The 2018-19 Champions League competition was memorable for an abundance of reasons, but possibly none more so than the performances of the star players on the continent. Some of the players that performed excellently were expected, but there was also the fair share of surprise stars that have been born on the global stage. The competition has long been the playground for Cristiano Ronaldo to express himself, but this season wasn’t his finest in the competition.
Juventus’ defeat to Ajax at the quarterfinal stage was a surprising result and although Ronaldo performed well over the two legs; he was superbly marked out of the game by a vibrant Ajax side that defied expectations in their run to the semi-finals. Let’s see some of the players that performed excellently in Champions League 2018-19 season.
Matthijs de Ligt
Not much was known of this Dutch defender before the competition; although he was widely regarded by Ajax and was appointed as the club captain at the beginning of the season. In doing so, he became the youngest captain at the famous Dutch club. De Ligt played a crucial role in the fixture against Juventus as he marked Ronaldo out of the game over both legs.
His knack of popping up to score vital goals was also an important factor in the success that Ajax enjoyed in Europe. Unfortunately, his performances weren’t enough as Ajax fell at the semi-final stage after a memorable last-gasp winner from Lucas Moura for Tottenham Hotspur.
Virgil van Dijk
Sticking with Dutch defenders, the undoubted star of the Champions League last season was Virgil van Dijk. Eyebrows were raised by the record-breaking fee that Liverpool paid for the central defender, but his performances were crucial in the success of Jurgen Klopp’s side last season. He was assured on the ball and very rarely looked fazed by his opponents.
He did a remarkable job by keeping Lionel Messi quiet in the second leg of their semi-final success. The Dutchman also performed heroics in the final as he defended Heung Min-Son and Harry Kane excellently in Madrid. His performances throughout the season have seen some bookmakers cut the odds on the defender winning the Balon d’Or in 2019.
The Argentinean was once again stupendous as he did all he could to guide Barcelona to the European Cup final. While he was ultimately unable to do so; he was still one of the best players in the competition last season. He scored 12 goals in ten appearances in the competition to end the season as the top scorer. Furthermore, this tally was his highest in the Champions League in five seasons.
His performances in the Nou Camp against Manchester United and Barcelona were inspired, as he was simply unplayable on those nights. His legacy as being the greatest ever player to step foot on the football field remains intact, but other Champions League win in 2019-20 will silence the doubters for good.