We can’t get over the seven Champions League semi-finalists Stoke City had in their 2015-16 squad


Stoke City were a more than decent side in the mid-2010s, packed full of talent. The 2015-16 season was their third successive ninth-place finish and that year Mark Hughes’ squad featured no fewer than seven players that have featured in a Champions League semi-final.

As pointed out by the always-brilliant @RichJolly on Twitter, that Potters squad featured individuals who played in the Champions League semi-finals in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2019 & 2024.

This got us delving through the squad list archives to reminisce about Stoke side, looking up which players exactly featured in those semi-finals.

That season’s squad also featured Shay Given, Phil Bardsley, Marc Muniesa, Charlie Adam, Marco van Ginkel, Giannelli Imbula and Jack Butland, who have appeared in the Champions League but not semis.

It’s also worth noting that Champions League semi-finalists Jese, Darren Fletcher and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting all played for Stoke, but not in this particular season.

Glen Johnson

Chelsea’s first purchase under Roman Abramovich, Johnson arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2003 for a cut-price fee following West Ham’s relegation.

The right-back featured under Claudio Ranieri as the Blues made it past Arsenal’s Invincibles into the Champions League semi-finals, where they lost to eventual runners-up Monaco.

The following year Johnson helped Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea to a clean sheet in the first leg of their semi-final against Liverpool and was an unused substitute for the 1-0 defeat at Anfield.

Subsequent years saw him win the FA Cup with Portsmouth and the League Cup with Liverpool, later starting regularly in Brendan Rodgers’ title-challenging 2013-14 squad, before seeing out the final years of his career as a veteran with Stoke.

Peter Crouch

The famously gangly striker notched over 200 goals in his professional career, though none were sweeter than the wonder volley he scored for Stoke against Manchester City in 2012.

Crouch made more appearances and scored more goals for Stoke than anyone else, having spent eight years at the Bet365 Stadium – a settled period in an otherwise well-travelled career that included stints with 11 other clubs.

Things peaked for the former England international during his time at Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool. He scored six Champions League goals en route to the 2006-07 final, in which he came off the bench late on in the 2-1 defeat to AC Milan.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Stoke City’s top 15 goalscorers in Premier League history?

Bojan

People will generally recall the fresh-faced La Masia graduate as a squad player for Pep Guardiola’s era-defining Barcelona side.

But he’d actually made his debut under Guardiola’s predecessor Frank Rijkaard, breaking Lionel Messi’s record to become the youngest Barca player to feature in La Liga.

Bojan made it off the bench home and away in the narrow aggregate 1-0 semi-final defeat to Manchester United in 2007-08 and featured at the same stage in the following two seasons.

He left Barcelona for Roma in 2011 but never quite kicked on to become the world-beater many had predicted. The attacker spent five years on Stoke’s books between 2014 and 2019.


READ NEXT: 8 of the biggest meltdowns in Champions League history: Drogba, Keane, Klopp…

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every club to appear in a Champions League semi-final?


Marko Arnautovic

We’re cheating a bit here. Arnautovic has never featured in a Champions League semi-final. He was a peripheral figure for Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning Inter in 2009-10 and didn’t make it off the bench for their unforgettable victory over Guardiola’s Barcelona.

But we though it was worth taking a closer look at the Austrian striker’s remarkably up-and-down career.

After making over a hundred Premier League appearances for Stoke, Arnautovic later led the line for West Ham before a short-lived spell in China.

A resurgence at Bologna resulted in Manchester United almost signing him. Nowadays he’s back at newly-crowned Serie A champions Inter – and he might well have featured in this year’s semi-final were it not for some costly misses in their Round of 16 clash with Atletico Madrid.

Ibrahim Afellay

Not only did Affelay play in Barcelona’s 2010-11 semi-final against Real Madrid, but he did brilliantly to set up the first of Messi’s two goals at the Bernabeu.

Things never got better than that for the Dutch winger, as underlined by his record of three goals and two assists in 55 appearances for the Potters.

READ: ‘We’re the best, f*ck you’: The story of Barca & Real’s four Clasicos in 18 days

Xherdan Shaqiri

We took for granted what we had seeing the distinctively stocky Shaqiri line up alongside Crouch at Stoke. Talk about big man little man.

The Switzerland international is the only player in this list to feature in Champions League semi-finals before and after his time in the Potteries.

Shaqiri was a fringe player in Bayern’s treble triumph of 2009-10, making it off the bench in the closing stages of their 4-0 semi-final against Barcelona. Six years later he featured in another 4-0 victory over the Catalan club, starting for Liverpool in their famous Anfield comeback.

Joselu

Carlo Ancelotti turned to the Spaniard to help see out Real Madrid’s creditable 2-2 first leg draw away to Bayern Munich.

Joselu scored a grand total of 11 goals in 79 appearances in English football with Stoke and Newcastle. But he was quietly consistent in his return to La Liga, earning a move back to Real Madrid.

Impossible to begrudge him that.





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