There are three things in life that are certain - death, taxes, and football fans getting goosebumps when they listen to the Champions League anthem. There can be no debate that the Champions League is the most elite club competition in the world, and it is the highest of privileges when a club wins the trophy.
Known for its entertainment and for pitting the best teams in the world against each other, this competition is followed across the world. The 2010s gave us an exciting decade of CL football. We witnessed historic comebacks, an unprecedented three-peat, and we saw legends in the making as some of the best players ever competed for the crown.
In this list, we compile a list of the best players who have competed in the competition this season. It was not an easy task, given the number of world-class players who have competed in the tournament, but here it goes -
Note - Only performances in the Champions League have been considered. Longevity and consistency matter, so players who retired early on this decade/have never managed to win the competition are excluded from this list.
Goalkeeper - Manuel Neuer
This decision was a tough one. Keylor Navas was the goalkeeper who did a three-peat of Champions League titles with Real Madrid, as compared to Manuel Neuer's only victory in 2013. However, as far as in-game performances go the German international glides past the current PSG goalkeeper.
Ever since he joined Bayern Munich, Neuer has been a supernatural force who has disturbed the best forwards of this generation. The former World Cup-winner has made 261 saves in the competition this decade, which is more than anyone else in that time-frame. He may not be as good right now as he was in 2014, but his place here is well-deserved.
Left-back - Marcelo
Marcelo has been one of the best defenders of this generation. He has been named to the FIFPro World XI six times, the UEFA Team of the Year three times, and La Liga's Team of the Season in 2016. The left-back is one of the best fullbacks in the history of the game, and his chemistry with Real Madrid's forwards is second to none.
The Brazilian international has won this trophy four times this decade, and he was an integral part of all of those victories. There is no other left-back that comes close to Marcelo in the Champions League this decade.
Centre-back - Gerard Pique
This was a very close decision. Raphael Varane has won four Champions League titles as compared to Gerard Pique's two (this decade), but the Spaniard has the slight edge over him.
Often underrated and under a lot of criticism due to his personality, Pique's performances in the Champions League are actually quite underrated. His bad games are remembered more than his good games, and the latter is much more frequent than the former.
The Spanish defender has made 410 clearances this decade, which is more than any other player. He was the best centre-back for Barcelona in both of their Champions League victories this decade, and he is still going strong for them in this competition. Even though he just edges out Varane, Pique's inclusion here is warranted.
Centre-back - Sergio Ramos
This one is a no-brainer. In terms of pure defending, the likes of Varane would make this team over him. However, what Sergio Ramos offers, no one else does. He has an X-factor that no one can deny, and he is one of the most clutch players in the history of football - he always steps up at the biggest of occasions.
His header in injury time against Atletico Madrid in 2014 essentially kick-started Real Madrid's Champions League domination. With several brilliant performances against elite oppositions, Ramos easily makes this list.
Right-back - Dani Alves
Philipp Lahm might be the best right-back of this generation, but the German international retired in the middle of the decade and only has won Champions League to his name. Dani Alves, on the other hand, is one of the most decorated players this decade and has won the competition twice with Barcelona.
A sublime passer of the ball who is also adept defensively, Alves could do pretty much everything for Barcelona. Even after he moved on from Spain, the Brazilian international put in some great work with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. His place here is cemented without question.
Central midfielder - Toni Kroos
This choice was a very difficult one. Sergio Busquets is arguably a top 3 defensive midfielder of all time and has changed the way defensive midfielders operate. However, Toni Kroos' stats and influence in the Madrid team are just too big to ignore.
After having an average CL career with Bayern, Kroos absolutely shone with Real Madrid. From the 2013/14 season to the 2016/17 season, no player had completed more passes in the Champions League than the World Cup-winner.
He has also created the most chances this decade in the competition (223). As an integral part of the 3peat team, his inclusion here is well justified.
Centre-midfielder - Andres Iniesta
Again a difficult choice, but Xavi Hernandez's early departure from Barcelona strengthens Andres Iniesta's inclusion here. One of the greatest players to ever pass the ball, watching Iniesta operate on the field was like watching a magician work.
A gifted footballer, the Spanish international seemed to glide over the pitch and had the perfect pass. The bigger the occasion, the better Iniesta played. He was involved in two CL victories this decade and was a member of the Barca squad during that comeback against Paris Saint-Germain.
Central midfielder - Luka Modric
Luka Modric was the player to break the Messi-Ronaldo hegemony when he won the Ballon d'Or 2018. The Croatian international is one of the best central midfielders of this generation. A supremely talented passer of the ball, Modric has a ferocious shot in his arsenal and can control the game according to his own fancy.
He has been one of the best big-game players this decade. Without Modric, the Madrid dominance of this competition would have been impossible. His longevity and ability make the Croatian international an easy inclusion in this list.
Forward - Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi's last few seasons in the Champions League may not have been the most successful, but that does not take away from the fact that he is one of the greatest players of all time. The second leading goalscorer in the history of this competition, the Argentine captain has won the CL twice this decade.
Consistently amongst the top goalscorers of the competition, Messi has mesmerised audiences and tormented the best of defences in the world.
Aside from his goalscoring, the forward is an elite playmaker and dribbler - he has created 58 big chances and bagged 23 assists this decade while completing 427 dribbles. At full flight, Messi is the most unstoppable player in the world.
Striker - Karim Benzema
In terms of pure ability, the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez can make this list. However, as far as the Champions League is concerned, Karim Benzema blows both of his counterparts out of the water.
The French international has over 50 goals in the Champions League and is one of the most prolific goalscorers in the competition's history. A long underrated presence in Real Madrid's attack, some acclaim is long due for Benzema.
He is a selfless striker who plays as the system requires, and it is largely due to him that a certain Portuguese superstar succeeded at Real Madrid. His place here is well deserved.
Forward - Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is simply the greatest player in the history of the Champions League. In this decade, the Portuguese superstar has netted an astonishing 105 goals in the competition, and he is the all-time leading goalscorer for the same.
Ronaldo has won the competition four times this decade and has scored in three finals - more than anyone else. Regardless of whether he manages to win the trophy again with Juventus, the forward's legacy as the greatest to ever compete in this competition is safe and sound.
A clutch, powerful player, no one has performed in the CL as consistently, and as well as Ronaldo.