September is upon us and that can only mean one thing. No, not that we need to wake up Billy Joel Armstrong of Green Day in a few weeks time, but that the Champions League is back!
The annual Ronaldo vanity competition kicked off again this week in earnest, with rumours that the famous big-eared trophy is set to be replaced by a silver replica of the Portuguese forward’s grinning visage proving entirely unfounded.
While we wouldn’t put it past UEFA to commission a trophy of perhaps the competition’s greatest player, the idea got us thinking. We all know who the best winners in the Champions League era are – that’s an easy task – but what about those who, despite being fundamentally lacklustre footballers, somehow got their hands on the famous old trophy – sometimes, twice!
So, this is how we ended up here, trawling the Champions League archives for the very worst of the best. Set your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.
Goalkeeper – Scott Carson
We’ll start with a real curve-ball. Some of you may remember that a certain Scott Carson was Liverpool’s back-up keeper during their extraordinary run to the 2004-05 Champions League final, where he found himself on the bench having played a solitary game throughout the whole campaign.
Instead, Jerzy Dudek, another similarly erratic goalkeeper, was to grab the headlines that night for his penalty shoot-out heroics, but the history books are testament to the fact Scott Carson has as many Champions League winners’ medals as Steven Gerrard.
Defender – Jose Bosingwa
Fresher in the memory is the absolutely woeful shift the peculiarly-eyebrowed Portuguese right-back put in during QPR’s disastrous relegation in 2013-14. Yet, despite his claim to being one of the most mediocre full-backs in recent memory, Bosingwa has not one but two Champions League winners’ medals to his name.
His first came in 2003-04 with Porto, while he claimed his second when Chelsea finally triumphed in Europe in 2011-12. Genuinely astonishing.
Defender – Roque Junior
English football fans will recall when the Brazilian centre-half rocked up at Leeds United during a period of enormous instability for the club in 2003-04. He duly got himself sent off on his debut, conceded 24 goals in the seven games he played, and Leeds were relegated.
This despite having played in AC Milan’s victorious Champions League final in Manchester the year before. It’s astounding he made it as a professional footballer at all, let alone one who graced Europe’s elite competition in an actual final.
Defender – Wes Brown
Ah, Wes Brown, the stick with which Manchester United fans beat Steven Gerrard. The injury-prone and often inept defender not only won the Premier League five more times than the Liverpool legend, but has two Champions League winners’ medals to his name, too.
To put things in perspective, Steven Gerrard is now managing Rangers in the Scottish Premier League, while Wes Brown last played for Indian side Kerala Blasters. And even then he struggled to get a game.
Defender – Djimi Traore
Any footballer who does a Cruyff turn into his own net to knock his side out of the third round of the FA Cup should not in any universe be able to lay claim to being a Champions League winner.
Yet, the comeback in Istanbul really did happen, and here we are. Djimi f*cking Traore, ladies and gentlemen. Djimi f*cking Traore.
Midfielder – Anderson
You cannot mention Anderson without referencing the fact Sir Alex Ferguson thought he’d bought the next Ronaldinho only to realise he’d actually bought the next Djemba-Djemba. Silky attacking midfielder he was not; underwhelming and perennially unfit holding midfielder he was.
Anderson came on in the 2007-08 final, scored a penalty and won the Champions League in his first season in England. From there, it was all downhill.
Midfielder – Sulley Muntari
The number one entrant on the Shite Journeyman Midfielders Bestseller List, Sulley Muntari has plied his trade across Europe for six different clubs, and holds the unenviable distinction of being absolutely awful for all of them.
Despite not actually being able to play football, he caught the eye of José Mourinho at Inter, and was an integral part of the Italians’ treble-winning exploits of 2009-10. No surprise José championed a midfielder whose only discernible talent was being able to run around lots.
Midfielder – Jonathan Greening
As if Steven Gerrard hasn’t taken enough of a beating, here comes Jonathan Greening! The youngster moved to Manchester United from York City and in under ten months found himself on the bench for a Champions League final.
Zero appearances in the competition that season was not enough to deter UEFA from bestowing the youthful midfielder with a terribly undeserved winners’ medal.
Forward – Jovan Kirovski
He remains the only American to ever win the Champions League despite being a painfully average footballer at his peak. Twenty games in four full seasons at Borussia Dortmund yielded a solitary goal, and it just so happened to be during the German club’s successful European run in 1996-97.
He didn’t make the bench for the final, but then again, you don’t need to. UEFA hand out medals to just about anyone who was in the ground, it seems.
Forward – Milan Baros
It is genuinely baffling just how Liverpool managed to win Champions League in 2004-05 considering three of their squad have made this list. Baros had flashes of success throughout his four seasons in England, but they were brief indeed.
Subsequently, a nomadic career has seen him turn out for eight further clubs since he departed Merseyside, during which he has registered double figures in terms of goals just twice in fourteen seasons.
Forward – Carsten Jancker
The enormous German is fondly remembered by Bayern Munich fans for a six-year period at the end of the nineties during which he helped the club win four Bundesligas and a Champions League.
All this despite being a hot mess of a footballer who was once ignominiously described by one football journalist as “too slow and ponderous for even Serie A” during his dire two-year spell with Udinese.