1. FC Barcelona 2010-11
Path to the trophy: Arsenal (Last 16), Shakthar Donestsk (Quarter-Finals), Real Madrid (Semi-Final), Manchester United (Final)
Rarely has a club and a coach’s vision been more perfectly realized than with the Pep Guardiola coached Barcelona teams. Like great Ajax, Bayern Munich or Manchester United teams before them, this iteration of Barcelona contained the best graduates from the club’s youth system who had reached heights that nobody could have anticipated, but there was something more to them too.
On top of getting to watch players like Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro and Busquets thrive on the biggest stage, Barcelona fans had the opportunity to witness a player with a legitimate place in the discussion of the greatest player ever to play the game.
Pele never played in Europe, so the European Cup passed him by. Diego Maradona thrived in international play but never got the chance to play on a truly great club team. Messi on the other hand got to be the star of the show in the Champions League.
Barcelona disposed of the likes of Arsenal and Real Madrid in the knockout rounds, but saved their best for a strong Manchester United team and London’s Wembley Stadium.
The scoreline was only 3-1, but Barcelona performed to a level that most had never seen before and likely will never see again. It would be all too easy to say that they made Manchester United look average, but the reality is more that their play was so mesmerizing that they made you forget that there was even an opposition.
At full-time, Alex Ferguson, the United manager and the man who had overseen one of sport’s greatest dynasties spoke about the quality of the team his side had just come against:
"They’re the best in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they’re the best team we’ve faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It’s not easy when you’ve been well beaten like that to think another way. No one has given us a hiding like that. It’s a great moment for them."
Quite simply, that team is the best that the European Cup has seen to date.