Barcelona (odds-on 4/11 favourites to lift the trophy with Coral) and Juventus (11/5) will go head-to-head on Saturday June 6th in the Champions League final. To celebrate this meeting of two Europe’s most famous teams, our experts have looked at what honours their key players have helped btoh their respective clubs and countries to win.
Gianluigi Buffon v Marc-Andre ter Stegen As Chile custodian Claudio Bravo is chosen in La Liga, but behind up-and-coming German goalie Ter Stegen for cup competitions, it’s the youngster at the opposite end of his career up against Azzurri and Juve icon Buffon here. Buffon has won everything in football apart from Europe’s two highest accolades; the Champions League at club level and the European Championship with his country. He’s been a losing finalist in both though. Winning the old UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia in 1998/99 while still with Parma, Buffon supplemented that early promise with six Serie A titles, not including two Scudetti that were stripped from him because of the infamous match-fixing scandal. He is on for an Old Lady treble too. At the moment, Buffon has hands down more silverware and success than Copa del Rey winner Ter Stegen, who is yet to even get an opportunity to challenge Manuel Neuer for Die Mannschaft’s number one jersey.
Giorgio Chiellini v Gerard Pique While Italy international Chiellini has more caps (76), Barca and Spain centre back Pique (67) has picked up plenty more trophies. A three-time Champions League winner, including when on the fringes at Manchester United, he boasts six La Liga crowns and the Premier League title, plus three Copa del Rey triumphs and European and world titles with La Roja. Pique has endured rise and fall in his career, getting dropped after Spain’s shocking and flawed defence of the World Cup, while Chiellini has picked up a fifth major honour in a decade in Turin when Juve scooped the Coppa Italia. They played one another in the Euro 2012 final, where silky Spanish skills outclassed Azzurri pragmatism under Cesare Prandelli.
Jordi Alba v Patrice Evra France veteran Evra is set to play in his fifth Champions League final here, winning just one previously while with Man Utd. Across his time at Old Trafford, Monaco beforehand and Juventus afterwards, he has won a dozen major trophies. Evra is infamous, though, for being Les Bleus skipper at the 2010 World Cup when the players mutinied on controversial coach Raymond Domenech. Alba, meanwhile, was almost one that got away from Barcelona as they let the Masia graduate go as a teenager and then paid a hefty premimum to poach him back from Valencia. That was €14m well spent, though, as he helped Spain to win Euro 2012 and since tasted two La Liga triumphs and the Copa del Rey.
Andres Iniesta v Andrea Pirlo Gliding midfield metronomes Iniesta and Pirlo have both won the richest prizes in club and international football, so will go down among the playmaking elite. Azzurri centurion and Juve anchorman Pirlo, a 7/1 anytime scorer shout, is looking to achieve something pretty unique here by winning Serie A, the Coppa Italia and Champions League with two different Italian giants, having already won all those honours at AC Milan. Catalan clubman Iniesta, meanwhile, is looking for a 14th major trophy at Barca to go with his own 100 plus Spain caps, back-to-back European Championships and the World Cup.
Paul Pogba v Ivan Rakitic Swiss-born Croatia midfielder Rakitic was a Europa League winner with Sevilla last season, and is likely to be included in the engine room instead of fading Barcelona star Xavi Hernandez. Rakitic’s first season at the Nou Camp has definitely been a success. France powerhouse Pogba, a 6/1 shot in the anytime market, is looking to go from Golden Boy to a treble winner. Utterly vindicated by his decision to leave Manchester while still a teenager, he has won titles in all three of his seasons at Juventus. He just might be the star of the show in midfield here. Sensational strikeforces Luis Enrique shall unleash his superb South American front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar (7/1 to score two or more) and Luis Suarez on Juve, who rely heavily on another Argentina international in Carlos Tevez. Is one man, backed up by the channel running of Spain striker Alvaro Morata or operating off the target play of Basque frontman Fernando Llorente, capable of causing an upset? We shall see. All that superstar firepower in Barca ranks has not brought a World Cup for respective nations, including Copa America holders Uruguay and the footballing force that is Brazil. It’s ironic for all the Golden Boot accolades littered between these superb six, that good old-fashioned centre forward Llorente is the only world champion among them.