lifting an FA Cup and prevailing where Mourinho, Grant, Hidink, Ancelotti and Villas Boas had all failed, against all the odds. The feeling that he was just a lucky man in the right place at the right time has been added to by the fact that he’s just resigned from FC Schalke having led them to a 6th place Bundesliga finish, 31 points adrift off winners Bayern Munich. Behind him, it seems Fabio Capello’s underwhelming stints as national team manager of England and Russia have overshadowed his rampant success in the 1990’s - Frank Rijkaard's arguably done pretty well not to podium here.
A depressing thought but the rest of his life in football will no doubt be one long disappointment after this.
7. Next Team To Win The Competition From Outside La Liga, Bundesliga or the Premier League
1. Juventus – 50%
2. PSG – 45%
3. Porto – 2%
=4. Roma – 1%
=4. Ajax – 1%
We posed this question when Juventus were still relative outsiders for the title. Since then they ground out a win over Monaco before swatting aside holders Real and are one game away from glory. This question shows the extent to which western Europe dominates the Champions League, with recent knock out appearances from the likes of Galatasaray and Shakhtar Donetsk being very much remaining isolated one offs.
Will Juve reach the (strangely shortless) heights of 1996 again?
8. Most Scandalous Champions League Moment Ever
1. Marseille’s match fixing en route to victory: 1993 – 43%
2. Sergio Busquets playing peek-a-boo against Inter: 2010 – 15%
3. Robin Van Persie’s red car against Barcelona: 2011 – 10%
4. Tom Henning Ovredo’s performance against Barcelona: 2009 – 9%
=5. Luiz Adriano scores off a drop ball against FC Nordsjaelland: 2012 – 5%
=5. Didier Drogba’s red card for slapping Nemanja Vidic: 2008 – 5%
7. Jose Mourinho’s laundry basket team talk – 4%
8. John Terry’s red card against Barcelona: 2012 – 2%
9. Valencia and Inter Milan’s mass brawl: 2007 – 1%
10. Luis Garcia’s ghost goal against Chelsea: 2005 – 1%
UEFA suffered the embarrassment of the first ever edition of their spangly new showpiece being tainted by the grubby fingers of bribery as it transpired that the newly crowned champions had paid off league opponents, to let them win and promise not to injure any players, ahead of the final. Stripped of their Ligue 1 title, relegated domestically and banned from international competition, Marseille were nevertheless allowed to keep their new continental crown.
Marseille's gloriously old school CL winning gaffer Raymond Goethals.
9. If You Could Change One Thing About The Tournament
1. Scrap 3rd place in group stage dropping into Europa League – 23%
2. Scrap the away goals rule – 20%
3. Change nothing, I like it how it is – 17%
4. No group stages – pure knock out competition – 10%
5. Stack seedings so that more ‘big’ teams can face off in the group stages - 8%
6. Golden Goal in extra time – 4%
7. Increase the number of teams competing in the group stages – 3%
=8. Change the competitions theme tune – 2%
=8. Have only league winners competing – 2%
10. Have an Eastern and Western Conference the winners of which face in the final – 1%
Whilst the sudden fervour around Britain regarding the alleged unfairness of the away goals rule (see here for a reminder) is fairly predictable, there’s a clear desire, through the popularity of the 3rd/4th answers, to make the event shorter and more competitive. This points to a possible boredom with the lengthy group stages, where, due to how seedings are stacked, there are plenty of mismatches, easy routs and dead rubbers. Also people feel there's a level of unfairness in the way the Europa League, several months into the competition, has its complexion changed completely by the inclusion of Champions League rejects into the final stages.
NO THANKS GUYS.
And finally, whoever voted for changing the theme tune, frankly, doesn't deserve the Champions League. The Champions League hymn is one of the great TV jingles, it's timelessly regal and belongs right up there with Ski Sunday’s intro melody and the Test Match Special ditty.
What do you think? Do you disagree with the world's sports journalists? How would you have answered the questions above? Let us know in the comments below.
MatchPint surveyed 118 sports writers from 17 different countries - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, El Salvador, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway Scotland, Spain, Turkey, USA and Wales.
Where survey results do not quite round up to 100%, this is due to the removal of the odd 'joke' answer thrown in.
Special thanks to the following websites for their time and contributions to the survey.
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