Next to the decisive blast of the Daniele Orsato’s whistle, there came a thunderous and cheerful hollering within the enclosure of Estadio da Luz, Lisbon. On that Sunday evening, a strange time lag at which the UEFA Champions League final was played and a French prodigy was the hero of the hour in a hustling French-German tie – first of its kind.

The UEFA Champions League 2019/20 is saddled with its own unique history. A final without the Englishmen, the Italians and the Spaniards, first since 1991.

The insurgent German giants, Bayern Munich bagged their sixth UCL title in a grand style, thanks to Kingsley Coman’s 59th-minute header. The lone goal bestowed the Bavarians another eleven kilogramme-weighted European gift.

Howbeit, the sensational cheer discerned by the German machines spawned a great sorrow amidst the current Ligue 1 champions, Paris Saint Germain. The French army’s hope of bagging a quadruple in a single season was undauntedly dashed and kicked back to the sea of imagination.

Though, Thomas Tuchel’s men were grateful to small mercies, as they progressed to their first-ever final in five decades of their existence. Interestingly, the 2012/2013 winners breezed through some indelible records in the annals of the prestigious contest. 

On the 2019/20 title, they had their second treble in eight years- Bundesliga, DKB Pokal Cup and the UEFA Champions League. The Bavarians won all their eleven games en route to winning a sixth title becoming the first team ever to achieve such feat. Fascinating!

Is Spanish Football In The UCL Now In doubts?

Unarguably, Spanish football has spanned its ascendance in European competitions for decades. The Spanish La Liga clubs have secured sixty (60) European competition trophies more than any other league in the world. 

In the UCL perspective, the primacy made its peak around Real Madrid who are the most successful team in the competition, with thirteen (13) titles. Barcelona had a part in the UCL autonomy bagging 5 titles.

Both Madrid and Barca were dominant between 2014 to 2018 emerging victorious each year before Liverpool’s win in 2019. The Catalan giants win in the 2014/15 season makes them the first European club to hold a treble twice, completing the season with the Laliga title and the Copa Del Rey.

Zinedine Zidane guided the Los Blancos to a three-peat afterwards but there are dubieties on the potency of the Spanish clubs toward the UCL as of late. After lifting the UCL three times, Madrid struggled to advance to the round of 16 of both 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns respectively. Also, Barca’s UCL outing have been underwhelming in the last five years. The apex they could reach was a semifinal at which they lost a 3-0 first-leg lead, losing to Liverpool in 2019.

Atletico Madrid could not make any wave since 2014 suffering a major heartbreak from the hands of their neighbours. In a strange observance, Spanish clubs failed to leap into the final four of the competition first time since 2007.

Could we say the autonomy of Spanish football is dwindling in Europe?

Overwhelming Underdogs

In the course of the most prestigious competition, some teams across Europe pulled some minefield of surprises. Participated in the competition for the seventeenth time, Olympique Lyon cruised through Manchester City to advance to the final four, the first time in a decade 1-3 it’s weighed.

Rudi Gracia’s led side dream of playing in their first UCL final went into extinction when Bayern Munich emphatically beat them, 0-3 it ended.

Atalanta were in the best form of their lives, fully active in the Italian Serie A, 2019/2020 season. They successfully ended the season, finishing third in the Serie A. They were UCL quarter-finalist for the first time since their existence beating Spanish side, Valencia, 8-4 on aggregate.

Unfortunately, Gian Gasperini side, that bagged 98 goals in a single Serie A season, met their end against Paris Saint Germain losing by 2-1.

With great determination and hard work, RB Leipzig were in cruise control from the inception of the European campaign still they were sent packing by the French giants. The German side surprisingly conquered the formidable Spanish army, Atletico Madrid in a three-goal thriller match.

Under Julian Nagelsmann, the youngest coach in Bundesliga history, he took Leipzig to their first-ever semi-final. Though they graced the first European outing in the 2017/18 season, they could not prowl to the round of 16, rather relegated to the UEFA Europa League. They were fantastic in the German domestic league, 2019/20 season, securing the third position with 81 goals.

Hans-Dieter Flick – The Man Of The Hour

The genesis of the Hansi Flick’s managerial odyssey was consequent to subjecting himself to learnedness under high-profiled gaffers. The submissive diligence of Flick under Giovanni ‘Trap’ Trapatonni and Lothar Matthaus who were top-rated managers massively requited into his great success. Flick’s humble beginning as a recipient of the second echelon of the managerial totem witnessed an upgrade, ‘paying his due rents’.

However, the 55-year old manager would have settled as one of Germany’s high profiled banker but he opted to embark on a managerial career via his unheralded football career. As a player, Flick was a midfielder who played 104 matches for Bayern Munich and scored five goals between 1985 and 1990.

The German appeared 44 times for Cologne before hanging his boots in 1993 due to injuries. His last spell as a footballer was with Victoria Bammental from 1994 until 2000, where he started his managerial stint. Surprisingly, he never played for the German national team.

Ironically, Flick has amassed some managerial accolades, as an assistant coach. He was part of the victorious party at the FIFA World Cup at Brazil in 2014nm under Joachim Low.

Barely ten months at the helms as Bayern Munich manager, Flick has written his name in gold. He came on board following the exit of Niko Kovac by mutual consent. Sequel to his appointment as an interim manager, Bayern became the most dreaded ground forces across Europe.

Flick led the Bavarians to the second treble Bundesliga, DFB Pokal Cup and the UEFA Champions League in the history of the club. He is the second German coach to secure this feat after Jupp Henyckes 2013. Under his watch, Bayern won thirty-three (33) matches, were held in a single match and were defeated twice.

Unlucky Pep?

Though Josep Guardiola stands as a high-profiled manager in the world yet his recent stint at European competitions are bedevilled with some mysterious setbacks. The ex- Bayern boss led Barcelona to UCL glory twice, plus two UEFA Super Cups within 2009 and 20011. Nine years on, the former Spanish player is yet to lift any major European title.

After his spell with the Catalan Giants, Guardiola took over the reins at Allianz Arena in 2013. He stood tall in the German Bundesliga and helped Bayern win three (3) consecutive league titles among others. Still in all, the German machines under his wheels missed out at the final of the UCL in his three years stay at the club.

The 49-year old coach was appointed by Manchester City for the 2016/17 football actions, though, lost to Carlo Ancelloti’s men in his first competitive game. On his quest to get his hand laid on the UCL, Guardiola made historic exploits- winning two Premier League titles back to back.

Nevertheless, Pep has not been fortunate, in reaching the finals of the UCL. Despite a large number of players bought, Man City lost at to Lyon in the quarters, 3-1 it ended.

The ex-Barca coach has lost at the semi-finals of the UCL five times.

The Polish Gladiator

In his football career, Robert Lewandowski has witnessed some positive transitions, plying his trades in Poland between 2005 – 2010, he bagged the Polish ‘Revelation of the Year’ in 2008. Unknowingly, was a sizeable ground for the imminent fortune that came knocking for the 32-year-old Polish hitman.

Lewandowski’ goal-scoring potentials sprouted out, moving to Borussia Dortmund, with a meagre transfer fee in 2010 and he gained recognition in the German league, hitting seventy-four (74) times for the Black and Yellows, over a hundred appearances.

Then, he exploded into the European vacuum drawing more attention globally. His encounter with Real Madrid in Europe were mind-blowing and jaw-dropping becoming the only player to score four goals against the 13-time champion, scoring all four goals in Dortmund’s 4-1 first-leg win at the Signal Iduna Park in the 2012/2013 season.

Joining Dortmund’s arch-rival, Bayern was a big leap for the Polish captain. He has done what many believed was sensational for Hollywood FC under different managers. The most evident was hitting the net five times within nine minutes against Wolfsburg to record the fastest hattrick in Bundesliga history.

In the UCL 2019/20, Lewandowski broke the jinx of Ronaldo-Messi partnered competition as highest goal scorers for twelve seasons of the competition. He plundered fifteen (15) goals, making him the UCL fourth highest goal scorer of all time 68 goals in goals in the bag in 90 appearances.

He is the first outright (Neymar tied with Cristiano and Messi in 2015) Champions League top scorer not from Real Madrid or Barcelona since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007/08 for Manchester United.

‘Poland’s greatest player of all time’ is a potential world best player but might be denied of the prestigious Ballon d’Or no thanks to the global pandemic.

Written by Olatunji Tolulope