Greatest Champions League teams: Barcelona 2008/09
The first season of Pep Guardiola in Barcelona was simply outstanding. Lionel Messi had not yet developed into the world-beater he is today but he formed an unstoppable trio alongside Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry. The midfield triumvirate of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets pulled the strings. They rode their luck in the semis against Chelsea but the 4-0 thrashing of Bayern Munich in the quarters was no fluke. In the final, they faced a Sir Alex Ferguson side that had won the title in 2008. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were enjoying probably their best years but Pep’s Barca brushed them aside. This treble-winning side are the best Champions League winning team of all time.
Greatest Champions League teams: Manchester United 1998/99
This was probably Ferguson’s greatest triumph. Two quick-fire goals in injury time saw the Red Devils stun Bayern who looked like they would win it. United’s journey to the final was by no means easy. They had to overcome a strong Juventus from a precarious position in the semi-final. They drew 1-1 at Old Trafford and were 2-0 down in Turin which made it look like an impossible dream. However, Roy Keane, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole scored to send them to the big stage. With Keane and Scholes suspended for the final, everything seemed unattainable. It still is their most successful season given they also become the one and only English team to win the treble. Therefore, this makes them one of the best teams ever assembled and arguably, Ferguson’s best.
Bayern Munich 2012/13
The 2013 Bayern treble was a crowning achievement of an illustrious career of Jupp Heynckes. His 2012/2013 side were unstoppable. From beating Juventus 2-0 home and away to obliterating Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semis, this side was destined for greatness. Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery were a force up front. They achieved impressive numbers that season: 46 wins, five draws and three losses scoring a staggering 151 goals. They conceded just 33 whilst losing just once in the Bundesliga that season.
The trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar announced their arrival this season and boy they were good. Their chemistry allowed them to form one of the most potent attacking trios in modern times. The Luis Enrique led side easily dispatched the champions of Europe’s top leagues namely; Manchester City, PSG, Bayern Munich and Juventus. The trio scored 27 goals between them enroute to the final. This same season also saw Enrique’s side win the treble. In the next season, they were stopped in the quarters by an impregnable Atletico Madrid but there is no denying that this Barca team is one for the history books.
Real Madrid 2016/17
Zinedine Zidane was in charge of one of Real Madrid’s most dominant period. They won four Champions League titles in five season including three in a row. But the 2017 triumph is one of the best. They dispatched Napoli, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the knockout stages. In the final, they easily beat Juventus, a team looking to end its long drought, 4-1. Sergio Ramos marshalled the defence, while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos ran the show in midfield. Ronaldo scored 12 goals in the competition including, twice in the final. Although they would go on to win in again in 2018, this ranks their best teams since they also clinched La Liga title for the first time since 2012.
Honourable mentions. Manchester United 2007/08, Real Madrid 2007/18, Ajax 1994/95, Real Madrid 2013/14, Barcelona 2010/11