Since the European Cup rebranded to become the UEFA Champions League for the 1992/93 season, each of the 28 winning squads have had numerous players from countries of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). South America’s football association, the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL), and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have also had many of their players be a part of multiple triumphant Champions League sides.
A governing body of football that is less represented in Champions League winning history is the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
Out of the 28 victorious Champions League squads, only nine of them have featured players from CONCACAF nations. Six of the nine winning teams came between 2010 and 2020, which shows how CONCACAF players have progressively become more utilized by Europe’s top clubs.
Seven different players from six different CONCACAF countries have lifted the trophy, with Mexico the only nation to have more than one winning player. Players from the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Canada have each had one player lift at least one Champions League title.
So who exactly are the seven players from CONCACAF nations that have the right the call themselves a European champion? In addition, what role did each of the players play in their team’s road to glory?
Jovan Kirovski (USA) – Borussia Dortmund, 1997:Embed from Getty Images
Kirovski made history in 1997 as he became the first-ever CONCACAF footballer to get their hands on the coveted Champions League trophy.
Despite going into the history books, Kirovski only played 27 minutes over the course of the entire 1996/97 Champions League campaign. He made two substitute appearances during the tournament, which both came against Atlético Madrid in the group stage. The American was then only included in two more match-day squads, being an unused substitute against Steaua Bucharest in the group stage and Manchester United in the semi-final first leg.
Kirovski played only 29 games during his time at Dortmund, and after leaving the German side in 2000, he went on to play for Sporting Lisbon and Crystal Palace. In 2004, he moved back to the United States where he played for the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Colorado Rapids and the San Jose Earthquakes.
Dwight Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago) – Manchester United, 1999:Embed from Getty Images
In his debut season at Manchester United, Yorke was part of the club’s historic treble winning campaign, where they won the English Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
Yorke not only picked up a Champions League winners medal, but he was also the tournament’s joint-top scorer alongside Andriy Shevchenko. The former Trinidad international scored eight goals in 11 games against an array of opponents such as Barcelona, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich (as well as the final, United also played Bayern in the Group Stage that season). His most important goal was undeniably the equalizer against Juventus in the semi-final second leg, a goal which ensured United’s place in the final on away goals. In the infamous final against Bayern Munich, Yorke played the full 90, as Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored in injury time to seal the greatest win in the club’s history.
As the first player from the Caribbean to win the Champions League, Yorke will forever be ingrained in CONCACAF folklore as one of the most influential strikers to play for a European powerhouse like Manchester United. After three more years in Manchester, Yorke then joined Blackburn Rovers in 2002. He then played for Birmingham City, Sydney FC and Sunderland before hanging up his boots in 2009.
Rafael Márquez (Mexico) – FC Barcelona, 2006 and 2009:Embed from Getty Images
The Mexican defender was the first CONCACAF player to win the Champions League on more than one occasion following Barcelona’s triumphs in 2006 and 2009.
In 2006, Márquez played in eight of Barcelona’s 13 games. He notably played 90 minutes in both legs of the semi-final against AC Milan, as well as the full 90 in the final against Arsenal. Barcelona kept clean sheets in four of the eight games Márquez played in, which included both legs of their semi-final tie against AC Milan.
Three years after winning it the first time, Márquez and Barcelona did it all again in 2009. Unfortunately for the Mexican, a meniscus injury kept him out of both the semi-final second leg against Chelsea and the final against Manchester United.
He still made nine appearances during the 2008/09 campaign, where he also scored the first and only Champions League goal of his career. He headed home Barcelona’s first in their 3-1 group stage win over Sporting Lisbon.
Márquez played just under 250 games for the club and won everything there was to win during his fruitful seven years with the Catalan giants. His time in Spain was followed by spells with the New York Red Bulls, Club León, Hellas Verona and Atlas. He retired at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, ending his footballing career with 775 combined appearances for club and country.
Jonathan dos Santos (Mexico) – FC Barcelona, 2011:Embed from Getty Images
Dos Santos’ winners medal from 2011 meant that Mexico became the only CONCACAF nation to have more than one Champions League winning player.
The Mexican was just 21 years of age when Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-1 in the final, and with the club’s established midfield cohort of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Seydou Keita, it was always going to be an uphill task for Dos Santos to break into the match-day squad for big games.
He made just one appearance during the winning campaign, playing 67 minutes in Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Rubin Kazan in the group stage. Since he was included in the team’s Champions League squad for that season, he qualified for a winners medal in spite of not being included in the 18-man group for the final.
Despite spending five seasons with the Barcelona first team, Dos Santos simply never made the grade at the club, making a total of just 28 appearances during his time at the Camp Nou. He joined Villarreal in 2014 and became a regular in their starting 11, before signing for LA Galaxy in 2017 where he is still contracted to this day.
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) – Real Madrid, 2016, 2017 and 2018:Embed from Getty Images
Navas is written all over the Champions League history books. He is the first Costa Rican and the first goalkeeper from a CONCACAF country to lift the trophy while also being a part of the only team (Real Madrid) to ever win consecutive titles.
During the first of three straight victorious seasons, Navas played in all but two of Real’s games in the 2015/16 campaign. In his 11 appearances, the Costa Rican kept nine clean sheets and proved a vital figure in Real’s journey to their record-extending 11th Champions League triumph.
The following year, Navas was a pivotal figure once again for Real, as the Spanish side became the first club to win back-to-back Champions Leagues. After missing Real’s opening group stage match against Sporting Lisbon due to an injured achilles, Navas played in every other game that campaign. He only kept one clean sheet in 12 games, but a string of fantastic performances in net propelled Madrid to a feat that no club had ever achieved.Embed from Getty Images
Real’s three-peat in 2018 saw Navas become the joint-most successful goalkeeper in Champions League history, where he joined the likes of Iker Casillas, Victor Valdes and Ray Clemence as the only goalkeepers to win three titles. The Costa Rican missed just two games that season because of a muscle tear, but played in each of Real’s games in the knockout stages, including their 3-1 win over Liverpool in the final.
The goalkeeper won the Champions League in three of his five seasons in Madrid, as well as four FIFA Club World Cups and three UEFA Super Cups. In 2019, Navas joined Paris Saint-Germain and in his debut season, he played in the fourth Champions League final of his career, but this time he was on the losing side as Bayern Munich beat the French side 1-0.
Mariano Díaz Mejía (Dominican Republic) – Real Madrid, 2017:Embed from Getty Images
Real Madrid’s Champions League winning campaign in 2017 saw not one, but two CONCACAF players pick up a winners medal. Alongside Navas, Dominican striker Mariano was also crowned a European champion.
While Navas played in all but two games that season, Mariano played just five minutes, coming off the bench during Real’s 3-3 draw with Legia Warsaw in the group stage. Like Dos Santos in 2011, Mariano’s inclusion in the club’s Champions League squad made him eligible for a winners medal.
A few months after becoming the Dominican Republic’s first Champions League winner, Mariano was sold to Lyon ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. He scored 21 goals in 45 games in all competitions, which ultimately prompted Real to buy him back just one year later.
He is still a Real Madrid player today, but since returning to Spain, he has been plagued by multiple injuries, which limited him to just seven appearances during the 2019/20 season.
Alphonso Davies (Canada) – Bayern Munich, 2020:Embed from Getty Images
In one of the most memorable breakthrough campaigns in recent history, Alphonso Davies made a name for himself during Bayern’s title-winning campaign in 2020.
The Canadian International was an unused substitute in Bayern’s first three group games, but he started all of Bayern’s next eight games – from match-day three of the group stage to the final in Lisbon.
Davies provided four assists over the course of the tournament, including one against Chelsea in the Round of 16 first leg, and one against Barcelona in the quarter-finals. His performances in both those games made headlines as Davies introduced himself to the world in spectacular fashion. Over the course of his eight appearances, Davies played 713 out of a possible 720 minutes, showing just how crucial he was to Bayern’s success.
The winger turned left-back was also included in the team of the tournament and the FIFAPro World11 following his impressive displays during the 2019/20 campaign.
As Bayern look to retain their title and become only the second team in history to win back-to-back Champions Leagues, Davies will hope to be a major contributor once again this season.
CONCACAF players that can win the 2020/21 Champions League:
Navas, Mariano and Davies are each still in the running for another Champions League triumph this season. The Costa Rican goalkeeper is looking to win his fourth title and become the first CONCACAF player to win the Champions League with two different clubs, while Mariano and Davies are both looking to add their second winners medal to their personal trophy cabinets.
There are also four other CONCACAF players still in this year’s competition who have their sights set on a maiden European title:
Zack Steffen (USA) – Manchester City
Giovanni Reyna (USA) – Borussia Dortmund
Christian Pulisic (USA) – Chelsea
Jesús Corona (Mexico) – FC Porto
So there it is! The seven CONCACAF representatives to win the UEFA Champions League over the course of the competition’s history. Be sure to check out more of Anthony Khoury‘s Football Geography series and subscribe via email below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!