Our Champions League Dream Team
It is the entertainment brand that has become the market leader in the world game, but would any Premier League players make it into a Champions League dream team?
The next few days threaten to provide another ugly snapshot of how far behind the real giants of the game England’s marquee names have fallen, with the notion that the Premier League is the best in world football shattered beyond repair.
Arsenal face Bayern Munich on Tuesday and, as has been the case when these two sides have met in recent years, Wenger v Guardiola looks like another mismatch.
Chelsea’s troubled start to the season will be given a fresh examination as they travel to the Ukraine to take on Dynamo Kiev, before Man United head to Russia to take on CSKA Moscow and neighbours City prepare to face Spanish dark horses Sevilla.
Just five years ago the Premier League could have expected to pick up nine points at the very least from that collection of fixtures, but the aura of English clubs has evaporated.
With their UEFA coefficient ranking on the slide, the threat of England’s big hitters losing their fourth place in the Champions League to Italy’s Serie A is real and that desperate scenario may edge even closer this week.
While the Premier League should cling on to their four lucrative Champions League berths until the 2017-18 season at least, the trend of decline needs to be halted now.
The four clubs representing England in UEFA’s flagship competition this season all find themselves listed in the top seven richest clubs in the world, but they do not have a genuine world-beater to call upon.
Today we have picked our European elite dream team and while it may lack a little in balance and defensive structure, it is a selection of talent that any football lover would want to see in action on the same pitch – and it does not include a single Premier League A-lister...
MANUEL NEUER (Bayern Munich)
He may be helpless to keep out pile drivers from Ireland striker Shane Long, but it is hard to look beyond this World Cup winner to fill the sticks when the best keepers in the game are nominated.
Agile, commanding and oozing charisma, Neuer (left) is a giant who gives Bayern Munich an edge over the rivals they fear most in the Champions League. It goes without saying that those teams do not play in the Premier League.
PHILIPP LAHM (Bayern Munich)
Retired from the international game after his role in leading Germany to World Cup glory in the summer of 2014, Lahm is still performing at the top of his game for Bayern in the right-back role.
A leader who rarely seeks the limelight, Lahm has achieved it all in a career that has seem him win every major trophy he has competed for.
GERARD PIQUE (Barcelona)
This former Man United star has blossomed since leaving Old Trafford in 2008, with his status as a Barcelona legend long since assured.
Elegant on the ball and a fine passer, Pique has won the Champions League on four occasions and was a World Cup winner with Spain in 2010.
SERGIO RAMOS (Real Madrid)
Manchester United did all they could to sign Ramos last summer, but this elegant centre-back was never leaving Real Madrid.
Highly decorated and oozing with class, he is a defender who would have become the best of his type in the Premier League if he had become a United player.
DAVID ALABA (Bayern Munich)
This Austrian will get his chance to shine in a major tournament next summer after his nation qualified for Euro 2016 and his presence on the big stage should serve to promote his excellence.
At home in a full-back role, he displayed his goalscoring touch against Ireland with two crucial goals in the World Cup qualifiers against Giovanni Trapattoni’s side in 2013.
PAUL POGBA (Juventus)
Another player who slipped through Alex Ferguson’s fingers during his time as Manchester United manager, Pogba has emerged as a real force at Juventus.
He was strongly linked with a move to England last summer, but has stayed in Turin for now and this French international is respected as one of the finest midfielders in the European game.
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