The Champions League is still, for us here at RFK, the most prestigious football competition in the world. So making your debut as a player must be incredible. Join us as we look back at the debuts of some of the game's biggest names.
Lionel Messi - On Matchday 6 of the 2004/05 season, Lionel Messi made his Champions League debut in a 2-0 defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk. He was lined up with legends like Xavi, Puyol & Iniesta. Who knew that day that the 17-year-old would become the club's best-ever player?
Wayne Rooney - After finally completing his long-awaited £30m transfer from Everton to United, Wayne Rooney made arguably the greatest-ever debut in Champions League History. Scoring a hat-trick against Fenerbahçe in front of a raucous Old Trafford crowd is the stuff of dreams.
Iker Casillas - Three days after making his La Liga debut, Iker Casillas would do the same in the Champions League. Playing in a 3-3 draw against Olympiacos, the legendary stopper would go on to win the Champions League 3 times with Real & has made the second-most appearances.
Zinedine Zidane - Zizou made his debut for the defending champions Juventus in 1996 in a 1-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Zidane would go on to make the final with Juve but sadly the Turin club could not beat Dortmund in Munich to defend their title.
Erling Haaland - As you’d likely expect Erling Haaland made an immediate impact in his Champions League by debut scoring a first-half hattrick. The 19-year-old wasted no time with the first coming after just two minutes. Salzburg would go on to thrash Genk 6-2 in this Group E clash back in 2019.
Paolo Maldini - Maldini played for Milan in their very first game of the rebrand of the European Cup. Playing against NK Olimpija Ljubljana in a First Round tie, Milan would put four past the Slovenians. Maldini lifted the Champions League three teams after it changed its name.
Gareth Bale - Bale's Champions League debut coincided with Tottenham Hotspur in 2010. They were drawn in a group with Bremen, Inter and Twente. Their opening game was a 2-2 draw against the German side away from home. Bale went on to win 5 Champions Leagues with Real Madrid.
Andriy Shevchenko - 18-year-old Shevchenko played his first game in the Champions League against Spartak Moscow in which his side Dynamo Kyiv lost 1-0 back in 1994. The Ukrainian striker would go on to score 59 goals in the Champions League and won it once with AC Milan.
Phillip Lahm - Bayern Legend Lahm actually made his Champions League debut before making his league debut (which was for Stuttgart). The utility man came on as a 92nd min sub in a 3-3 draw against Lens in November 2002. He didn't play in the Bundesliga until August 2003.
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