Champions League Winners and Losers
Atalanta – The Italians from Bugarno have been on a steady ascent for years now. This years Champions League campaign, much like the Serie A title charge was simply one step too far for a team who, without any major investment, is built around hard work, togetherness and a willingness to play hard pressing attacking football. At their best they have been a joy to watch all season and at their worst…still pretty good. With a bit of investment in the summer and an emphasis on keeping the core group of players together it’s hard not to think we will be seeing Atalanta as a dark horse in next seasons tournament and possibly Serie A? Time will tell.
Lyon – The French side should have been 2-0 up against eventual winners in the semi final, but they let the German giants get into their stride and the rest is history. With no European football next season due to an early finish in Ligue 1, it might be hard to keep hold of the top talent at the club. It’s a shame because they really are a talented group of players who, much like the Monaco side of 15/16 – will likely not survive the transfer window.
RB Leipzig – Julian Nagelsmann joining RB and doing as well as he’s done in their first season must have done wonders for the confidence of the team. How different could things have been if Timo Werner had been allowed to stay for the remainder of the season? One of the many cruel injustices that came about due to the worldwide pandemic for both player and club. One having to play the biggest game in their history without their star man, who’d likely much rather have been prepping for a historic night than watch his new team lose an FA cup final and being unable to contribute. A stark reminder that football is viewed by those in charge as a business, players as assets without enough power to, in the face of a global crisis, decide their own path.
Where to start…
Barcelona - The the obvious choice. A shambolic campaign ended in an 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern and now we are in a world where Messi wants to leave, the fans want Bartomeau’s head and another coach has been appointed to – I would say steady – but repair an entire ship that has been shot to pieces from bow to stern. Good luck Mr. Koeman, you’ll need it.
Manchester City - Yes, they deserve a mention in this category. For all their brilliance and spending power, the Champions League – the one they really want – the one they brought Guardiola in to deliver, has proved a step to far on each of his first 4 tries in the sky blue of the Manchester club. Pep has tinkered and tampered with his sides in the knockout stages so much in past seasons, although this year he didn’t have Aguero at his disposal, that it has cost him on each occasion. It has been said ‘one day Pep will over-think a Champions League tie so much that he’ll end up playing his normal team and win’.
A bizarre season ended and a new on the horizon. One thing is for sure, there will be more winners, and more losers - but for some of these clubs, it is too early to tell what category they will fall into.