As the clock ticks down to Saturday's UEFA Champions League final in Madrid, UEFA.com unveils the Player Rater Team of the Season. This star-studded lineup was selected from among the players with the highest averages throughout the 2009/10 campaign, with the proviso that each individual made at least six appearances for a club that reached the last eight.
Júlio César (FC Internazionale Milano)
Few players have symbolised Inter's defensive tenacity this season like the man who has spent every minute of their campaign between the posts. The Brazilian international even appeared against Chelsea FC in the first knockout round days after suffering a car accident. The commanding, athletic custodian has kept five clean sheets along the way and helped Inter reach the final with a superb fingertip save to deny Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.
Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München)
Another player to have contested every single minute en route to the final, full-back Lahm has not only been solid in defence but has combined effectively with Arjen Robben on Bayern's right flank – though he has also operated on the left this term. Semi-final opponents Olympique Lyonnais rarely troubled the German outfit's rearguard during their 4-0 aggregate loss and Lahm capped a majestic showing in France with the cross for Ivica Olić to head in Bayern's third.
Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal FC)
Ever present for the Gunners in Europe this season, the Belgian centre-back adapted instantly to life at his new club after signing from AFC Ajax in the summer. Quick, combative and strong in the air, he formed an excellent partnership with William Gallas and revealed a goalscoring streak when he delivered Arsenal's equaliser at R. Standard de Liège in the group stage.
Gerard Piqué (FC Barcelona)
Still only 23, the former Manchester United FC stopper has made the transition from emerging prospect to first-team stalwart in 2009/10, missing only one game in Barcelona's run to the semi-finals. Rewarded with a new contract in February, his all-round natural ability and comfort on the ball made him a pillar at the back and a threat further forward, as he proved with a sublime goal against Inter in the last four.
Maicon (FC Internazionale Milano)
In competition with Daniel Alves for the right-back berth in the Brazil team, Maicon outshone his esteemed compatriot this season when Inter saw off Barcelona in the semi-finals. A strong, quick and technically adept player who loves to run at defenders, he has started every match so far during Inter's campaign and weighed in with a vital goal against Alves and Co at San Siro.
Arjen Robben (FC Bayern München)
A revelation since swapping Real Madrid CF for Bayern last summer, the Dutch international will be eager to cap a fantastic season with a match-winning display at his former Santiago Bernabéu home. Taking the creative reins from an often absent Franck Ribéry, the pacy provocateur has lit 2009/10 up with goals that have proved as spectacular as they have been priceless – in particular his thunderbolt against ACF Fiorentina and vicious volley to down United.
Wesley Sneijder (FC Internazionale Milano)
Like Robben, the elegant playmaker returns to Madrid a transformed figure, having worked wonders pulling the strings at the heart of the Nerazzurri midfield. No player boasts more assists in the competition this term and the 25-year-old with an eye for a defence-splitting pass has also contributed three strikes, demonstrating his free-kick prowess against PFC CSKA Moskva and kickstarting Inter's comeback in the semi-final first leg against Barcelona.
Yoann Gourcuff (FC Girondins de Bordeaux)
After signing on for continued service with Bordeaux in the summer, the prince of the Stade Chaban-Delmas epitomised the 2008/09 French champions' coming of age among the European elite. The former AC Milan schemer is one of the most technically gifted midfielders in Europe, but it was his set-piece acumen which shone in particular this term, the 23-year-old registering direct from a free-kick against first knockout round opponents Olympiacos FC and serving up another for Michaël Ciani to nod in against the same side.
Miloš Krasić (PFC CSKA Moskva)
Serbian Player of the Year for 2009, Krasić was central to unfancied CSKA's journey to the quarter-finals, notching up four goals in the group stage from his posting in right midfield. A superb run and finish to see off Beşiktaş JK on Matchday 2 set the tone, and he further raised his profile with a searing effort from distance to defeat VfL Wolfsburg having shown composure to register at Old Trafford.
Ivica Olić (FC Bayern München)
Unsung Croatian international Olić was 29 when he finally secured a move to one of Europe's leading lights last summer, and he has seized on his chance with seven goals in nine European outings. The deceptively quick, hard-working forward put Bayern ahead during their must-win group-stage game at Juventus and stole in for a last-minute home-leg winner against Manchester United in the quarter-finals, before sparking his team's fightback at Old Trafford. His masterpiece, however, was his hat-trick against semi-final opponents Lyon in France.
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
His team may have ultimately fallen short after last season's European coronation, but Messi's trajectory has continued to soar upwards. The 2009 Ballon d'Or winner has been mesmerising to watch this term, matching his exquisite skills with sumptuous end product and becoming only the sixth player to rack up four goals in a UEFA Champions League encounter when he put Arsenal to the sword at Camp Nou in the quarter-finals. Still the competition's top scorer ahead of the final, it is difficult to believe he is only 22.
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