Aritz Aduriz is arguably the greatest Europa League player of all time.

Pure Thursday nights: An XI that’s almost too Europa League to function

There’s something cultish about the Europa League with its Thursday night matches, semi-familiar players and trips to deepest Azerbaijan that makes the competition the preserve of true football addicts.

By the end of the week, most English fans have consumed two nights of Champions League football and are saving themselves for the weekend’s Premier League action.

But those who turn to Netflix are missing out on a voyage of discovery as heaps of Iberian ballers stick five past some central European middleweight on a freezing November evening.

We’ve taken the pleasure of compiling the most Europa League XI of all time to make those long Thursday nights fly by.

GK: Rui Patricio

Ten Europa League seasons with three clubs (Sporting Lisbon, Wolves, Roma) makes Patricio the perfect custodian for our side.

The Portuguese goalkeeper arrived at Roma from the Premier League with experience and a strong reputation which was clear in his first season in Italy as they won the Europa Conference League.

But things very quickly fizzled out after that as his form dipped in 2022-23, despite helping Jose Mourinho’s Roma reach the Europa League final, and even more so in 2023-24.

His regression likely accelerated Mourinho’s sacking and, now 35, Patricio has not played in any of Roma’s Europa League games this year. Still a competition stalwart, though.

RB: Jesus Navas

Close your eyes and you can just picture Navas wearing the captain armband and bombing down the wing at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan as Sevilla make another inevitable comeback en route to Europa League glory.

CB: Luisao

Yes, our line-up will be heavily dominated by Spanish and Portuguese speakers. Unlike England, the Europa League clearly isn’t a dirty word in Iberia…

Luisao was part of the furniture at Benfica as pastel de natas and pints of Super Bock, spending 15 seasons with the Lisbon giants and reaching the Europa League final in 2013 and 2014.

It wouldn’t be the Europa League without almost household names flourishing away from the Champions League goldfish bowl and Luisao fits our criteria perfectly.

CB: Aleksandar Dragovic

Players like Dragovic are the bedrock of the Europa League; solid pros, happy to play anywhere across the continent, wouldn’t be recognised by the average English fan if they entered their home wearing a name tag.

The Austria defender has played in the Europa with Austria Vienna, Basel, Dynamo Kyiv, Bayer Leverkusen and Red Star Belgrade. Only the aforementioned Patricio has made more than his 66 appearances in the competition.

LB: Alberto Moreno

Part of the Liverpool side that reached the final in 2016, Moreno is perfectly serviceable at this level without suggesting he’s got the chops to cut it in the rarefied air of a Champions League knockout match.

The left-back was replaced by Andrew Robertson before Liverpool’s imperial phase under Jurgen Klopp, but did pop up in Unai Emery’s victorious Villarreal side in 2021.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every UEFA Cup and Europa League finalist since 1990?

RM: Yevhen Konoplyanka

Konoplyanka oozes Europa League. Cut him in half and he’d bleed 17:30 kick-offs on a Thursday night, goals that became staples of Eurosport round-ups and Premier League gossip columns.

The Ukrainian winger fired Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to an improbable Europa League final appearance in 2015 before joining their conquerors, Sevilla, on a free transfer immediately afterwards.

Naturally, he won the competition again during his sole season in Seville. What a guy.

CM: Dani Parejo

Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano described a teenage Parejo as “the best talent in La Fabrica [Madrid’s academy], a terrific player, a phenomenon.” That was always going to be tough to live up to.

But the 34-year-old has enjoyed a stellar career in Spain, making more than 600 career appearances and playing Europa League football with Getafe, Valencia and Villarreal.

CM: Ever Banega

Those that know, know. If you watched Sevilla between 2014 and 2020, you’ll fondly remember Banega as a wonderful midfielder, blessed with guile and grit, splitting defences with his passing.

The Argentinian left the La Liga outfit in 2020, not long after shining in a third Europa League triumph with the club. He’s now playing in his home country with Newell’s Old Boys.

READ: How Monchi built a stunning Sevilla side that fell just short of a quadruple

LM: Iker Muniain

Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao are one of the ultimate Europa League cult sides, reaching the final in 2012 after eviscerating Manchester United home and away.

Muniain scored nine goals in 58 appearances in 2011-12, earning him one of his two international caps for Spain and links with Manchester United.

But the Football Manager legend and Basque native has played for Bilbao throughout his entire career, making over 450 appearances for the club.

His only club honour is the Spanish Super Cup. The guy is almost too Europa League to function.

ST: Carlos Bacca

S0mewhat overshadowed by compatriot Radamel Falcao, Carlos Bacca was the only Colombian in town when it came to the Europa League.

The wily striker scored crucial goals in Sevilla’s 2014 and 2015 triumphs, including two in the latter final against Dnipro, before catching in the eye in Villarreal’s 2021 triumph over Manchester United.

Twenty-three goals in 55 Europa League appearances indicate Bacca’s prowess in the competition and, crucially, he never played in the Champions League. Get him in the side.

ST: Aritz Aduriz

While Spain are renowned for producing skilful and technical strikers like Fernando Torres and David Villa, Aduriz was a towering target man.

During his spells at Mallorca, Valencia and Atheltic Bilbao, the striker loved to use his physical strength to try and bully defenders.

And the goalscoring machine plundered an incredible 26 goals in 39 Europa League appearances despite never winning the competition. That’s some kind of sorcery.

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TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the Europa League top scorer for every year since 1990?