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Ronaldo, Raul & Real Madrid's best XI of the Champions League era

17:00 BST 22/10/2020
Real Madrid Champions League XI GFX
The Blancos have had some wonderful players since the European Cup was revamped in 1992 but who makes our all-star selection?
  • Roberto Carlos Real Madrid 2004-05

    #1 Substitutes

    Keylor Navas arrived without much fanfare from Levante but delivered high above expectations, so is well worth inclusion as our reserve goalkeeper. Michel Salgado, meanwhile, spent the best part of a decade as Madrid’s right-back and has plenty of trophies to show for it.

    Central defender Raphael Varane has been Sergio Ramos’s partner during Madrid’s rich era of European success and by the time his career at the Santiago Bernabeu is over, he may well end up in this side.

    Marcelo may have made the team ahead of his predecessor but Roberto Carlos paved the way, not just for his Brazil compatriot but also for the modern-day attacking full-back.

    Two of the smoothest midfielders in football history come next, in Fernando Redondo and Xabi Alonso, and you could count the number of times they misused the ball between them on one hand.

    And, finally, Ronaldo, would make any team, real or imaginary, at his peak but those selected in his stead did more for Madrid over the years than the legendary Brazilian, who was hindered by fitness injuries in the twilight of his Bernabeu career.

  • Alvaro Morata Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 2014

    #2 FW: Cristiano Ronaldo

    Real Madrid fans will insist that Cristiano Ronaldo is the best to have played the game and even if you don’t agree, you can see their point.

    The Portuguese smashed umpteen records during his eight-year stay at the Santiago Bernabeu and helped the Blancos win four Champions Leagues, including three in a row. 

    He also claimed four Ballons d'Or in the era of Lionel Messi and left Madrid as the club's all-time leading scorer, with a ridiculous 450 goals in just 438 games.

  • Karim Benzema, Real Madrid 2020-21

    #3 FW: Karim Benzema

    Karim Benzema is the fifth-highest goalscorer of all time in the Champions League – a fact that seems to have gone unnoticed by many football fans.

    Of course, that's probably because the Frenchman, for years, worked tirelessly to provide for Cristiano Ronaldo, before flourishing as Madrid’s main striker following the Portuguese forward's departure for Juventus in 2018.

    Jose Mourinho once moaned that he wanted at hunting dog at Madrid and was instead stuck with a cat but, as AS pointed out last year, Benzema has since become Madrid's lion.

  • Raul Real Madrid GFX

    #4 FW: Raul

    Raul's Atletico Madrid origins were long forgotten by the time he left the Santiago Bernabeu, having scored 323 goals in 740 games for Real.

    A legendary striker, he made his first-team debut at just 17 years of age and went on to win 16 trophies with the club. Raul lifted the Champions League three times and netted in two finals.

    Franz Beckenbauer once said, "Raul is Real Madrid’s essence." Who are we to disagree?

  • Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid Bayer Leverkusen 2002

    #5 CM: Zinedine Zidane

    A suave presence in the dugout these days, Zinedine Zidane also worked wonders on the pitch in the noughties.

    Gareth Bale might disagree but the Frenchman's volley in the 2002 Champions League final is still the greatest goal in Real Madrid’s history.

    Zidane played the game with remarkable poise, grace and quality in midfield. He was splendid passer blessed with a sublime first touch, meaning that even back his playing days he commanded respect and admiration in equal measure.

  • Luka Modric Real Madrid 2019-20

    #6 CM: Luka Modric

    That Luka Modric was the man to end Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's Ballon d'Or domination tells you everything you need to know about the Croatian's quality.

    It's worth remembering that Modric had a tough start to life in Spain and was even voted La Liga's worst signing in 2012. However, he quickly became the creative hub within Madrid's midfield and played a pivotal role in four Champions League triumphs in five years between 2014 and 2018.

    A joy to watch, Modric knows how to use the ball as well as any player ever to have graced the Santiago Bernabeu.

  • Figo Makelele Hierro Ronaldo Real Madrid 03122002

    #7 CM: Claude Makelele

    Claude Makelele's presence at the base of the midfield offered Madrid’s defence so much security that when he left for Chelsea in 2003, the back four were suddenly and brutally exposed.

    However, the Frenchman got through so much work that he also allowed creative players such as Zinedine Zidane to concentrate solely on attacking, meaning the Blancos also suffered offensively.

    As Hierro once said of Makelele: "He's been the best player in the team for years but people just don't notice him."

  • Marcelo Real Madrid La Liga 10202018

    #8 LB: Marcelo

    Marcelo edges out Roberto Carlos for the left-back berth simply because of his longevity, all-round quality and key role in one of the most successful periods in Madrid's European history. 

    As well as being an excellent and committed defender, Marcelo has an eye for goal – he scored in the 2014 final – and often proves one of the team's principle attacking threats.

  • Fernando Hierro Real Madrid 2001-02

    #9 CB: Fernando Hierro

    Fernando Hierro joined Madrid in 1989 as a midfielder but, by the time he left in 2003, he was a key part of the defence.

    The versatile Spain international scored 127 goals in 601 games across all competitions but was also a tough customer who was dominant in the air.

    One of Madrid’s finest ever captains, Hierro was also renowned for his classy leadership.

  • Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid

    #10 CB: Sergio Ramos

    Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is a phenomenal leader and has been vital to both the defence and the attack since 2005.

    The centre-half has had his run-ins with officials – he's the most booked player in Champions League history – but that's only natural for such a combative player, one who puts his body on the line every time he dons the famous white jersey.

    La Liga's most prolific defender ever has scored his fair share of goals in Europe too, and none more important than his strikes in Real's 2014 and 2016 Champions League triumphs.

  • Carvajal Real Madrid 2018-19

    #11 RB: Dani Carvajal

    Not the most glamorous name in the team but Dani Carvajal has long been an extremely reliable presence in Madrid’s defence and an underrated attacking threat down the right-hand side.

    The full-back straight back into the team after a year at Bayer Leverkusen and nobody’s been able to get him out since. Carvajal has four Champions League winners' medals, and counting...

  • Iker Casillas Real Madrid Champions League

    #12 GK: Iker Casillas

    Real Madrid’s best ever goalkeeper, Iker Casillas set a ridiculously high standard for all of his successors. Indeed, his miraculous shot-stopping earned him the nickname ’Saint Iker’.

    In total, he played 725 matches for the capital club, making his Champions League debut at the age of 18, and went on to win 18 trophies cross 16 seasons with Real Madrid.