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Manchester City have claimed their first Champions League with a 1-0 success in Istanbul, securing a remarkable treble in the process.

In that context, one would expect any composite teams comprising the best players to have featured in UEFA’s elite club competition this season to be brimming with City representation. So no surprise that was the case when we asked a selection of our writers at The Athletic to come up with their XIs made up of those who have impressed in Europe.

But, away from the core picked from Pep Guardiola’s team, there were some interesting differences of opinion as players from Inter and Napoli, Liverpool, Benfica, Real Madrid, Porto… and even a certain someone en route out of Paris Saint-Germain gatecrashed City’s party.

Have our writers missed out any obvious candidates? Let us know in the comments who would make your Champions League XI for 2022-23.

Oliver Kay

It feels like a while since I’ve had the opportunity to rave about Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who faded towards the end of the campaign, but I was so mesmerised by him in the group stage and the first knock-out round that he’s one of the first names on my team-sheet here.

I’ve ended up with four Manchester City players (Ruben Dias, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland), but I could easily have included John Stones and Bernardo Silva. Likewise, my two from Napoli could easily have been more. But it’s nice to have a bit of a spread with Diogo Costa from Porto, Alessandro Bastoni from Inter and Alex Grimaldo from Benfica.

I’m intrigued to see if any of my colleagues join me in picking Lionel Messi. Am I being too generous? Possibly. This was probably the first time in 15 years that there has been another player I’ve enjoyed watching more in the Champions League (yes, that boy Kvaratskhelia again) and I’m sorry to say Messi was anonymous when I went to Paris Saint-Germain’s first leg against Bayern in February, but… he still produced some stunning performances in the group stage.

And… look, just let me pick him and I promise I won’t pick him next season, OK?

Raphael Honigstein

It was tempting to pick the entire Manchester City starting XI given they’ve been on a different level to any other side in the Champions League this season. When the collective is as brilliant as Pep Guardiola’s team, every individual looks a superstar.

Flawless on the line and an extra defender in possession, Ederson has been peerless. New signing Manuel Akanji played as if he’d been wearing the City shirt for 10 years. Ruben Dias’ lust for defending and John Stones’ composure on the ball as an auxiliary midfielder complemented each other perfectly. Rodri held it all together, while captain Ilkay Gundogan set the rhythm.

And up front, Erling Haaland added a new dimension — nay, a new universe — to City’s game with his goals.

Nathan Ake, Kyle Walker, Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva could have easily made it a full house, but there were some other players whose contribution to their sides need to be recognised.

Left-back Federico Dimarco’s five assists played a key role in getting Inter into the final, and so did his team-mate Nicolo Barella as the beating heart and important goalscorer from deep. Up front, Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid) was arguably the single most exciting wide player in Europe this season, but let’s not overlook Mohamed Salah, who scored eight in eight and was only bettered by the Norwegian machine (12 in 10) in that respect.

Carl Anka

I imagine Manchester City’s players will dominate many a combined XI, so I’ll try to give flowers to some players who also play in baby blue…

It’s a pity Napoli did not progress further than the quarter-finals. Kim Min-jae has emerged as one of the best centre-backs in the world, marrying technical brilliance with physical aggression. Let’s pair him with his captain — the reliable Giovanni Di Lorenzo — at right-back.

Midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is a Napoli player who really should have been snapped up by a Premier League club after Fulham’s 2020-21 relegation. Now he lights up the biggest stages. Apologies to Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Oshimen in this XI; Vinicus Junior’s ability to play out of double teams and Erling Haaland’s… Haalandness gave them the nudge.

A word too on Benfica’s Alex Grimaldo, who notched two goals and five assists from left-back this season. He’s got a wand of a left foot and I’ll put him on a few set pieces in this team.

Dermot Corrigan

After a few super exciting Champions League years, we were due a bit of a lull, and this competition has been a bit underwhelming generally.

Part of this is due to the dominance of one team. So this XI is mostly made up of Manchester City stars, and arguably even more could have been included (sorry to Bernardo Silva especially). It says much that a City XI versus a ‘best of the rest’ line-up would only likely be a contest if Pep Guardiola switched benches.

But for variety’s sake, there is recognition for the contributions of Andre Onana in goal, and Alessandro Bastoni at the back, as Inter have endured their way to the final. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s magic for Napoli in the group stages wins him a spot, Alex Grimaldo’s four assists and two goals from left-back for Benfica stood out, and kids Eduardo Camavinga and Vinicius Junior kept Madrid alive up until the semi-final second leg.

Seb Stafford-Bloor

Starting in goal, Diogo Costa’s four penalty saves in the group stage alone — on three consecutive matchdays — is enough for inclusion here. Ahead of him, John Stones, Ruben Dias and Alessandro Bastoni. Interestingly, Bastoni hasn’t been that good in Serie A this year, at least not relative to his Champions League form, but he’s been super in Europe and I want that left foot passing the ball out of this defence.

Kyle Walker is my right-sided wing-back, Federico Dimarco is on the left. Theo Hernandez was in that conversation and Benfica’s Alexander Bah had a good tournament down the right. They’re really both full-backs, though, and tactical integrity wins out.

In midfield, Rodri will anchor. That doesn’t need much explanation. And he’ll sit behind Kevin De Bruyne. Nor does that. Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski, who had a magnificent Champions League up until the quarter-final, can provide the penetrative passing and some attacking rhythm. Goodness, he was fun to watch.

Up front, it’s tricky tactically. Erling Haaland is obviously in; grow up if you’re not picking him. Alongside, separating Edin Dzeko and Lautaro Martinez feels wrong because of how well they’ve combined this season. I’ll pick Dzeko – this late-career run is more of a story and we’re all romantics at heart.

Mark Carey

It’s so difficult not to simply rattle off the whole Manchester City team. Why? Obvious reasons, but it’s worth remembering Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in Europe this season and could become only the eighth side in Champions League era to lift the trophy without losing a game.

Nevertheless, a noteworthy shout goes to Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana, whose shot-stopping is statistically the best in the competition this season (7.8 goals prevented above expectation).

No right-back has created more chances in open play than Napoli’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo (18), so he’s earned a spot on the right of a back four. Meanwhile, Federico Dimarco’s five assists are more than any of his full-back (or wing-back) peers, so his delivery from the left gets into my team — even though he is more adept at playing in a back five.

Aside from that trio, it’s City-dominated, I’m afraid.

There was a shout for Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior or Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on the left, but Jack Grealish’s 25 open-play chances created dwarfs his competitors here, so I’m sticking with him — just as Pep Guardiola has this season.

(Photos in top image: Alex Pantling/Getty Images; Gonzalo Arroyo – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images. Designed by Sam Richardson)



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