The UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup trophies represent the highest epitome of success in a footballer's playing career. The Champions League is a yearly affair with the top clubs in Europe battling it out to be regarded as the best club in world football while the FIFA World Cup takes place once in 4 years as the world's top nations compete to be named as the top footballing country in the world.
These tournaments have made the lives of various footballers who have moved to top clubs for record-breaking transfer fees following remarkable performances as the standout players for their teams. Every footballer looks forward to these tournaments in their playing career as they are the biggest stage in world football to showcase their true talent.
Only 3 players this millennium have had the privilege of winning the UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup in the same season. They all had one thing in common: They all played for Real Madrid that season. Let's take a look at these players below:
#3 Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid and Brazil)
Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos, is unarguably the best attacking left-back to ever grace the game. He played in three World Cups, helping the team reach the final in 1998, and win the tournament in 2002. At club level, he spent 11 highly successful seasons at Spanish giants Real Madrid where he won 4 La Liga titles and 3 UEFA Champions League titles.
Among his many title-winning rewards, the year 2002 stood out in his career as he won both the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League in the same season. The phenomenon nicknamed "The Bullet Man" due to his powerful, bending free-kicks was also known for his stamina, running-speed, crossing ability and his 24-inch thighs.
At Real Madrid, he forged his reputation as the best left-back in the world and was voted as the runner-up in the 1997 FIFA World Player of the Year and 2002 Ballon d'Or awards, both to compatriot Ronaldo. He was instrumental to ending Real Madrid's 32-year wait for Champions League victory in 1998 and it was his pinpoint delivery in the 2002 Champions League final after a bursting run forward that enabled Zinedine Zidane to score the winning volley which is considered one of the greatest Champions League goals of all time.
Carlos was very much a focal point of their 2002 success, scoring their first in a 4-0 rout of China and also starting the final against Germany. In addition to the World Cup winner’s medal, he also was part of the side that won two Copa Americas, so its fair to say that Roberto Carlos was extremely successful domestically and internationally.
#2 Sami Khedira (Real Madrid and Germany)
The 31-year-old holding midfielder, Sami Khedira, was instrumental to Germany's 2014 World Cup victory as he calmly protected the German defense and allowed the attackers to do their job of scoring the crucial goals. In 5 starts at the 2014 World Cup, the midfielder scored one goal and provided an assist in the 7-1 semi-final onslaught of Brazil.
He was an unused substitute for most of Real Madrid's domestic campaign as he struggled with injuries to start most of the games. He did, however, start in the 2014 Champions League final where Real Madrid beat rivals Atletico Madrid in a closely fought 4-1 victory for the European giants.
His performances at the World Cup and the desire for more playing time earned him a much-deserved move to Italian giants Juventus on a free-transfer from Real Madrid where he became an instant hit protecting with the defense with ease and contributing with goals and assists. In the 2017-18 season, he scored 9 goals and provided 2 assists in 25 appearances for the "Old Lady."
The midfielder was a flop at the 2018 World Cup in Russia among many other Germans as they disgracefully faced an early exit from the tournament after failing to qualify from their unchallenging group. He played 2 matches for the ex-World Champions and couldn't manage to make an impact in the nation's disastrous World Cup campaign.
Khedira is well past his prime but should be proud of his achievements looking back at his career as he is one of only 3 footballers in this millennium to have achieved the feat of winning the Champions League and the World Cup in the same season.
#1 Raphael Varane (Real Madrid and France)
The 25-year-old defender, Raphael Varane must feel on top of the world after an emphatic 2018 World Cup campaign with France as they emerged winners. He was instrumental at the back as the French defense bullishly came across all the attacking challenges they faced. Just a couple of months ago, he was a UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid as the European giants defeated Liverpool in an intense encounter.
Unlike the previous mention Khedira, Varane was a key player for both club and country starting all the games for France and Real Madrid in their respective campaigns. In 7 starts for the current World Champions, the defender kept 4 clean-sheets as he kept things tight at the back forming an unbreakable partnership with Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti. He also scored the crucial opener against Uruguay in the World Cup quarter-finals.
For Real Madrid too, the defender started all 11 games in their Champions League campaign as he formed a key partnership with legendary centre-back Sergio Ramos. They did fail to keep clean-sheets but with the depth of attacking talent at their disposal, that was never an issue.
At just 25 he has already lived a career that most players can only dream about, he's won four Champions Leagues, three UEFA Super Cups, three Club World Championships, two LaLiga titles, 2 Supercopa de Espanas and one Copa del Rey.
The defender is currently one of the hottest properties in world football after his most recent achievements and it remains a doubt whether Real Madrid will let go of one of their biggest stars after he was linked with English giants Manchester United on a regular basis.