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In Focus: Champions League stars of 2022
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Cian Cheesbrough
LiveScore
Thibaut Courtois' heroics inspired Real Madrid to their 14th European Cup/Champions League title
Thibaut Courtois' heroics inspired Real Madrid to their 14th European Cup/Champions League title

Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in the 2022 Champions League final to claim their 14th European crown.

Vinicius Junior’s 59th-minute finish and heroics from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois were enough to see Los Blancos home at the Stade de France.

But while the final witnessed some fine performances, it should not be forgotten that players galore produced standout individual displays throughout the competition.

Read on as we pick out the star performers from the 2021-22 edition of the Champions League. 

Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)

Topping off an impressive tournament with a match-winning performance in the final, Real keeper Courtois is a worthy pick.

The Belgian, 30, made an incredible nine saves to pick up his fifth clean sheet in Europe this season.

He also more than played his part in their dramatic run to the final, with stops at crucial times against Manchester City and Chelsea allowing his side to seal victories.

Thibaut Courtois made an impressive nine saves in Real Madrid's 1-0 Champions League final win over Liverpool
Thibaut Courtois made an impressive nine saves in Real Madrid's 1-0 Champions League final win over Liverpool

After picking up his first Champions League medal, Courtois took the chance to hit out at his critics.

The former Chelsea custodian told BT Sport: "I needed to win a final for my career, for all the hard work, to put respect on my name as I don't think I get enough respect, especially in England.

"I saw a lot of criticism even after a great season. I am really proud of the team. We stuck to it and when I needed to be there I was there for the team."

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Mohamed Salah's form in front of goal was a key reason for Liverpool reaching the Champions League final
Mohamed Salah's form in front of goal was a key reason for Liverpool reaching the Champions League final

Despite his campaign eventually ending in heartbreak, there is no disputing Mohamed Salah's place among the standout stars.

An impressive seven goals in the group stage helped Jurgen Klopp’s men storm through by winning all six of their games.

And while his knockout campaign was less fruitful, the Egyptian was on target in the last 16 against Inter Milan and provided important assists in both legs of Liverpool's semi-final tie with Villarreal.

The defeat in Paris was certainly not down to a lack of effort on the part of the 29-year-old star, who registered six shots on target — five more than any other player and a Champions League final record.

It looked as though his big moment was coming late on after he went on a trademark run but his finish was superbly denied by the aforementioned Courtois.

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Karim Benzema finished as this season's Champions League top scorer with 15 goals
Karim Benzema finished as this season's Champions League top scorer with 15 goals

As with Courtois, there is simply no way Madrid would have picked up their 14th Champions League title without Karim Benzema.

In one of the most prolific seasons of his career, the French striker hit a stunning 15 goals in 12 games on the European stage.  

With five in the group phase, hat-tricks to knock out Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea and three across two legs to beat Manchester City, it is hard to think of a better individual performer this term.

Ahead of the clash with City at the Etihad, ex-Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand said: "Benzema has always been a top, top, top player. 

"But the sheer amount of goals he has got, there is now an absolute fear from defenders when he comes up against them."

Arnaut Danjuma (Villarreal)

Arnaut Danjuma celebrates after scoring in Villarreal's shock quarter-final win over Bayern Munich
Arnaut Danjuma celebrates after scoring in Villarreal's shock quarter-final win over Bayern Munich

Villarreal’s remarkable run to the semi-finals was one of the stories of the Champions League this term and winger Arnaut Danjuma deserves credit for the part he played.

Having played Championship football with Bournemouth the previous season, the Netherlands international immediately looked at home on the big stage.

Danjuma, 25, netted on his debut in the competition against Atalanta before claiming three more and an assist in further group games with Young Boys, United and the reverse fixture at the Italian outfit.

And as Unai Emery’s men began to upset some of Europe’s most elite clubs in the knockout phase, Danjuma was at the heart of things again.

The winger was on target in the Yellow Submarine’s stunning 4-1 aggregate win over Juventus, then netted the only goal in what proved to be a decisive 1-0 home victory over 2020 champions Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.

Sebastien Haller (Ajax)

Sebastien Haller became only the second player to score in all six Champions League group games
Sebastien Haller became only the second player to score in all six Champions League group games

Given Ajax were only able to make it as far as the last 16, Sebastien Haller’s tally of 11 goals is all the more impressive.

The striker, 27, had become something of a figure of fun during his troubled spell in England with West Ham but this season’s exploits have restored his reputation.

Frenchman Haller became the first player to score four goals on his Champions League debut against Sporting Lisbon before finishing the group stage as the top scorer with 10 strikes in six games.

In doing so, he wrote himself into the history books as only the second player ever to score in all six group games, with Cristiano Ronaldo the other to achieve that feat during 2017-18 with Real Madrid.

And Haller admitted that not even he envisaged such an extraordinary flurry.

He said: "Of course I didn't expect [to score 10 times in the group stage], especially in my first games. 

"The only thing you want to do is perform well and be in the flow of the game. Ten goals was not in my dreams."

Tags

Champions LeagueReal MadridLiverpoolVillarrealAjaxThibaut CourtoisKarim BenzemaMohamed Salah
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