Throughout the history of the Champions League, we have witnessed the presence of elite soccer teams. This prestigious tournament attracts the finest clubs from across Europe, captivating millions of viewers worldwide. The allure of the Champions League is so strong that many of the world's top players aspire to join a club that competes in this renowned competition, recognizing the immense prestige it carries.

Most Champions League winners are undoubtedly built around exceptional squads, but there are certain teams that truly shine and captivate soccer fans, providing them with a compelling reason to tune in and watch every single moment of their matches. Here is the definitive list of the best Champions League teams of all time.

History of UEFA Champions League Winners

Real Madrid has dominated the Champions League throughout its history. They won five consecutive titles when the tournament was first introduced in 1955, and even now, with the expanded 32-team bracket, they remain one of the most competitive teams year after year.

Liverpool are the most successful English club in the competition, while the two Milan clubs, AC Milan and Internazionale, have a combined total of 10 titles. Barcelona had their own successful period, winning four titles between 2006 and 2015.

Who has won the most Champions Leagues?

Madrid won the tournament four times in five years between 2014 and 2018, and most recently won it in 2022, marking their 14th victory. Madrid have the most Champions League wins by double that of any other team, with an impressive tally of titles. AC Milan follows behind with seven victories, while both Liverpool and Bayern Munich have each clinched the prestigious trophy six times.

Barcelona have been one of the more recent forces, with four of their five victories coming in 2006 or later, while Ajax has four titles, the latest of which was the outstanding team of 1995.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Champions League Teams of all time

  1. AC Milan 2005 

Starting 11: Dida, Cafu, Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Kaká, Andriy Shevchenko, Hernan Crespo

The quality of this lineup is unbelievable, and they’re only at number 10 on this list because they’re the only team featured that didn’t win the tournament.

The 2005 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool brought the greatest Champions League final in tournament history because of Liverpool's monumental second half comeback. 

What makes that comeback even more impressive is the team they managed it against. Had they won in that final, AC Milan’s starting 11 could easily be the best team in Champions League history.

The defensive lineup of that team showcased an extraordinary combination of talent. The goalkeeping skills of World Cup winner Dida were matched by the leadership of Brazilian captain Cafu at right back, while the defensive line boasted the toughness of Dutch powerhouse Jaap Stam and the brilliance of Italian legends Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini. Gennaro Gattuso held the fort in defensive midfield, while the creative duties were entrusted to the masterful Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf. Kaka, at the peak of his powers, operated behind the strikers, forming a formidable attacking force.

In the forward line, Milan boasted the presence of Ukrainian star Andriy Shevchenko and the goal-scoring ability of Argentinian Hernan Crespo, resulting in one of the most complete and star-studded UCL teams ever seen in the Champions League. It is worth applauding Liverpool for their incredible comeback from being 3-0 down against this amazing team to snatch the title. The feat was truly unbelievable.

  1. Real Madrid 2002 

Starting 11: César, Míchel Salgado, Ferando Hierro, Iván Helguera, Roberto Carlos, Claude Makélélé, Luís Figo, Santiago Solari, Zinedine Zidane, Raúl, Fernando Morientes

The Real Madrid Galactico’s of the early 2000s brought together a stunning group of players. In a predominantly Spanish defense led by center back Fernando Hierro, the addition of Brazilian left back Roberto Carlos brought an international flair. The midfield and attacking positions were graced by some of the finest players in the world during that era.

The presence of Frenchman Claude Makelele as the holding midfielder provided stability, enabling his international teammate and world-class talent Zinedine Zidane, along with Portuguese winger Luis Figo, to roam freely and unleash their full attacking potential.

Up front the Spanish duo of Raul and Fernando Morientes provided a wealth of the team's goals, and as a group they were phenomenal.

Madrid won the 2002 Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen, with Zidane scoring that famous volley in the 2-1 win during the tournament's final. It’s one of the best goals in tournament history and belongs to one of the very best Champions League teams of all time.

  1. Real Madrid 2014 

Starting 11: Thibaut Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Diego Godín, Filipe Luís, Raúl García, Tiago, Gabi, Koke, Diego Costa, David Villa

Fast forward 12 years and Real Madrid were on top once again, winning the 2014 Champions League in what would be their first of four wins over the next five years.

The 2014 squad was led by one of the best Madrid defenses the team has ever fielded, led by Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in the middle and Iker Casillas in goal.

Xavi Alonso was suspended for the final, which meant German midfielder Sami Khedira played alongside the highly decorated Croatian midfielder Luka Modric.

Going forward this team was terrifying, boasting an attacking four of Angel Di Maria, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema. All four were dangerous on the attack and led to one of the most goal hungry teams in tournament history under manager Carlo Ancelotti.

  1. Ajax 1995 

Starting 11: Edwin van der Sar, Michael Reiziger, Danny Blind, Frank Rijkaard, Frank de Boer, Clarence Seedorf, Finidi George, Edgar Davids, Ronald de Boer, Jari Litmanen, Marc Overmans

This team is truly remarkable, featuring some of the best Dutch soccer players of their generation, most of whom were still playing for their boyhood club at the time.

The likes of Edgar Davids, Ronald and Frank de Boer, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, and Michael Reiziger were all products of the Ajax youth system. With the exception of striker Patrick Kluivert, all of them formed the starting 11 for the 1995 UEFA Champions League final. Alongside them, players such as Marc Overmars and Finnish attacking midfielder Jari Litmannen completed this young and captivating Ajax team.

Following their success in the 90s, several players, including Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, and Edwin van der Sar, went on to have highly successful careers at some of the biggest clubs in world soccer. The 1995 Ajax team stands as one of the most fascinating success stories in the history of soccer.

  1. Bayern Munich 2013 

Starting 11: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Jérome Boateng, Dante, David Alaba, Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, Mario Mandžukić

The 2013 Champions League final was an all German head-to-head between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern had won the Bundesliga title that year by a margin of 25 points, having constructed one of the best teams in their club’s history.

Manuel Neuer is one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers of all time and the club was captained by German soccer icon Phillip Lahm at right back. Going forward the team was built around a crushing attacking midfield consisting of French winger Franck Ribery and Dutch winger Arjen Robben, with Thomas Muller playing through the middle in a brilliant trio.

They defeated Dortmund 2-1 in the 2013 CL final and claimed the Champions League. This remarkable achievement marked their completion of the treble, as they had already conquered the German league and domestic cup title.

  1. Barcelona 2015 

Starting 11: Marc-André ter Stegen, Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitić, Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Neymar

Barcelona had several star-studded lineups during their prime era from the early 2000s to the late 2010s. While the 2006 Barcelona roster featuring legendary Brazilian Ronaldinho and a young Messi narrowly missed out on today's list, the 2015 team had to feature.

A new era was underway at this point in Barcelona's history with Carles Puyol having retired in 2014 and Xavi getting a little older and coming off the bench in the 2015 Champions League final.

In the heart of the defense, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano took charge, while wing backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba provided additional attacking support when needed.

Sergio Busquets anchored the midfield alongside the passing genius of Andres Iniesta. Upfront, the formidable trio of Luis Suarez, Neymar, and Lionel Messi formed a sensational combination that appeared virtually unstoppable on many occasions.

Barca took down an experienced Juventus side with a 3-1 win in the final and were crowned Champions League winners once again.

  1. Manchester United 1999 

Starting 11: Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville, Ronny Johnsen, Jaap Stam, Denis Irwin, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Jesper Blomqvist, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole

United's stunning last minute win marks one of the greatest Champions League finals in the tournament's history, and the team they fielded is probably one of the only teams in history that could have pulled it off.

Peter Schmeichel played in goal, one of the best European keepers in the game, with a defense including Jaap Stam, Gary Neville and Ronny Johnsen.

In midfield Ryan Giggs and David Beckham were joined by Nicky Butt and Swedish wide midfielder Jesper Blomqvist. Then up front they were spoiled for choice, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole got the start in the final, with both Teddy Sheringham and Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer coming off the bench.

As it turned out, Sheringham and Solskjaer got the last-minute goals that claimed the tournament's trophy, but the team was prolific throughout.

  1. Bayern Munich 2020 

Starting 11: Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, Jérôme Boateng, David Alaba, Alphonso Davies, Thiago, Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller, Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski

At the time you could have argued that the 2013 Bayern Munich squad would have been hard to top, and then they came back in 2020 with this roster.

There were six German players in the starting 11 including veterans Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and younger talents Serge Gnabry and do it all midfielder Leon Goretzka. They were joined by Canadian full back Alphonso Davies, tricky Spanish midfielder Thiago and French winger Kingsley Coman.

The team was spearheaded by Robert Lewandowski, a generational goal scorer who scored 15 goals in the tournament that year. They battled it out with a very strong PSG team in the final, but emerged victorious with a 1-0 win.

  1. Real Madrid 2018 

Starting 11: Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal, Raphaël Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo

What made the 2018 Real Madrid team better than the past Champions League winners the club had produced? I would argue that this was and still is the best Real Madrid team of all time, and one of the greatest soccer teams of all time.

Madrid had always been creative in midfield, but in this particular year they had so much creativity and depth it was hard to comprehend at times. Luka Modric still led from the middle, with Casemiro sweeping up in front of the back four and both Toni Kroos and Spanish talent Isco completing the midfield four.

The defense was still the same as it had been in 2014 only with Keylor Navas in goal instead of Iker Casillas and Marcelo taking over at left back for Fabio Coentrao.

Madrid had won back to back Champions League trophies as one of the most successful teams in UCL history and continued to get better and better with each passing year.

Gareth Bale was on the bench for the final, while Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo played upfront. Bale came off the bench to score two goals in the second half as Madrid won 3-1 against Liverpool, claiming their third Champions League title in as many years.

  1. Barcelona 2009 

Starting 11: Victor Valdés, Carles Puyol, Yaya Touré, Gerard Piqué, Sylvinho, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o

The 2009 Barcelona squad was under new management with former Barcelona B manager Pep Guardiola.

Carles Puyol captained the team with Victor Valdes in goal and Yaya Toure and Gerard Pique helping to make up the back four.

The Spanish midfield trio that was also the starting three for the Spanish national squad included Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, arguably the greatest midfield trio in Champions League history.

Then when you got to the front three it was Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry, who was playing in a new role out wide after making the move from Arsenal to the Catalan side.

Barcelona fans quickly grew to love the new era under Pep. Barca won the treble that year and largely dominated the Champions League throughout. They beat Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the quarter finals before a close contest with Chelsea in the semi’s, and in the final a 2-0 win helped secure the title.

The 2009 Barcelona squad makes a strong case for the best team in Champions League history, with one of the most impressive starting 11’s in any of the UCL finals to date.

Parameters for rankings

These all time Champions League squads have been ranked based on the star power of the starting 11. Having talent throughout the squad was paramount here rather than the team just being led by a couple of world class superstars. These teams selected embody that idea, with some of the most complete soccer teams in history.

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