We did a Europa League final-related video on the day of the Europa League final and an FA Cup final-related video on the day of the FA Cup final, so you know the drill by now. The UEFA Champions League is the biggest club knockout competition in world football, and the hardest to win.
This years final will be contested between five-time European champions Liverpool, and Champions League final virgins Tottenham, who have won the UEFA Cup twice and the European Cup Winners’ Cup once, but have never featured in a European Cup or Champions League final before today.
The likes of Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Son Heung-min would probably be among the favourites to pick up the UEFA Man of the Match award this evening, and today we wanted to take a look at the last 7 players to pick up that accolade. I should note that there has previously been both a UEFA Man of the Match and a Fans’ Man of the Match award, and it is the UEFA award we are concerned with here.
Here are the last 7 UEFA Champions League Man of the Match winners: Where are they now?
7. Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
A lot can change in 12 months, and Gareth Bale knows that better than most. It’s easy to forget that the Welshman was only introduced as a substitute and didn’t start the 2018 Champions League final, being introduced in the 61st minute with the scores tied at 1-1. He proceeded to score two goals, including one of the finest overhead kicks you’ll ever see, to kill the game and ensure the trophy would be heading back to Madrid for the third year in a row. A year on, Bale has been unable to inherit Cristiano Ronaldo’s mantle as Real’s go-to match-winner, and has instead been ostracised and told he isn’t part of the clubs plans. It’s widely expected that he will leave the Bernabeu this summer, although where he’ll go remains an unknown.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo had very little impact in the 2018 Champions League final, but that certainly wasn’t the case in 2017. Up against his current club Juventus, Ronaldo was as clinical as we have come to expect him to be, scoring two well-taken goals in a 4-1 win. He won the man of the match award, but left Real Madrid as the club’s all time leading goal scorer last summer in a move to defeated 2017 finalists Juventus. In his first season at Juve, Ronaldo starred in the Champions League once again against Atletico Madrid, but was powerless to prevent the Old Lady from being overrun and knocked about by a youthful Ajax side.
5. Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
Well, Real Madrid won three Champions League titles in three seasons, and of their three Man of the Match winners, one has left the club and the other two have had clashes with the club hierarchy and are expected to leave this summer. Only at Real, eh… Anyhow, whatever happens in the coming months, even at a club as bonkers as Real Madrid there is no way Sergio Ramos won’t go down as a club legend. According to club president Florentino Perez, Ramos’ disputes with the club stem from the fact that Ramos wants to leave Real for China but Los Blancos won’t let him leave on a free transfer.
4. Andres Iniesta – Vissel Kobe
Breaking up Real Madrid’s four Champions League titles in five seasons, their El Classico rivals Barcelona won the competition in 2015, with Spain’s top two having had an extraordinary stronghold over the competition for more than half a decade. Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar all scored in Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat of Juventus at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, but it was Andres Iniesta pulling the strings in midfield who was named as UEFA’s Man of the Match. Barca legend Xavi left the club for Qatar after that game, and Iniesta departed for Japanese outfit Vissel Kobe in the summer of 2018.
3. Angel Di Maria – PSG
Making it four out of four Real Madrid Champions League final man of the match winners who are either no longer at the club or are at loggerheads with the club, Angel Di Maria was just brilliant throughout the 2013-14 season. He brought energy and dynamism to the Real side as part of a midfield three having converted from being a wide player, and he was just as influential as Argentina reached the World Cup final that summer. He left the Bernabeu in a big money move to Manchester United, but despite a reasonable return particularly in terms of assists, United didn’t consider Di Maria to be part of their future plans, and he joined PSG in the summer of 2015.
2. Arjen Robben – Free Agent
The first non-Real Madrid or Barcelona player takes us all the way back to the 2013 Champions League final, which was an all-German affair between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley. Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern overcame Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund by two goals to one thanks to a late Arjen Robben winner, and the Dutchman was named as the games Man of the Match. After 10 years in Bavaria, Robben left Bayern at the end of the season just gone, meaning he is now a free agent. It’s unclear where the 35-year-old will go next, I would have thought a return to PSV would seem likely, but he has been linked with both Leicester City and a full retirement.
1. Didier Drogba – Retired
One former Champions League final Man of the Match who certainly has retired is 41-year-old Ivorian striker Didier Drogba. The late bloomer only actually hung up his boots last year aged 40 following a season with Phoenix Rising, but he is best known for his first eight-year stay at Stamford Bridge. Drogba was a giant in the Chelsea attack, such a big character and obviously the ultimate big game player. He backed up his reputation in the 2012 Champions League final when Chelsea were up against it facing a Bayern Munich side who were playing on home soil. Drogba scored a late equaliser for the Blues with a typically powerful header, and dispatched the winning penalty in the shoot-out. He left Chelsea after that game for Shanghai Shenhua, although he did briefly later return, and played for both Galatasaray and Montreal Impact before waving goodbye to the sport.
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