The 8 greatest CL sides of all time – as voted by Richards, Henry & Carra
You can’t be considered one of the best sides in European football history without having won the continent’s most prestigious cup competition – but which sides are the best of the best?
That was the debate had by Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, Arsenal and Barcelona hero Thierry Henry… and former Manchester City right-back Micah Richards.
To be fair to Richards, what he lacks in top-level European experience – he only made a handful of Champions League appearances in the group stage for City – he makes up for with his boundless energy in the studio, with a great rapport with his fellow former professionals on CBS Sports.
Carragher famously lifted the trophy with Liverpool in their miraculous 2005 triumph over AC Milan, before finishing runner-up to Carlo Ancelotti’s Rossoneri in a rematch two years later.
Henry suffered heartbreak as ten-man Arsenal suffered a 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in 2006 – but he ended up lifting the trophy three years later after jumping ship to the Catalan club.
But which are the greatest European sides of the Champions League era? The three discussed their picks ahead of Liverpool’s comeback victory over Villarreal, which has booked the Reds’ place in a third final in five years.
Richards, Henry and Carragher each gave their top five. We’ve collated their votes into an overall top eight – whereby a first-place vote is equal to five points, second place four, and so on. Where two sides are tied on points, we’ve gone for the greater number of votes as a tie-breaker.
Who are the greatest ever #UCL teams and does the current Liverpool side deserve inclusion? 🤔
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 3, 2022
8. Bayern Munich – 2019-20
Hansi Flick’s men were simply outstanding as they won the treble in 2020, although the knockout ties after the quarter-finals were single-legged as a result of lockdown restrictions.
Beating Chelsea, Barcelona and Lyon en route to the final, which included a stunning 8-2 demolition of Barcelona, Bayern beat PSG 1-0 in the final and ran out deserved winners.
Robert Lewandowski scored 15 goals in 10 Champions League games that season, a tally bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo, and Bayern were racking up huge scorelines throughout, including beating Spurs 7-2 in north London.
7. Ajax – 1994-95
“That Ajax team… at that age, being able to do what they did, Patrick Kluivert scoring in the final… against that Milan, with Rijkaard back in the squad,” said Henry, who voted that Ajax side fifth along with Carragher.
They were almost all from the academy and we all know after that they went on to have great careers individually.
“But the way won… That team was outstanding.”
No disagreements here, Thierry.
6. AC Milan – 1993-94
Carragher voted Fabio Capello’s Milan side in third place, behind two of Pep Guardiola’s great Barcelona sides.
“Until Barcelona came along with Pep Guardiola, this for me was the greatest club team I’d ever seen,” said the former Liverpool defender.
“They beat Barcelona in the final 4-0. Johan Cruyff’s famous Barcelona, Guardiola was playing, that was the Dream Team.
“I’m not just talking about that team. This started in 1989 when they won the European Cup under Arrigo Sacchi. Fabio Capello comes in, who then gets AC Milan to the first three Champions League finals. They lost two finals, and they won that one. That was a team who dominated Europe like Barcelona.”
When Milan destroyed Barcelona 4-0 to win the Champions League, 1994. pic.twitter.com/4rvJac5uYm
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) January 23, 2021
5. Manchester United – 1998-99
One of English football’s greatest ever sides, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team hit their peak in 1999, famously winning a treble which has not been matched since.
Beating Bayern Munich at Camp Nou was anything but straightforward, as substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came on to win the game in injury time.
Micah Richards placed this United side second on his list, but Henry and Carragher did not rate their old enemies quite as highly.
4. Barcelona – 2014-15
This Barcelona side was famous for being the very best season of ‘MSN,’ the deadly attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, who established themselves as one of the best front threes of all time. They scored 122 goals that year.
Barcelona won the treble under Luis Enrique, beating Juventus in the final, and their run to the final included one of Messi’s most iconic moments.
Six years ago today, Lionel Messi made Jerome Boateng eat grass 😱
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 6, 2021
3. Real Madrid – 2017-18
The third Champions League in a row for Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane, the 2018 side probably wasn’t the best of the lot. That same season, they failed to retain the La Liga title they’d won the year before. But turning up in Europe to complete a historic three-peat is an achievement unlikely to ever be matched.
The final was notable for two howlers from Loris Karius in the Liverpool goal as well as an incredible overhead kick from Gareth Bale, in Cristiano Ronaldo’s final game for the club.
2. Barcelona – 2010-11
Barcelona feature heavily on this list and naturally so, given their strong history in the competition, and their 2010-11 side just misses out on top spot.
Sir Alex Ferguson claimed this side under Guardiola was the best he’d ever faced, after Barcelona dismantled United with ease in the final at Wembley.
They also won La Liga but lost the Copa Del Rey final to Real Madrid, but ultimately had the last laugh over their great rivals after knocking them out of Europe at the semi-final stage.
El Clasico in that era was box-office viewing.
1. Barcelona – 2008-09
The unanimous vote – all three voted Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning Barcelona as their No.1 choice. We’d accuse Thierry Henry of bias, given he played for that side, but to be fair it’s also the correct choice.
Henry, Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi formed an outrageously talented attack as Barcelona won everything on offer in Guardiola’s first season in charge, despite selling the likes of Deco and Ronaldinho.
Yaya Toure, Xavi and Andres Iniesta pulled the strings in midfield in a team stacked full of talent in every position, and Barcelona not only won everything but did it in style, embracing their traditional style and passing teams to death.