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5 Greatest-Ever Individual Champions League Performances

For some, the Champions League is the litmus test for how good a footballer you are. It’s one thing to do it over 38 games, but try doing it under the lights against Europe’s best.

A lot of people tried, too. Champions League masterclasses are usually reserved for the best of a generation, with the occasional exception, and they help carve your name into history. So, who has the best continental performance ever? 

  • Lucas Moura vs. Ajax in 2019. 

Some may argue that Lucas Moura’s unforgettable performance against Ajax was the most world-class performance by someone who wasn’t all that world-class. He had no right to act the way he did that night. 

Tottenham were died and been buried. Nonetheless, Moura resurrected Spurs with the most inspired one-man comeback in Champions League history, scoring three away goals to put the hosts to the sword in 45 minutes. 

It was incredible, and it was one of the best games in the tournament’s history. 

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  • Lionel Messi vs. Arsenal, 2010

Lionel Messi scored five goals against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012, but because it was the second leg and the first leg had already been won, we’re not including it on this list. In any case, Messi’s four-goal performance was his defining performance. 

Arsenal players looked terrified every time he got the ball. They knew he could beat them with pace, a pass, or raw power. 

He was simply faster, both physically and mentally, and the ease with which he racked up four goals was frightening. He’s had plenty of memorable moments in Europe over the years, but few 90-minute performances as flawless as this. 

  • Roy Keane vs. Juventus (1999). 

The ultimate contribution of the captain. Due to a suspension, Roy Keane was unable to play in the 1999 Champions League final, but he did play an important role in ensuring Manchester United’s success. 

For 90 minutes, the Irishman kept a lid on Edgar Davids, Antonio Conte, and Didier Deschamps, stopping almost every Juve attack on his own. 

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Not only that, but he was responsible for everything great about United’s success. That night, he was a tornado on and off the field. 

  • Robert Lewandowski vs Real Madrid, 2013

Were we all expecting an El Classico final? Then there was Robert Lewandowski. 

Lewy’s performance was the epitome of a striker’s performance, as he tormented Madrid with poise, precision, and no mercy. 

Dortmund were more intense, faster, stronger, and, most importantly, deadlier that night, and the Polish forward summed up everything to love about them. 

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  • Steven Gerrard vs AC Milan, 2005

What a fun game. What an amazing comeback. And what a captain he is. 

Simply putting it in words does not do justice to the performance Steven Gerrard put on to pull Liverpool back from the brink of defeat in Istanbul that night. 

It wasn’t just that they were up against some of the best players in the world, or that their confidence had been totally destroyed – it was their captain’s never-say-die attitude, his tenacity and brilliance on and off the ball that turned defeat into heaven for the Reds. 

Gerrard almost single-handedly turned the tide that night, bringing the Champions League trophy to Merseyside for the fifth time. It was completely mindblowing – and it may never be surpassed in the pantheon of all-time great European displays.

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