The biggest club competition in the world have just embarked on their 30th season so it is only fitting that I come up with my best 11 players to ever play in that competition. This by no means was easy, so much went into the selection not just winning the trophy. I considered their impact in raising the profile of the competition in as much as number of matches played and goals scored. So let’s get to it starting with the goalkeeper.

1. EDWIN VAN DER SAR

The Dutch keeper beats a lot of other keepers to this honor namely ,Ike Casillas and Gigi Buffon. The reason is that he pioneered the ball distributing goalie at a time when a keeper was supposed to be good with his hands and leave the passing to the midfielders. Coaches started realizing that one could actually initiate attacks right from the goalkeeper, and Edwin was great at that. He won the trophy with Ajax under Louis Van Gaal in 1995 memorably beating a highly fancied Milan in a very young but talented side. His move however to Juventus didn’t yield much success though and when he moved to Fulham into his 30s, I thought he was finished at the highest level. Not to Sir Alex Ferguson, he believed he had more to offer and he was proved right. Edwin saved decisively against Nicolas Anelka in the UCL final in 2008 Moscow to win another winners medal.

2. CAFU

What’s a soccer list without some Brazilian superstars in it and here they come. Cafu was one of the rare breed of right backs who never forgot their defensive duties in as much as they were great attacking. Nowadays the right back is more of a winger and relies more on his defender teammates to cover behind him. Not with Cafu. The world cup winner made his name in Italy with Roma but the move to Milan was best for him as he reached won the UCL with them in 2007. He best competition from Gary Neville for this slot.

3. ROBERTO CARLOS

The second Brazilian world cup winner on the list. He is one of those players where you can actually tolerate his poor defensive qualities because he offers so much more as an attacking threat down the wing. Just watch his reel of goals none so great as the pre France 98 tournament free kick goal that is for me one of the all time great goals. A winner of this competition with Real Madrid in 2000 and 2002 in a star studded galactic team, he is my choice for left back undisputed.

4. FRANCO BARESI(C)

On to the center backs now, it goes without say if you want a clean sheet in a big game your go to guys are two of the following, Baresi and the guy at number 5. Franco won his first and only UCL title in 1994 when his Rossonerri defeated the heavily fancied “Dream Team” of FC Barcelona 4-0(he won the old European Cup 2 times). To put it into perspective the attack for the catalans had Stoichkov and Romario as part of it and were coached by one of the most attack minded coaches of all time Johan Cruyff. Uncompromising as a defender, great leader on the pitch, he is credited as one of few defenders who kept Diego Maradona quiet in his heyday.

5. PAULO MALDINI

Mr Longevity himself with a career that span 3 decades. Can be used as a left back but he is more effective at center back in my opinion. He has won the UCL with Milan 3 times in 94, 03 and 07. Hard to believe when he broke through he was considered an inferior player to his brother. He had competition from. Jaap Stam for his spot in my first 11.

6.CLAUDE MAKELELE

So good that the role is now named after him. Los Blancos have never been the same since he left them. He did the dirty work in a team full of flair players. He broke down opposition attacks, disciplined enough to hold position as a result he didn’t score a hell of a lot. That defensive midfield position may not be glamorous but it is important. Claude won the UCL in 2000 and 2002.

7.CHRISTIANO RONALDO

A man who needs little introduction occupies my right winger position. Although he has morphed into a number 9 in recent years my favorite version of CR7 is the right winger who emerged at Old Trafford in the mid 2000s, could dribble a left back, cut inside and create chances for the Van Nistelrooy or Rooney even a Berbatov. Insane stats for the Portuguese legend don’t begin to tell the story, 4 UCL winners medals and more goals coming , not so sure though about winners medals. Sorry Red Devils fans.

8. CLARENCE SEEDORF

The Dutchman gets the nod for the box to box midfield role ahead of Xavi and Scholes. Try taking the ball from him , good luck. Strong, very hard to tackle and great ball control. He won the trophy with 3 different sides, Ajax, Real Madrid and Milan.

9. RAUL GONZALEZ

Who do I turn to to bang in the goals, none other than 71 goal machine from Madrid Raul. The fact is other than the big two of Ronaldo and number 10 , he is the most prolific striker in champions league history. Who can forget the goal against Valencia in the 2000 final in Paris front an acute angle. He gets the nod ahead of Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

10. LIONEL MESSI

No introductions necessary here. 4 winners medals, second highest scorer in this competition ever. Hard as hell to tackle. I think he has run out of chances to win more medals by moving to Paris but hey let’s see.

11. RYAN GIGGS

The Welsh wizard gets the left wing position. He could have gone on to play well into his forties had he not decided to call it quits. A great example to the young players on what it takes to play at the highest level for a long time. Not many players can choose to leave their favorite position like he did when he was converted to a holding midfielder from the left wing. He won the UCL twice in 99 and 08. Despite his recent off field troubles he is one of the all time greats.