Some superstars have departed, some new ones have arrived - but have this year's Champions League finalists improved or declined player-for-player since they met two years ago?

By Paul Macdonald & Greg Stobart
When Manchester United and Barcelona met in the Champions League final in 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson's men were reigning European champions, strong favourites and eyeing a place in history by being able to retain their crown.
Two years on and things have changed - Barcelona are hailed as perhaps the greatest club side ever, while United are viewed as a functional unit achieving more than the sum of their parts.
But player for player, are either team better or worse now than they were in 2009?'s Paul Macdonald and Greg Stobart analysed the starting XIs to find out.
BARCELONA - 2009 v 2011


Victor Valdes - 9.0

A solid and dependable figure in goal, who was rarely tested en route to the semi-final meeting with Chelsea, but made vital stops against the Londoners, and was only beaten by a Michael Essien stunner. Made a crucial block from Cristiano Ronaldo in the final with his team 2-0 in front.

Victor Valdes - 9.0

Valdes has become a better goalkeeper since the 2009 victory; his decision-making and distribution have improved significantly. But his near-post error against Robin van Persie and Arsenal, in a high-profile encounter, could have been so very costly.

Carles Puyol - 9.5

It is often said that the Spanish international is as important as any of Xavi, Iniesta, or Messi, and he proved to be an inspirational figure in guiding Barca to glory. Played at right-back in the final due to Dani Alves’ suspension, but superbly stifled the Red Devils’ formidable forward line.

Dani Alves - 9.5

Missing from the 2009 final, and his absence unquestionably stifles Barca’s forward momentum on the right-hand side, for there is no player like him in world football. He has been in sensational form on the road to Wembley, with a stunning goal against Shakhtar a particular highlight.

Yaya Toure - 8.5

In Rome, the Ivorian was employed at centre-back due to injury and suspension, but Toure’s assuredness in possession and physical frame however meant that he adapted to the alteration with ease, after sharing the defensive midfield berth with Busquets for much of the campaign.

Javier Mascherano - 8.5

The Argentine has struggled to displace Sergio Busquets from the team, but has found his role in the closing months of the season as an auxiliary defender, and has looked progressively more comfortable in the role. Could well retain his place for the final.

Gerard Pique - 8.5

Returned to Catalunya in the summer of 2008 and was a permanent fixture in the 2008-09 campaign. He drove his side forward in the semi-final second-leg against Chelsea when Eric Abidal was dismissed, and wreaked revenge on his former club by keeping a clean sheet in the Stadio Olimpico.

Gerard Pique - 8.5

Pique has a tendency to lose concentration at key moments, but as a partnership he and Puyol are infinitely more formidable. To his credit, he has been required to be an experienced head in the centre of an interchanging back four throughout the competition.

Sylvinho - 7.5

Abidal and Rafa Marquez had been employed in the left-back back berth on the way to the final, but with one suspended and the other injured, the Brazilian was given the nod, and provided a competent display in his final appearance for the club.

Carles Puyol - 9.0

Injuries have interrupted the captain’s season but his towering presence was essential in progression past Real Madrid, and will be once again in this, the most significant of club matches. Partner Pique improves in the knowledge that Puyol is alongside him.

Sergio Busquets - 8.5

Only made his league debut for the Catalan giants in September 2008, but eventually supplanted Toure in the holding position in midfield both domestically and in Europe, and played a pivotal screening role on the road to victory.

Sergio Busquets - 9.0

The development of the stylish Catalan has continued exponentially throughout the 2010-11 campaign, and he has performed with unflinching consistency both in midfield and defence.

Xavi - 9.5

The Spanish international was a near ever-present in the competition as the heart and soul of Barca’s passing philosophy. Collected Uefa’s man-of-the-match award against United to help create history for his beloved club.

Xavi - 9.5

The maestro continues to conduct this team, as he did two years ago. His statistics in terms of passes completed, particularly from the two fixtures against Arsenal, and his ability to retain possession, were unparalleled. He remains fundamental to Barca’s dominance.

Andres Iniesta - 9.0

Interchanged between a left-forward role and his conventional position in the midfield triumvirate, and his injury-time goal against Chelsea in the semi-final represents one of the most dramatic moments the tournament has ever produced.

Andres Iniesta - 9.5

The World Cup winner has enjoyed an injury-free season, and his team have reaped the benefits of his eye for through passes and awareness of his team-mate’s positions. Four assists and countless other chances created suggest his most successful season yet for Barca.

Lionel Messi - 9.5

The 2008-09 season represented the year where the emerging Argentine leapt into bona-fide superstardom. Devastating goals against Bayern Munich and Lyon in the knockout stages were capped by the pinnacle of perfection – his glorious looping header to clinch the fabled trophy.

Pedro - 8.5

The 23-year-old’s transformation into first-team regular, similar to Busquets in 2009, has been a success story of Barca’s youth system. The winger has proved inconsistent so far in 2011, but netted a sublime goal in the semi-final against Real Madrid.

Samuel Eto’o - 9.0

Netted in the 2006 victory over Arsenal, and was once again on the mark when it mattered most in the final, firing home from inside the area after 10 minutes of play. The explosive Cameroonian netted six in total throughout the 2008-09 competition.

Lionel Messi - 9.5

Now in a central role, and even more prolific and threatening than 2009. His 11 goals have included a unique strike against Arsenal and, of course, his magnificent solo effort against Real Madrid. Quite simply, he is instrumental to Barca’s success.

Thierry Henry - 8.5

The Frenchman didn’t quite make the impact at Camp Nou as he had during his time at Arsenal, but performed a selfless attacking role to allow the likes of Eto’o and Messi room to breathe. Henry himself still managed six goals and four assists in 12 appearances – a notable contribution.

David Villa - 8.5

The £40m capture from Valencia was deemed to be the missing link – the element that would make this team complete. But while his transfer has been moderately effective, three goals in 11 Champions League appearances is not the return that Barca would have hoped for, despite his left-wing role.
TOTAL - 97
TOTAL - 99



Edwin van der Sar - 7.0

The Dutchman had a generally solid season, but by his own admission he made some sloppy mistakes. He could arguably have done more to stop both goals in the final in Rome, especially Samuel Eto'o's opener as he allowed the ball to squeeze under his body.

Edwin van der Sar - 9.0

He will be making his last appearance as a professional footballer, but Van der Sar is better than ever. The 40-year-old has been in outstanding form for United and had an almost faultless Champions League campaign to prove he will be retiring when he is at the top of his game.

John O'Shea - 7.0

Gets quite a bit of stick from United supporters but this was comfortably his best season for the club. Forced his way into the team ahead of Rafael and deserved his starting spot at the Stadio Olimpico for his dependable performances throughout the campaign. Scored the only goal in the 1-0 win over Arsenal in the first leg of the semi-final.

Fabio da Silva - 7.0

For a while it has been suggested that the young Brazilian is more talented than Rafael – and now he has taken his twin brother's spot in the United team. A slightly less hot-headed character than his brother, the 20-year-old played with composure beyond his years in the 2-0 win at Schalke in the semi-final first leg.

Rio Ferdinand - 8.0

Injury problems were a problem and restricted him to just 24 Premier League starts, but Ferdinand still played a key role in United's title triumph and march to the Champions League final. The Rolls-Royce defender returned from a three-week absence to restore his excellent partnership with Vidic for the final.

Rio Ferdinand - 8.5

Still suffering with regular injury problems, but still a class act when he plays. The partnership with Vidic is as strong as ever, most notably in both legs of the quarter-final against Chelsea.

Nemanja Vidic - 9.0

Absolutely immense at the back throughout the tournament, especially as United saw off Inter in the last 16 and Arsenal in the semi-final. Turned too easily by Eto'o in the final but that should not take away from his rock-solid, fully committed displays for most of the season.

Nemanja Vidic - 9.0

Now Manchester United captain, the Serbian looks better than ever and has superbly marshalled the United defence despite being paired with a number of different partners. Dominant in the air and a brilliant penalty box defender, he always seems to read the danger and make the right decision.

Patrice Evra - 8.0

Lost his rhythm after a mid-season injury but the Frenchman was without doubt the best left-back in the country over the course of the season. His regret in the Champions League final will be that he was not able to bomb forward on many occasions.

Patrice Evra - 8.0

Rewarded for his consistency with a new contract earlier in the year and continues to produce steady performances. The French full-back has perhaps reined in some of his attacking instincts but still links up well with his team-mates.

Anderson - 6.5

Struggled in the Premier League but looked far more comfortable in Europe, especially in the 1-0 win against Porto in the quarter-final as his all-action style denied his former club time and space to get back in the game. Forced his way into the starting line-up in Rome due to Darren Fletcher's suspension but failed miserably and was withdrawn at half-time.

Antonio Valencia - 8.0

A horror ankle injury sustained in the group stages against Rangers in September looked like it would end his season. However, the Ecuadorian made a remarkable recovery to return in March and he has returned better than ever. He has ousted Nani from the team and pace, power and defensive work have made him a favourite at Old Trafford.

Michael Carrick - 8.0

Easily United's most important midfielder in the competition as he dictated the tempo of games with his excellent passing range and positional sense. Met his match against Xavi and Iniesta as he was completely overrun in the final.

Michael Carrick - 7.5

A mixed season but he has played a key role in United's form in the final months of the campaign after some very poor performances early on. Completely controlled the semi-final win at Schalke and Red Devils fans will be hoping he can produce a similar display.

Ryan Giggs - 7.5

Made a limited number of starts in the Champions League, where he featured only as a substitute in both legs of the semi-final victory over Arsenal. But his class was beyond question as he won PFA Player of the Year by transforming from fleet-footed winger to cerebral ball-player.

Ryan Giggs - 8.0

Continues to defy his age and at some points this season he has produced some of his most impressive performances in a United shirt. Used carefully by Ferguson, he always looks in complete control as he probes with his incisive passing and clever movement in central midfield. Key goalscoring contribution in the semi-final as he finally slotted the ball past Manuel Neuer.

Park Ji-Sung - 7.5

The South Korean has long been established as a first choice starter for Sir Alex Ferguson in the Champions League because of his incredible fitness, tireless work-rate and tactical awareness. He did not have a bad game throughout the tournament and scored a crucial goal after just eight minutes of the semi-final second leg against Arsenal.

Park Ji-Sung - 8.0

He used to be an unsung hero, now he gets the plaudits he deserves for his worth ethic. The ultimate team player, Park's ability on the ball sometimes gets overlooked and he almost always performs on the big occasion. Eased nerves in the semi-final against Chelsea by scoring moments after Didier Drogba had put the Blues back in the tie.

Cristiano Ronaldo - 9.0

Started the season slowly following a summer flirtation with Real Madrid but stepped up his game when it mattered in the final stages of the campaign. The Portuguese star only scored four Champions League goals – but that included a decisive stunner from 40 yards in the quarter-final and two wonderful goals at Arsenal to book United's place in the final.

Wayne Rooney - 9.0

Just hours before the group game against Bursaspor in October, United's talisman declared his intention to seek a move away from Old Trafford. But the Rooney of old is now back, a testament to Ferguson's man-management skills as he has forged a stunning partnership with Javier Hernandez. Playing a withdrawn role behind the Mexican, Rooney has been revitalised in the last three months and scored vital goals against Chelsea and Schalke on the road to Wembley.

Wayne Rooney - 9.0

Came of age with consistent performances throughout the season, whether playing on the left, right or centrally. Finally started looking like he would fulfil the potential he showed at Euro 2004 with displays that convinced United fans there would be life after Cristiano Ronaldo. Ran himself into the ground in Rome but had very little impact.

Javier Hernandez - 9.0

Not only does he score a shedload of goals, but he does it at the important moments when it really matters. Scored both goals to see United past Marseille in the last 16 and was on hand with a poacher's finish in the semi-final second leg against Chelsea. Hailed as the signing of the season after he cost just £7m last summer, his incredible movement and outstanding finishing ability will be a big worry for Barcelona.
TOTAL - 86.5
TOTAL - 91

There may be no Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester United and the clinical Samuel Eto'o won't be spearheading Barca's attack. But with both teams looking a stronger proposition than they were two years ago, the final will surely be fiercely contested.

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