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Champions League Special: Team Of The Tournament 2008-09

Victor Valdes (Barcelona)

Everybody remembers the gormless look on Valdes' face as he watched a Juninho free kick fly straight over his head and into the back of the net for reasons as yet unexplained to the still-laughing public, but let's give this a little more thought for a moment.

He is one of Barcelona's weak links, but made a string of massive saves in decisive games, on the rare occasions Barcelona didn't have the ball and were actually required to do some defending. He acquitted himself well. The likes of Buffon, Casillas, Van der Sar, Cech, Reina or Julio Cesar have no legitimate claim to this place ahead of Valdes, even if he does have his 'special' moments.

Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea)

Showed what athleticism and discipline can do in the absence of any outstanding skill. Always manned his flank admirably and did well for himself on his wrong wing when he played the main part in shackling Messi over two legs.

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

All season long, the defensive plaudits for the Red Devils have largely fallen at the feet of Nemanja Vidic above all else - and with reasonably good cause - but a perfect illustration of just how difficult defending really is came when he switched off for a split second against Samuel Eto'o in the final, and may well have lost his side the game.

Rio, fortunately for him, didn't have such a defining moment of madness. He, along with Vidic and O'Shea, could have done more on the second goal, but generally, his performances throughout the tournament were as classy as his partner's and deserving of recognition.

Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)

This year's tournament didn't cover itself in defensive glory, which perhaps explains how a player who didn't even make it past the second round has found his way into the team of the tournament. Chiellini struggled at times against Drogba, who was playing like a man possessed, but otherwise played with such strength and power that he at times defended for Juve by himself.

Aly Cissokho (Porto)

Surely, one of the finds of the tournament, who best acquitted himself against United, over two legs, in which Porto were maybe a shade unfortunate to be eliminated. Cissokho's power, athleticism and admirable ability to almost always get a cross into the box are qualities that cannot be overlooked in a full-back. An outstanding prospect.

Xavi (Barcelona)

He did it at Euro 2008, now he's done it in the European Champions League. The Confederations Cup, the Club World Cup and then the real one, the big cheese, the World Cup, awaits his mastery. He is finally realising his full potential as a playmaker and looks a class apart from anyone else in his position. Effortlessly orchestrated countless Barcelona masterclasses: from the Bayern bashing to the riot in Rome. No stage is too big and no opposition is too strong for the architect of Barca's magic.

Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

He has gone from being an unsing hero, to anything but, and with good cause. Iniesta has gone from strength-to-strength, seemingly from game-to-game, and we're all waiting for it to stop, but hoping it doesn't. His close control is a thing to behold, his dribbling effortless and his passing serene. If he just shot more often - though Drogba and Ballack may disagree - there would be little stopping him. He had a fantastic final, infamously won the semi and never failed to deliver.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

Testament to both the outstanding number of goals we've seen in this competition as well as the global decline of defending is that the third and final midfielder is none other than Super Frank, Super Goals. His consistency and professionalism through thick and thin cannot be praised enough. His marking of Xabi Alonso was instrumental in the Blues getting past their Red rivals. His goals, as always, were crucial from the groups through to the knockout stages.

He was perhaps disappointing against Barcelona, which almost cost him his place to his own team-mate, Michael Essien, but it was the Ghanaian, despite his wonder goal, whose scuffed clearance ultimately led to the Blues' elimination.

Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

If anyone can rival Ronaldo and Messi for terrorising defences across the entire forward line, it's probably Franck Ribery. He was everything good about Bayern upon their return to Europe's premier club competition. He practically dismantled Sporting Lisbon 12-1 on aggregate by himself (see it if you don't believe it) and gave Barcelona a good go whenever he had the chance, as well. He is nothing short of world class, which is why he will be heading out of Bavaria and to any one of Man United, Chelsea, Real Madrid or Barcelona this summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

Let's not mince words. He scored a crucial goal against Inter, a crucial and quite phenomenal goal against Porto and two more very, very impressive ones against Arsenal. Even in the final, he was Man United's best player and only threat. He had an outstanding tournament, and did his very best to prove he could beat Leo Messi, but...

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - Player Of The Tournament

...He didn't. Don't think being muted against Chelsea wasn't taken into account - because it was - but then we remember Bayern, we remember the group stages, we remember Lyon, and of course, we remember the finals. We also remember his nine goals, and the fact it usually takes three players to stop him going wherever it is he wants to go. He is nothing short of a phenomenon, and after missing out on really being a part of the 2006 triumph, this was his year.

Valdes

Bosingwa   Ferdinand   Chiellini   Cissokho

Xavi   Lampard   Iniesta

Ronaldo   Messi (c)   Ribery

And so Barcelona, as expected, dominate the team of the tournament with four entries. Finalists United only managed two, the same as semi-getters and last year's also-rans, Chelsea. Arsenal, despite getting to the final four, didn't have an outstanding individual talent who was fortunate enough to find himself in the line-up alongside the Bayern, Juve and Porto stars who made up the rest of the XI.

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