The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious club competition in the game of football. The continental tournament has provided several iconic games and moments over the last six decades.
Real Madrid have a storied history with the competition, having won the tournament a record-breaking 13 times. Apart from Los Blancos, other historic clubs like Liverpool, AC Milan, Barcelona and Ajax have also won multiple UEFA Champions League titles.
There have also been some surprise winners like Steaua Bucharest, Nottingham Forest and Red Star Belgrade.
Beyond the clubs, several iconic players have also made a mark on the tournament over the years with their record-breaking displays.
Which players and teams made a mark on the UEFA Champions League in the decade between 2011 and 2021?
Chelsea started and ended the decade between 2011 and 2021 as winners of the UEFA Champions League.
The Blues ended a near-decade of heartbreak in the tournament with an unlikely triumph in 2012. The Blues dispatched Bayern Munich on penalties in their own backyard.
They also defied expectations by winning the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League tournament. Chelsea registered a narrow 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the final.
Between the two triumphs, Real Madrid reigned supreme, winning a long-awaited ‘La Decima’ in 2014. They also completed an unprecedented three-peat between 2016 and 2018.
Barcelona’s treble-winning campaign in 2014-2015 was topped by Bayern Munich, who won the treble on two occasions, in 2013 and 2020.
Several players made a mark in the decade with their exploits in front of goal. Others also reigned supreme with their ability to create goalscoring chances for their teammates.
Here are the top five UEFA Champions League assist providers in the decade between 2011 and 2021.
Note: If two or more players have the same number of assists, the player with the fewer matches is ranked higher.
#5 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) – 22 assists
Karim Benzema was criminally underrated earlier in his Real Madrid career due to Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence.
The Frenchman was content to play second fiddle to his more illustrious team-mate and this in turn affected his goalscoring output.
Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus in 2018 set the stage for Benzema to become the main man at the Santiago Bernabeu. And despite initial fears about his suitability for the role, the former Lyon man has stepped up to the plate.
He has been the standout player for Los Blancos in the last three seasons and his form has led to a recall to the international scene after over five years out.
Benzema’s class has also shone in the UEFA Champions League, with 22 assists provided in 98 games on the continent. His display helped Real Madrid lift four continental crowns in that timeframe.
#4 Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 27 assists
Lionel Messi is arguably the most creative player in the history of the game. The ease with which he creates chances for his teammates has helped his teams to numerous titles over the years.
In addition to his creativity, the Rosario native is also one of the greatest goalscorers in history. It would not be out of place to outrightly call him the greatest to ever play the game.
Messi currently ranks as the second highest assist provider in the history of the UEFA Champions League. He is also the second highest goalscorer of all-time in the competition.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has won the UEFA Champions League on four occasions with Barcelona. However, the club have not won the competition since their treble-winning campaign in 2015.
The 34-year-old made 92 appearances in the UEFA Champions League between 2011 and 2021, with 27 assists provided for his teammates in that time.
Messi is currently out-of-contract at Barcelona, having run down his previous deal in June. With a maiden international trophy now in the bag, he will turn his attention towards continuing his record-breaking career at club level.