It's fair to say that this season has been a brilliant one for the Champions League.
The return of fans has done an awful lot to lift this year's competition above the previous two seasons, but the drama on show has been top notch as well.
Ahead of Saturday's Champions League final, we took a look back on the best moments from this season's competition. It truly has been an incredible season of European football, and here's hoping there is one more dramatic act to come on Saturday night.
Champions League: The best moments from this year's competition
Honourable mentions: Manchester City's semi-final first leg v Real Madrid was a classic; Barcelona going out early in acrimonious circumstances was one of the stories of the competition; as was Ronaldo's return to Manchester United and his late winner v Villarreal; and Lionel Messi's move to PSG brought one of the goals of the tournament in the group stages against City.
10. The mother of all messes at the Champions League last 16 draw
December saw the draw made for the first knockout round of this season's Champions League, and one particular matchup had football fans very excited. Manchester United, with new signing Cristiano Ronaldo, were drawn against PSG and their new man Lionel Messi.
The renewal of the Ronaldo v Messi rivalry was set to be the standout tie of this year's competition. It took over football news outlets...that was, until it became clear UEFA had completely bungled the draw...
Messi's PSG face Ronaldo's Manchester United in CL last 16: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo meet again when their clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United were on Monday drawn to face each other in the Champions League last 16. Both football https://t.co/deI5S5N3Yd pic.twitter.com/V1LP7isp6d
— World News 24 (@DailyWorld24) December 13, 2021
Three errors were made during the draw, which led to United initially being drawn against one of the team's from their group (Villarreal), then being excluded from the pot of potential opponents for Atletico Madrid while Liverpool (who had been in Atletico's group) were.
The farcical scenes led to the draw being redone, and UEFA losing out on their glamorous matchup in Paris.
9. Jordan Henderson channels Gerrard to net winner v Milan
Liverpool have reached a third final in five seasons - and their campaign started with a dramatic win over Milan at Anfield.
After going 2-1 down late in the first half, Liverpool had to dig deep to equalise and the score was tied at 2-2 entering the final 20 minutes. Enter Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, with one of the goals of the tournament to seal a crucial opening night win for Liverpool.
🔴 Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson rifles home the winner at Anfield!
👀 Remind you of anyone❓@JHenderson | @LFC | #UCL pic.twitter.com/ygld11n8rA
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 21, 2021
8. Thiago takes goal of the season with Porto screamer
There were some cracking goals in the Champions League this season, with Vinicius' strike in the semi-final against Manchester City a true highlight.
Nothing, however, could top this strike from Thiago for Liverpool against Porto in November.
Just look at how well he strikes the ball! Did it touch the ground? Did it skim the ground? In all honesty, it doesn't matter. It's a cracking strike either way.
🔴 The 𝗣𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗧 of strikes from Thiago Alcântara 😎
What was your favourite goal of 2021?#UCL pic.twitter.com/AFvk82zCsZ
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 22, 2021
7. Champions League debutants Sheriff silence the Bernabeu
Nobody was expecting much from Sheriff Tiraspol in this year's Champions League, especially after they were placed in a group with Real Madrid and Inter.
Incredibly, they not only held their own, but took the scalp of the season on their Champions League debut. On matchday two of the group stages, they went to the Bernabeu and took a famous 2-1 win with a belter from Sebastien Thill sealing the deal in the dying moments.
🇱🇺 Sébastien Thill was the match-winner in Madrid! 🙌
Who'll be the hero on Wednesday?#UCL pic.twitter.com/nQQDbUjLNI
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) November 24, 2021
6. Luka Modric magic kick-starts another Real Madrid comeback
Late drama and comebacks were the name of the game for Real Madrid in this season's competition. The quarter-finals saw them throw away a 3-1 first-leg lead against Chelsea, with the Londoners leading 3-0 on the night in the second leg, and 4-3 on aggregate, entering the closing stages at the Bernabeu.
Veteran midfielder Luka Modric was having none of it. Croatian playmaker Modric pulled out the most majestic pass we saw all season, using the outside of his foot to drop the ball on a place for Rodrygo to finish. Real would ultimately see off Chelsea in extra time thanks to more miracle work from Karim Benzema.
The Brazilian makes it 𝟰-𝟰 on aggregate, but WHAT A BALL from Modric 🤩🇭🇷#UCL pic.twitter.com/wVVJ3fv549
— Watch the UCL on LiveScore 🇮🇪 (@LiveScoreIE) April 12, 2022
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5. Brawl kicks off at end of Atletico v City
A prime example of when the phrase "things nobody wants to see" gets bandied about for an incident that enthralled football fans.
In reality, it was hilarious to see Jack Grealish and Stefan Savic scrapping it out over the Englishman's hair, and body after body join the mass brawl in the dying stages of the quarter-final second leg.
It wouldn't be a Diego Simeone Champions League run without a bit of shithousery, after all.
Unsavoury scenes at the Wanda 😳 pic.twitter.com/Avcm9O3TVr
— Watch the UCL on LiveScore 🇮🇪 (@LiveScoreIE) April 13, 2022
4. Kylian Mbappé comes up with injury time stunner v Real Madrid
Sometimes it's the worst games that produce the best moments of magic. That was exactly what happened in PSG's last 16 tie against
Manchester United Real Madrid in February.
Real's defensive set up led to PSG being stifled until the dying seconds, before Kylian Mbappé produced a stunning solo goal to win it for the Parisians.
𝗖𝗟𝗨𝗧𝗖𝗛 goal from Kylian Mbappé 🤩
The Frenchman wins it with practically the LAST kick of the game in Paris 🇫🇷#UCL pic.twitter.com/T5jCSEkSm6
— Watch the UCL on LiveScore 🇮🇪 (@LiveScoreIE) February 15, 2022
Given Mbappé's eventual decision to reject a move to Madrid in order to stay in Paris, this feels like an even bigger moment in retrospect.
3. Karim Benzema is the coolest man in Manchester with crucial Panenka
To pull off a Panenka chip down the middle is a ballsy strategy even when the stakes aren't high. With your side 4-2 down in a Champions League semi-final, it becomes a seriously brave call.
Karim Benzema showed his class once again in the first leg against Manchester City by pulling off exactly that. The Frenchman got his second on the night and Real's third to reduce the game to a one-goal deficit going back to Madrid. It would turn out to be a crucial goal given the events of the second leg.
Arguably the best thing about this goal was the array of dumbfounded reactions to it.
Benzema did 𝗡𝗢𝗧 just hit a panenka under that amount of pressure in a UEFA Champions League semi-final 🥶#UCL pic.twitter.com/fVRlFrHjJU
— Watch the UCL on LiveScore 🇮🇪 (@LiveScoreIE) April 26, 2022
2. Villarreal snatch shock win late on in Munich
Villarreal were the surprise story of this season's Champions League. After last year's Europa League triumph, they kicked on and qualified from the group stages ahead of Atalanta.
They went on to knock out Juventus in the last 16, before claiming the biggest scalp of their run to the semi-finals. With their quarter-final against Bayern Munich tied at 1-1 approaching injury time of the second leg in Munich, Samuel Chukwueze struck to send Villarreal to the last four and stun the Allianz Arena.
Cue pandemonium from the Villarreal bench.
WHAT A MOMENT! 🤩
Villarreal reach the #UCL semi-finals for the 2nd time in their history 💛 pic.twitter.com/ujOQdQEFXl
— Watch the UCL on LiveScore 🇮🇪 (@LiveScoreIE) April 12, 2022
They would ultimately go on to lose out to Liverpool in the semi-finals, but Villarreal and their fans certainly brought a feel-good factor to the Champions League this season.
1. 90 seconds of madness ends City's Champions League dream
In this author's humble opinion, this is unrivalled as the Champions League moment of the season.
After a first leg for the ages in Manchester, City came to the Bernabeu 4-3 up. A strike from Riyad Mahrez with just 17 minutes to go of the second leg had the Citizens 5-3 up on aggregate and looking at a final showdown with domestic rivals Liverpool.
That was still the scenario in the 90th minute, before substitute Rodrygo struck to give Real Madrid the faintest of hope of reaching the final. Incredibly, less than a minute and a half later, Rodrygo would strike again to force extra time and leave City absolutely reeling on the touchline.
👏 Super subs in the knockouts!
Rodrygo, 2022 ⚽️⚽️
Marcos Llorente, 2020 ⚽️⚽️
Georginio Wijnaldum, 2019 ⚽️⚽️
Gareth Bale, 2018 ⚽️⚽️
Walter Pandiani, 2001 ⚽️⚽️⚽️#UCL pic.twitter.com/NAUnV9eoWX
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 11, 2022
In extra time, Karim Benzema would strike to put Real through to their first final in four years, and leave Pep Guardiola reflecting on another extraordinary Champions League collapse.
Will there be drama in Paris on Saturday night to match the incredible storylines we have seen emerge during the Champions League season this year?