The 2003 UEFA.com users' Team of the Year brought a return to the big names, with Real Madrid CF, Juventus and AC Milan dominating a selection guided by UEFA Cup winner José Mourinho.
While the Team of 2002 included players from Fenerbahçe SK, AFC Ajax and Blackburn Rovers FC, the minnows made way for more established faces in 2003. Despite relinquishing their UEFA Champions League title, Real Madrid led the way with four players including Roberto Carlos, once again the overwhelming choice at left-back after attracting two-thirds of the voting.
The Liga titleholders dominated midfield. Luís Figo was selected on the right, David Beckham in the middle and Zinédine Zidane was named best attacking midfielder for the third year in succession, beating strong opposition from FC Porto's Deco. Zidane's France team-mate Thierry Henry also maintained his ever-present record in the XI despite Arsenal FC relinquishing the English title and failing to reach the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Milan enjoyed a more successful year as they beat Juventus on penalties to claim the UEFA Champions League and, even by Christmas, were well on course for the 2003/04 Serie A title. Having conceded just 14 goals in 17 games en route to glory at Old Trafford it was perhaps no surprise that their two contributions both came at centre-back, with Alessandro Nesta partnering veteran Paolo Maldini.
Beaten finalists Juventus provided goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the 2003 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, and Ballon d'Or holder Pavel Nedvěd. Ruud van Nistelrooy's 12 goals in the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League and all-round contribution to Manchester United FC's Premier League triumph earned him the striker's berth alongside Henry.
Yet for all the familiar names there was still room for surprises, as Porto's UEFA Cup success was rewarded by the selection of Paulo Ferreira at right-back and Mourinho as best coach. Mourinho also guided Porto to a Portuguese league and cup double in 2002/03, and had led them through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 by the time 1.5 million votes helped name the Team of the Year. Porto would, of course, go all the way to a victorious final.
UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2003
GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus & Italy)
RB: Paulo Ferreira (FC Porto & Portugal)
CB: Alessandro Nesta (AC Milan & Italy)
CB: Paolo Maldini (AC Milan)
LB: Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid CF)
RM: Luís Figo (Real Madrid CF & Portugal)
CM: David Beckham (Manchester United FC/Real Madrid CF & England)
AM: Zinédine Zidane (Real Madrid CF & France)
LM: Pavel Nedvěd (Juventus & Czech Republic)
FW: Thierry Henry (Arsenal FC & France)
FW: Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United FC & Netherlands)
Coach: José Mourinho (FC Porto)
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.