Twenty-two players will take the pitch Saturday to start the UEFA Champions League final just outside of Paris in Saint-Denis at 8 p.m. CAT Liverpool and Real Madrid boast squads that could field multiple competent sides to compete in the world’s biggest leagues. From the Reds’ dynamite attack, led by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, to Real Madrid having arguably the world’s best player in Karim Benzema, there will be no shortage of talent on display at the famed Stade de France. But between the two teams, who are the very best players? The CBS Sports soccer editorial staff ranked the top 30 players in the final, we combined our lists, and this is how it turned out.



30. Dani Carvajal, right back, Real Madrid

The Spaniard has struggled at times this season, but came up big against Manchester City at Santiago Bernabeu and remains a regular starter under Carlo Ancelotti. Liverpool will likely target him from the off so a solid central defensive pairing will be vital to keep some of the heat away from Carvajal so that he can get forward as he did against City. — Jonathan Johnson

29. Nacho, center back, Real Madrid



Underappreciated and never flashy, the Spanish veteran gets the job done and offers incredible versatility. Primarily a center back, he can also place either fullback position. His effort is always there, he has a knack for well-timed tackles, and whenever the backline is a little thin, he’s the first in line to step up and deliver. — Roger Gonzalez

28. Curtis Jones, central midfielder, Liverpool

The 21-year-old gives every impression of being the first Liverpool academy graduate tailored made to fit into Jurgen Klopp’s side, a pressing dynamo who covers ground in a flash, moves the ball quickly and effectively and is not afraid of the odd long range effort. Jones is yet to establish himself as a regular starter but you sense it is a matter of when for this extremely talented youngster. — James Benge

27. Naby Keïta, central midfielder, Liverpool

One of the players in contention to start in midfield with Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara injury worries. The Guinea international has never quite managed to convince all of his critics, but he is capable of delivering big performances and there has never been a better time for one of those. Keïta is likely to see minutes in Paris and the 27-year-old could yet find himself playing a key role depending on how the midfield availability situation evolves. — Jonathan Johnson



26. Ferland Mendy, left back, Real Madrid

While Ferland Mendy can get caught out of position on the defensive end, he brings enough support in attack to push Los Blancos forward. Mendy is a great example of Real Madrid’s bend-but-don’t-break defensive approach, but he has also added another gear in Champions League play. WIth three assists in nine games compared to one in 22 La Liga matches, he has been at his best when the lights shine the brightest which will be important for the final. — Chuck Booth

25. Jordan Henderson, central midfielder, Liverpool

The England man has played over 300 matches for the Reds and is the heart and soul of the midfield. He’s the captain, he’s the leader, he’s driven and he is selfless. He will not wow you with much of anything he does, but it is his consistency in various facets of the game that has made him a staple in that Liverpool midfield. — Roger Gonzalez

24. Roberto Firmino, center forward, Liverpool

His best days are probably in the past, but Firmino can still deliver in big moments for Liverpool, from his flicked header against Inter Milan in the Champions League round of 16 to the crucial brace in the draw with Benfica in the following round. His average of a goal every 129 minutes in Europe and the Premier League is bettered only by Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi. — James Benge

23. Joël Matip, center back, Liverpool

And to think that Liverpool got this guy on a free transfer. Sure, he’s not Virgil van Dijk, but Matip is more than formidable. He is sturdy in defense, he can also contribute on attacking set pieces, and if anything, he provides incredible depth when chosen behind van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate. He’s won it all with the Reds and may have a big role on Saturday. — Roger Gonzalez



22. Rodrygo, right-winger, Real Madrid

The Brazilian attacker already scored five goals in 10 Champions League’s matches, including the crucial one against Chelsea in the second leg of the quarterfinals and most importantly the brace he scored against Manchester City in the second leg of the semifinal. Carlo Ancelotti likes to use him as a super sub in the second half when he needs a difference-maker, and for now, it is working quite well. — Francesco Porzio

21. Eduardo Camavinga, central midfielder, Real Madrid

The talented midfielder has taken on a larger role for Real Madrid as the season has gone on. In recent matches, Eduardo Camavinga has actually entered for Kroos to increase the range of the midfield. To take on so much responsibility at 19 years old and in only his first year with the club is a truly impressive feat, which goes to prove that the sky is the limit for Camavinga at Real Madrid. — Chuck Booth

20. Andy Robertson, left back, Liverpool

Usually taking a back seat to his creative teammate Alexander-Arnold, Robertson has stepped up by scoring two goals and assisting three more in Champions League play. Liverpool has some of the best weapons in the world at the outside back positions and Robertson motoring up and down the left flank will go a long way to keeping Real Madrid at bay. Integral for club and country, he’s an ultra-consistent defender who always performs at a top level. — Chuck Booth



19. Ibrahima Konaté, center back, Liverpool

It took time for the summer signing to establish himself in Klopp’s strongest side, but on the biggest stage there have been few more reliable performers for Liverpool in 2022 than Konate. The FA Cup run in which he played every minute stands out from his debut season but the Frenchman has been no less trusted in European games. With 25 matches played in Liverpool colors, he is still undefeated. — James Benge

18. Éder Militão, center back, Real Madrid

Militão has not disappointed since becoming the leader in defense for Real following the departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. He has no obvious weakness in his game, other than maybe at times being too aggressive, and he is a monster in aerial duels. His tackling is superb and he’s also a stronger passer out of the back. He’s just 24 years of age and will soon be one of the very best center backs in the world. — Roger Gonzalez

17. Federico Valverde, central midfielder, Real Madrid

The Charrua star is just so versatile for Carlo Ancelotti. Just 23 years of age, he can play center mid, attacking mid, on the right, and you can even use him at full back in an emergency situation. Valverde’s stock has skyrocketed over the last few seasons with his tactical intelligence and unmatched consistency that has helped take him to new heights. He’s a player that you can plug in and you know what you are going to get. He also plays with a little edge, as he’s not afraid to go in hard and send a message. — Roger Gonzalez



16. Casemiro, defensive midfielder, Real Madrid

Casemiro is another one of those players that Real Madrid have that just oozes consistency. He won’t show off incredible technical ability, but he’s smart, strong, aggressive and does everything you want from a defensive midfielder. He’s also scored in a Champions League final before and he won’t be afraid to rip a shot from deep if the opportunity arises. — Roger Gonzalez

15. David Alaba, defensive midfielder, Real Madrid

Alaba was one of the most important deals for Real Madrid last summer. He’s the reason why the club felt comfortable with parting ways with an iconic player such as Sergio Ramos. It’s why the expectations were really high among fans and he’s virtually fulfilled them in his first season. He’s one of the most crucial players on the squad who has Ancelotti’s complete trust. — Francesco Porzio

14. Toni Kroos, central midfielder, Real Madrid

Still one of the best midfielders of the competition. The German player is not so young anymore but is still considered as one of the most important players on the squad. The 32-year-old kept his place in the starting XI despite the arrival of a young talent such as Camavinga and he’s expected to start alongside Luka Modric and Casemiro. These three players combined are one of the secrets of the success of the Spanish club. — Francesco Porzio



13. Diogo Jota, center forward, Liverpool

Jota is another one of those stellar pieces in attack for Liverpool, though he’s probably falling just behind Luis Díaz in the pecking order. Jota has speed, awareness and superb technical ability, and despite not being that tall at 5-foot-10, he is absolutely incredible in the air. It won’t be all that surprising if he is on the bench to start the final, but it also wouldn’t come as a shock if he comes off that bench and makes a huge impact. — Roger Gonzalez

12. Fabinho, defensive midfielder, Liverpool

The Brazil international is one of the Liverpool players currently working their way back to fitness after a recent injury scare and it appears more likely that the 28-year-old is ready to feature significantly than the likes of Thiago Alcantara. Whether or not Fabinho will be 100%, we will have to wait and see on the day, but Klopp cannot afford to be without the man who acts as the glue for this Reds’ midfield. — Jonathan Johnson

11. Luis Díaz, left winger, Liverpool

Few pundits were arguing Liverpool needed another attacker in late January, and for all of Díaz’s obvious talent, the assumption was that Anfield may not see the best of him until the autumn at the earliest. If that is still true, then be afraid visiting defenders; Díaz has already overhauled Jota and Firmino to earn a starting spot in Klopp’s front three, where his all-energy displays have lifted his side in their down moments. — James Benge

10. Alisson Becker, goalkeeper, Liverpool

The Brazilian goalkeeper is part of the heart and soul of this successful Liverpool era and his lengthy absences in years past only reinforced his worth to this squad. He’s definitely in the top-three conversation for best goalkeeper among European clubs and with 11 Champions League matches played until now, he’s given Liverpool four clean sheets. — Francesco Porzio



9. Vinícius Júnior, left winger, Real Madrid

Whenever a match needs a moment of magic, you need to look no further than Vinícius Júnior. The joint top assister in Champions League play, the Brazilian has been a menace on the ball and has been delivering countless crosses into the box for his forwards. If he brings his finishing boots to the Champions League final, Vini Jr. could end up being the most important player on the pitch as his link-up play with Benzema has been next level for Los Blancos. — Chuck Booth

8. Thibaut Courtois, goalkeeper, Real Madrid

The Belgium international’s heroics against Manchester City is one of the unsung reasons why Real are here at the expense of Pep Guardiola’s men. The 30-year-old is aiming to capture his first Champions League title having been part of the Atletico Madrid side beaten by Real back in 2014 when Carlo Ancelotti led Los Blancos to La Decima. If Real are to succeed here, they need Courtois to continue his incredible form to play a key role in the way Keylor Navas did between 2016-18 when they were the undisputed kings of the continent. — Jonathan Johnson

7.  Thiago Alcântara, central midfielder, Liverpool

Alcântara has overcome a slow start to his Liverpool experience and he’s worked his way into becoming one of the go-to players of this team. The former Bayern Munich player is now fully part of Jurgen Klopp’s blueprint and his performances will be fundamental for a successful final. His assist in the final day of the Premier League season against Wolverhampton showed again why he’s one of the best midfielders out there. — Francesco Porzio

6. Sadio Mané, left-winger, Liverpool

Not as prolific as Karim Benzema, but equally as important to Liverpool as the Frenchman is to Real. The Senegalese star has five Champions League goals to his name and has provided key goals against the likes of Villarreal CF and SL Benfica to get here. With speculation swirling that the 30-year-old could be of interest to Bayern Munich if Robert Lewandowski moves on, might this be a final shot at UCL success with the Reds for Mane? — Jonathan Johnson

5. Trent Alexander-Arnold, right back, Liverpool

If you were just given Alexander-Arnold’s statistical profile and nothing else, you might imagine you were looking at a winger or wide playmaker, one of the most effective in the sport at that. Every season seems to bring a new cross with which to unlock defenses or a positional quirk to drive opponents mad. It seems he has been the best right back in the world for years now. It is worth remembering he is still only 23. — James Benge

4. Luka Modric, central midfielder, Real Madrid

Aging like a fine wine, the 36-year-old Modric has stepped up any time that he is needed by Real Madrid. From jaw-dropping assists to timely defensive challenges, Modric is a player who leaves everything on the pitch every time he plays. But his best attributes maybe his incredible mind and vision. Modric is a step ahead of everyone else on the pitch seeing things like a chess master to help set up his teammates to succeed. — Chuck Booth

3. Virgil van Dijk, center back, Liverpool

After coming back from an ACL injury in his right knee that forced him to miss the entire 2020-21 season, he’s now fully back at the center of Liverpool’s defense and he will have the most difficult task of the night to contain Karim Benzema. This is probably the most important duel on the pitch and will likely determine the final result. — Francesco Porzio



2. Mohamed Salah, right-winger, Liverpool

Even amid his recent struggles for form, Salah’s class shines through and he ended the 2021-22 Premier League season as the winner of the scoring and assisting titles. Having shaken off a minor injury from the FA Cup final, expect to see the Egyptian burst out of the blocks in a bid to get revenge for the injury and defeat that Madrid inflicted on him four years ago. — James Benge

1. Karim Benzema, center forward, Real Madrid

Three goals and an assist across two thrilling semifinal legs against Manchester City further underlined the French superstar’s Ballon d’Or credentials. The 34-year-old now stands to seal what could be his fifth Champions League crown with Los Blancos — a truly incredible feat made all the more impressive by his tournament-leading overall tally of 15 goals with two more assists. Benzema has dragged this Real side, single handedly at times, to be on the cusp of what would be their 14th competition success. Not to mention that this one could be won in his homeland. — Jonathan Johnson