Almost all European leagues have finished, one European Cup Final has already been played, with only the Champions League Final to come this Saturday. It is time for a conclusion of this season’s results across Europe. Due to events in Zürich leading up to the FIFA election, this review comes a bit later than it was originally planned.
Team of the season Porto have added the UEFA Cup or Europa League in new money to their impressive season in which they secured the league title by early April ahead of Benfica and added the Portuguese Cup to these two titles and further gave an impression of a team to look out for come the next season. Falcao managed to score 17 goals in fourteen games this season in Europe and broke Jürgen Klinsmann’s record of 15 goals from 1995/96 when Bayern won the UEFA Cup.
The last three years, including 2011 in the french Ligue 1 saw three different league winners (2009: Bordeaux, 2010 Marseille, 2011: Lille) which is refreshing after Olympique Lyon won the league seven times in a row between 2002 and 2008. This year, Lille have played the best football and deserved the title as well as the French Cup which they won in a tedious final against PSG. The Parisiens did look strong in the autumn but lacked consistency and relied too much on Claude Makelele who clearly has seen better times. Therefore Antoine Kambouaré has the task to rebuild the squad to challenge for the title next season. What is remarkable about the French league is that this year it was very close: Lille were four points clear at the top but Stade Rennes in fifth place were on 56 while Nancy just above the relegation zone are on 45.
Dortmund secured their seventh league title in their history two weeks before the last round of games of the season and were the talk of the season not just in Germany with their refreshing football and their young guns. Signs that the next season will be very different and very difficult have already shown up: Nuri Sahin will be playing at Real next season alongside fellow Germans Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira and former Bayern left winger Hamit Altintop. Schalke 04 are worthy winners of the Cup this year, beating MSV Duisburg in a one-sided final 5-0. They rescued their season and will play European football next year, which will come as relief for the club’s finances and a chance to shine for coach Ralf Rangnick. Munich without a title, Berlin just reached the Bundesliga again means that the Ruhr area is the gravity centre of German football for this season. Similarly to France, the places between 6 (1. FC Nürnberg) and 15 (VfL Wolfsburg) were separated by mere 9 points which would make the German league a very even one. That is not the case as the gap between the top five and the teams in mid-table show. The gap is significantly bigger in England, where 18 points are between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Another interesting fact is that this season no club from a capital has won the league in any of the European leagues. The exceptions are Ajax and Anderlecht, which is a suburb of Brussels.
Man United have toppled Liverpool off their pedestal as record champions in England. ManU have now 19 league titles to Liverpool’s 18. Again the Red Devils have won the title before the last match was played. Their local rivals Man City secured the FA Cup, their first trophy in 35 years(!) and thus underlined that Manchester are the heart of English football, at least this season. What appeared to be two horse for a few weeks, turned out to be a nine point lead which ManU had at the end of the season to Chelsea. Man City came third and have thus automatically qualified for the Champions League while Arsenal in fourth have to go through the qualifying play offs in August. Tottenham and Stoke City will be playing in the Europa League, the latter as they were beaten in the FA Cup final automatically qualified as Man City will be playing Champions League. This means no European football for Liverpool next year.
Barca have also claimed the title before the season finished and Real have won the Cup, so the titles have been shared this year but both teams met in the Champions League semifinal, which now has become a synonym for negative tactics and anti-football.
This somehow seemed to be the denominator for the leagues mentioned above: All league titles were won before the last match of the season.
Ajax claimed the title only by beating Twente on the very last day of the season. Also close was the title race in Turkey, where Fenerbahce and Trabszonspor both finished on 82 points, with the goal difference of plus 7 deciding the title to go to Fenerbahce, while Besitkas and Galatasaray will miss out on European football completely next season. Also close was the title run-in in Switzerland where it was one point to give FC Basel the title ahead of FC Zürich. In Austria Sturm Graz were secured the of title on the final day but no one doubted that it would go anywhere else this year.
The finals of the European Cup competitions have already been reviewed elsewhere: The UEFA Cup here and the Champions League here. Both competitions had their surprises but normal service has been resumed relatively quickly afterwards and Porto and Barcelona are worthy winners of the cups this season. Next season will be a very difficult one for many clubs as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play will come into action, which means the books have to be balanced otherwise there won’t be any European football for the clubs concerned. However, there will be loopholes as no one can guarantee an efficient implementation of those rules.