Bold coaching initiatives come in varied guises. Most are tactical, though a considerable number are good, old fashioned personnel management. Inter Milan’s hierarchy deserve plaudits for taking a risk of custodian Andre Onana when his contract was terminated at Ajax Amsterdam following a failed drugs test. The Cameroonian is a worthy heir to exalted predecessor Thomas Nkono as Africa’s number one goalkeeping export. His eight clean sheets in 13 Champions League outings means he’s an automatic choice ahead of Manchester City’s Ederson in my team of the tournament.
Taking his place on the right hand side of a back three is Manchester City’s Swiss master Manuel Akanji The former Borussia Dortmund defender hasn’t set a foot wrong all season regardless of where he was deployed. In this age of inflated transfer fees, snapping up Akanji for £15m was one of the steals of this season.
Another Cityzen John Stones is marshalling central defense and midfield in the hybrid role his coach Pep Guardiola prefers to deploy him in. The ‘Barnsley Beckenbauer’ is finally living up to the high billing he got when he was first signed as a youngster from Barnsley with his great passing and game reading.
Inter Milan’s Alessandro Bastoni completes the defending line. The young Azzuri was monumental in helping the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium based outfit to eight clean sheets as they nullified Barcelona, Porto, Benfica and AC Milan on their way to final.
Senior Cityzen Rodri Rodrigo has provided the fulcrum on which Manchester City has bludgeoned opponents on the way to setting a new scoring record for an English club in the competition. Rodri’s goal in the final was the crowning moment for the Spanish midfield conductor whose balance between physicality and innovation is next to none.
At left wing back is another Inter Milan player, Federico Dimarco whose three goals and five assists on the Nerrazzuri’s march to the final is as many as the rest of his team’s back four combined. Dimarco is in this XI ahead of City’s exiled left back Joao Cancelo who accumulated five assists before being shipped off to Bayern Munich.
Kevin de Bruyne takes his place in attacking midfield despite his uncharacteristic heat of the moment “Shut up, I am fed up of hearing your voice,” outburst to coach Pep Guardiola in the Cityzens’ 4-0 pummeling of ousted champions Real Madrid. The Belgians 7 assists in the tournament are just one quarter of the 28 he accumulated across all competitions.
Benfica’s Joao Mario is in this side ahead of Napoli’s Kvicha Kvaratskhelia in one of the attacking midfield positions courtesy of his six goals and two assists as the 1961 and 1962 European champions illuminated the tournament with their attacking fervour.
Spearheading the attack is Erling Braut Haaland whose 12 goals make him one of the most prolific marksmen in Champions League history. At the age of just 22, the Norwegian goal machine has already grabbed 35 goals in the world’s most famous club competition. His record of a goal every 63 UCL minutes may never be matched.
Real Madrid speed demon Vinicius Junior is the man to flank Haaland on the left side of attack. The Brazilian’s contribution of 7 goals and five assists in Los Blancos’ march to the semifinals implies he was involved in more goals than any other player bar Haaland who had one more involvement.
Paris Saint Germain’s twinkle toed forward Kylian Lottin Mbappe has seen off the competition of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Napoli’s Victor Osimhen (5 goals in as many games) thanks to his ten goal involvements. The Qatar 2022 top scorer bagged 7 goals and 3 assists.