Football Features

Where are they now? Arsenal & Barcelona teams from the 2006 Champions League final

By James Richards

Published: 19:30, 16 May 2019 | Updated: 19:30, 16 May 2020

In May 2006, Arsenal made history by becoming the first London club to contest the Champions League final, taking on Barcelona in the Paris showcase.

The Gunners didn’t get off to a good start with Jens Lehmann being shown a red card inside 20 minutes for a foul outside the area. But a shock looked on when they took a lead into half-time courtesy of Sol Campbell’s goal.

Arsenal’s 10 men managed to hold on for 30 minutes after the break but Samuel Eto’o finally found a way through, equalising for Barcelona. And just four minutes later Barcelona had turned the final on its head, with Julian Belletti poking in from a tight angle.

Arsene Wenger’s men were unable to find a way back in the final 10 minutes, ending the night in heartache while Barcelona celebrated their second Champions League title – later extending that to five.

But what happened to the players to feature in that famous match-up?

Arsenal

GK: Jens Lehmann

The German ‘keeper was known for his character and he would remain at the Gunners for a further two seasons after appearing in this final. He holds the record for the most consecutive clean-sheets in the Champions League after not conceding for 10 straight games while with the club.

Despite being sent off during the final he is widely thought to be the Gunners best ‘keeper since David Seaman and would later go on to play for Stuttgart before a brief return to the Emirates following an injury crisis to the Arsenal goalkeeping core.

Since retiring he has turned his hand to acting, punditry and coaching, now working behind the scenes at Hertha Berlin.

RB: Emmanuel Eboue

The Ivorian was a mainstay at Arsenal between 2004 and 2011 making 132 Premier League appearances. He moved on to play for Turkish giants Galatasaray four-years after the defeat to Barcelona in Paris.

He has suffered since leaving the game, having run into financial problems due to a divorce and bad investment decisions.

CB: Kolo Toure

The second Ivorian in that Arsenal line-up that evening was a key player for the Gunners during his time with the club.

He attracted a lot of attention and would be snapped up by Manchester City in 2009 for a £14 million fee. He would later join Liverpool and Celtic where he became a coach under Brendan Rodgers who he followed to Leicester as part of the backroom staff.

CB: Sol Campbell

One of Arsenal’s greatest defenders was also an England mainstay and the Champions League final against Barcelona would be his last appearance for the London club during his first spell.

He would join Portsmouth and help them win an FA Cup before a single appearance for Notts County in an ill-fated move. He returned to Arsenal briefly in 2010 before finishing his career at Newcastle.

He has since become a manager and successfully oversaw the great escape at Macclesfield which saw the team overturn a 10-point deficit to confirm survival in the fourth tier on the final day of the 2018-19 campaign. However, he would leave the financially-troubled club in August 2019 and took over Southend United shortly after.

LB: Ashley Cole

One of England’s greatest ever left-backs would leave Arsenal in ignominy after famously saying he was left ‘trembling with anger’ because the Gunners only offered him £55,000 a week.

He joined Chelsea at the start of the 2006-07 season and would go on top make over 300 appearances for the Blues, winning a plethora of trophies including the Champions League. He followed that with spells at Roma, LA Galaxy and Derby before retiring last summer.

RM: Robert Pires

The French international was a legend at Arsenal but was unhappy to be taken off after only 18 minutes of the final when Jens Lehmann was dismissed.

He’d join Spanish side Villarreal at the end of the season and would later have a brief spell at Aston Villa and in India.

Pires is now back at Arsenal, working as a first-team coach.

CM: Gilberto Silva

The Brazilian was a popular figure at Arsenal and offered the kind of midfield grit that they have been longing for ever since he left the club.

His time at the Emirates came to an end in 2008 when he moved to Greek outfit Panathinaikos before returning to his native Brazil to finish his career.

CM: Cesc Fabregas

The Spanish legend was a key player for the Gunners and was widely considered their stand-out player during his time with the club.

He would join Barcelona for £35 million in 2011 but returned to English football to play for Chelsea in 2014. Now 33, Fabregas currently plies his trade in France with Monaco.

LM: Alexander Hleb

Leaving Arsenal was not the best career move for the Belarus international. He certainly never hit the heights of form that he achieved while with the London outfit. Funnily enough, it was Barcelona again that came in for him, snapping him up for around £12 million in 2008.

Following his time in Spain, Hleb moved to Russia, then home to play for BATE before a brief stint in Turkey – eventually retiring last summer. You may not know it but he also had a loan spell with Birmingham in 2011.

SS: Freddie Ljungberg

The Swede, who was also an underwear model, was anything but pants during his time with Arsenal. His energetic display and versatility made him a popular figure while at the club.

He left the Gunners in 2007 to join West Ham but injury problems marred his time at the club before he moved to the MLS to play in Seattle. Brief spells in Scotland with Celtic and then in Japan and Indian brought an end to his playing days. Ljungberg returned to Arsenal as a coach in 2018 and briefly took over as caretaker manager following Unai Emery’s sacking in late 2019.

ST: Thierry Henry

The best striker ever to play for the club was a true Arsenal hero. He would captain the Gunners during the 2006 final and would score 226 goals in 369 appearances over an eight-season spell in London.

He joined, you guessed it, Barcelona in 2007 for €26 million before heading to the MLS to pay for New York Red Bulls. He was loaned back to Arsenal for a swan song in 2012 and has since gone into management.

After a dreadful spell in charge at Monaco, that saw him win just five of is 20 games in charge, Henry is now manager of Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact.

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Barcelona

GK: Victor Valdes

The Spanish ‘keeper probably should have played more for his country if it were not for a certain Iker Casillas. He made over 500 appearances in net for Barcelona and would move to England to play for Manchester United but due to a knee injury, he only made two appearances.

He was placed on the transfer list by Louis Van Gaal for refusing to play in the reserves and would have a spell in Belgium and with Middlesbrough before retiring.

RB: Oleguer

Rather understated in his time with Barca, Oleguer would play 175 times for the club and win two La Liga titles as well as the 2006 Champions League final.

He moved to Ajax in 2008 where he remained until his retirement.

CB: Carles Puyol

One of the best Spanish defenders in the history of the game, Puyol spent his entire career with Barca. Puyol epitomised the determination and effort that helped Spain win at a national level and Barcelona win both domestically and in Europe.

His trophy cabinet speaks for itself winning six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns. He is now a club ambassador but turned down an offer to become sporting director in September 2019.

CB: Rafael Marquez

The Mexican is considered the best defender his country has ever produced. He carried on playing long after his spell in Spain going on to represent New York Red Bulls in MLS and Hellas Verona in Italy.

Now 41, he has finally retired though for a while it looked as if he would go on playing forever.

LB: Giovanni van Bronckhorst

The Dutch full-back was a fine player well known for his ability to get forward and his technical prowess.

He had played for Arsenal before joined Barca and would leave to play for Feyenoord in 2007 and went on to manage the Dutch outfit for four years. But Van Bronckhorst left at the end of the 2018/19 campaign and recently returned to management at Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F.

DM: Edmilson

Edmilson was a solid if unspectacular player during his time at Barcelona. He would play 45 minutes of the final.

He had a poor season in 2007/08 and was released by the Spanish giants. He moved between Brazil and Spain over the next few seasons but never reached previous form as his career wound down.

CM: Deco

Deco was one of the most graceful Portuguese midfielders of modern times and was part of a ‘golden generation’ of players to come from the nation.

He was a key play in the Barcelona midfield and made 161 appearances before moving on to play for Chelsea in the English Premier League. He spent the last four seasons of his career playing in Brazil before retiring in 2013 due to a hamstring injury.

CM: Mark van Bommel

The engine room of the Barcelona midfield, Van Bommel was a brilliant, hard tackling midfielder and would be the key enforcer allowing Deco the freedom to create.

His one season in Spain was followed by successful spells with Bayern Munich and Milan. He has recently tested himself as a manager, spending just over a year in charge of PSV but wa sacked in December 2019.

RW: Ludovic Giuly

Giuly was of Corsican decent and this Champions League final win was one of the highlights of his career.

He was perhaps the biggest victim when a certain Lionel Messi burst onto the scene and moved on to play for AS Roma before finishing his career in France with Monts d’Or Azergues Foot who have named their stadium after him.

LW: Ronaldinho

The best player in the world at one point, Ronaldinho is a legend of the modern game. 94 goals in 204 games while in Spain were followed by spells with AC Milan and four different clubs back home in Brazil.

An icon of his generation, Ronaldinho later career was marred by reports of lack of effort and ill-discipline but when at his best he was simply unplayable.

ST: Samuel Eto’o

Arguably the best player ever to come out of Africa, the Cameroon legend was such a prolific goalscorer during his time at Barca, including one in this final against Arsenal, and would net 130 times in 199 appearances for the club.

He left the Catalonian club in 2009 to join Inter in a deal that saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic go the other way. He would famously move to Russian side Anzhi in 2011 for a wage reported to be around £300,000 per week making him the highest paid player in the world at the time.

He has had several clubs since including Chelsea, Everton and Sampdoria. Eto’o finally called time on his playing career in 2019 after a spell with Qatar SC.