Five greatest football clubs of the past decade starting 2010

As football understandably lays low for a while let’s take a look at the most successful club sides in Europe’s top leagues over the past decade.

There are different ways of doing so, points gained for example in a league, trophies won, games won, etc. This list will look at the trophies won for the most successful teams starting from 2009/10 season until the 2018/19 season, to determine which team has been the most successful.

You may have a few contenders but may also be surprised by some teams on the list, so is the club you think is the best the number 1 on this list?

Points system: Champions League = 12pts, League title = 10pts, Europa League = 8pts, Cups= 5pts, all other cups =2pts

5th: Juventus 112 pts

After being forcefully relegated in 2006, Juventus have made up for that during the past decade in Serie A winning 8 league titles in what could be described as a total domination. They have added some domestic cups too but they have failed to win the big prize in the shape of the Champions League since 1996. They will be hedging their bets that Ronaldo can finally deliver that missing piece of silverware. Still they are far and away the most successful team in Italy. Even though Inter Milan were the only Italian team to win the Champions League in the 2010s, Inter only finished our ranking with 30 points!

4th: Real Madrid 116 pts

Real Madrid were amazing in the 2010s which included winning an incredible 4 Champions League and winning 3 of those in a row. That had not been achieved since Bayern Munich in the 70s! So it was odd that Madrid sit only in 4th place and only four points above Juventus. The reason is that for all of their European glory they haven’t actuallly won many domestic trophies in the 2010s. True they still scooped up two league titles, but for their standards you take out what they achieved in Europe and you almost get the feeling of could have done better.

3rd: PSG 121 pts

Despite PSG having no wins in Europe they have dominated Ligue 1 in France winning every title since 2012 except one where Monaco surprised them. They have won countless domestic cups after they were bought in the earlier part of the decade and have dominated the league ever since. They also have an abundance of very good players who are genuinely eyeing winning this years Champions League.

2nd: Bayern Munich 140 pts

Bayern did reach 2 Champions League finals and after losing on penalties, at home to Chelsea they made up for it the year after. They have dominated the league title in Germany winning every year except one and scooped up a few domestic cups also. For a club their size they would like to add more European trophies of course but Bayern still come out as the 2nd most successful club in European football of the past decade despite this.

1st: Barcelona 150 pts

Barcelona may have played second fiddle to their rivals Real Madrid in Europe in the 2010s. But they still won 2 Champions Leagues. They also have won 7 La Liga titles which is impressive given how they have had to fend off not just Real but also Atletico Madrid who enjoyed one of their most successful decades in the history of the club. Barca fronted by Lionel Messi one of the greats of the game have been the best team in Europe trophy wise finishing with over double the points of the most successful English team which goes to Manchester City.

Notable mentions: Manchester City 71 pts, Chelsea 68, Manchester United 51, Atletico Madrid 42, Inter Milan 30.

 

 

 

Can Josep Maria Bartomeu survive Barcelona’s crisis?

What a season it’s been for FC Barcelona!

At the beginning of the campaign, during the curtain raiser to each season, the Joan Gamper Trophy, Lionel Messi apologised for the collapse against Liverpool.

He also noted that the Catalans would be challenging again for the Champions League and the other top prizes on offer.

But it’s safe to say that things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Continue reading

Why Neymar returning to Barcelona is a no-go

Not long now until the transfer merry-go-round spins in earnest.

In fact, the rumours are already in full swing and there’s still the best part of three months until the window opens again!

As clubs across Europe go looking for bargains, there are one or two that need to make a statement signing to send shivers down their opponent’s spines. Continue reading

Hope for Tottenham? Six of the best Champions League second-leg comebacks

Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain (6-5 on aggregate), 2017

A 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona in the first instalment of PSG’s round of 16 clash in 2016/17 felt like a coming-of-age result for the Ligue 1 side in Europe, yet they somehow contrived to throw it all away by going down 6-1 in an extraordinary return match at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona still needed three goals to progress heading into the 88th minute of the second leg, but a double from man-of-the-match Neymar and Sergi Roberto’s dramatic decider completed one of the most extraordinary turnarounds in football history.

Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 Milan (5-4 on aggregate), 2004

Milan entered the 2003/04 campaign with hopes of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Champions Leagues since Arrigo Sacchi led the Rossoneri to two in a row in 1989 and 1990. They got their quarter-final meeting with Deportivo La Coruna off to a perfect start with a 4-1 win at San Siro, with all four goals (two from Kaka and one each for Andriy Shevchenko and Andrea Pirlo) coming in the space of eight minutes.

Milan’s lead was wiped out by the midway point of the second leg, however, as first-half efforts from Walter Pandiana, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque gave Deportivo the away-goals advantage. Carlo Ancelotti’s men therefore needed to score to edge back ahead on aggregate, but it was Fran Gonzalez who grabbed the decisive fourth of the night to send the Spaniards through.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 on aggregate), 2018

Barcelona fans could have been forgiven for booking time off work to attend the Champions League semi-finals after their 4-1 triumph over Roma in the first leg of the 2017/18 quarter-finals. That scoreline did not tell the full story of a game in which the Serie A side created plenty of opportunities, but a three-goal lead heading into the second leg appeared to be enough for Ernesto Valverde’s charges.

Edin Dzeko gave Roma hope with a sixth-minute strike in the Italian capital, before Daniele de Rossi made Barcelona nervous by converting from the penalty spot just before the hour mark. It was left to Kostas Manolas to make himself the hero, the Greek defender heading home in the 82nd minute to send the Stadio Olimpico into raptures.

Chelsea 4-1 Napoli (5-4 on aggregate), 2012

A 3-1 loss to Napoli in the first leg of their last-16 tie was not quite the final straw for Andre Villas-Boas as Chelsea manager, but the Portuguese was sacked less than two weeks later. Roberto Di Matteo was installed as caretaker boss with the hope of securing a top-four finish in the Premier League, with most fans realistic about the club’s slim chances of further progress in Europe.

Yet Chelsea produced a brilliant performance in the second leg to advance to the quarter-finals. A 3-1 scoreline after 90 minutes sent the game to extra time, in which Branislav Ivanovic scored the all-important ninth goal of the tie to complete a magnificent comeback. Improbably, Chelsea then went on to defeat Benfica, Barcelona and Bayern Munich to win their first ever European Cup.

Monaco 3-1 Real Madrid (5-5 on aggregate), 2004

European champions in 1998, 2000 and 2002, Real Madrid were favourites to lift the trophy again in 2004 as the competition reached the quarter-final stage. That feeling was only strengthened when los Blancos beat Monaco 4-2 in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, although subsequent events meant that Fernando Morientes’ late effort to reduce the deficit to two goals was hugely significant.

On loan at Monaco from Madrid, Morientes also scored in the second leg, with Ludovic Giuly’s brace completing a 3-1 win and sending the principality club through to the last four against the odds.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (4-3 on aggregate), 2019

Just last season, Liverpool showed that nothing can be taken for granted in the Champions League. And while Tottenham are just 1-0 down to RB Leipzig midway through their last-16 tie, Liverpool had three goals to make up in this semi-final clash.

They did it in spectacular fashion, Divock Origi and Gini Wijnaldum both notching braces to leave Lionel Messi and co. stunned. It was a phenomenal feat, and one which set the Reds on the path to their sixth European crown.

 

Champions League: Lyon vs Juventus Preview

Champions League resumes on Wednesday, so Juventus will be back in the competition where they had the most success in so far, as they cruised during the group stage. If it was not for a late two-goal comeback by Atletico Madrid back in the first game, they would have prevailed in each of the six matches in the group stage.

Finishing in first position allowed them to land a fairly cosy match-up with Lyon in the round of 16, an opponent they have familiarity with, since they have faced them four times in recent years, winning in three occasions. The French club is also not having a particular great season as they are in 7th position in Ligue 1 and do not boast a particularly good record at home. Continue reading

Champions League: Manchester City prepare for Real Madrid

Manchester City face Real Madrid on Wednesday in the Champions League Round of 16 with Pep Guardiola eager to make an impression following the news that the Premier League club are banned from European competitions for the next two seasons.

Sergio Aguero returns to Madrid – Atletico being the team where he made a name for himself – whilst the Argentina international will be hungry to make up for his poor performance against Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday. Continue reading

Sarri set to shake things up once more

Going into a crucial stretch in the season, Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri is weighing his options and is reportedly considering shaking things up in the final third. In an attempt to introduce more dynamism into the side, the former Napoli tactician will deploy Paulo Dybala as a false nine and will shift Juan Cuadrado from defence into the attack. We saw glimpses of this setup this past weekend against Brescia and according to Gazzetta dello Sport, is something Sarri will persist with this match-day against cellar-dwellers SPAL.

With an important game against Lyon coming up, the pressure is on Sarri to get Juve into the quarter-finals comfortably and look to make a deep European run. The veteran tactician previously had success with a false-nine setup at Napoli when he deployed Dries Mertens there.

While Dybala and Mertens are different players in their own way, both are extremely technical and do a good job at linking the midfield to attack. More importantly, they’ve both proven to be deadly finishers. As la Joya is set to play closer to goal, expect more involvement from Dybala. If anything, a central role suits the former Palermo man better and will undoubtedly help Juve create more chances in the final third.

When Sarri was initially hired, many expected Dybala to occupy this role, but it has since taken 24 match-days to get there. In recent times, Juventus have struggled in the final third and have typically relied on individual brilliance to see them through. Recognizing this, Sarri is keen on making changes.

Beyond shifting Dybala into a central position, Sarri is reportedly moving Cuadrado out of defence and into the attack. After the side failed to adequately replace Joao Cancelo, Sarri used the Colombian international at right-back. Initially, the position switch worked wonderfully, but injuries to key men in the attack mean Sarri’s forced to shuffle the deck once more.

Cuadrado has played in Juve’s front-three in their last two games and has added some much-needed unpredictability and speed up top. Other than his ability to beat his man, the former Fiorentina winger stretches opposition defences regularly and is a counter-attacking threat. Until this switch, Sarri fielded his typical 4-3-1-2 formation, which sorely lacked width and pace.

The formation switch also suits Juve’s current attacking options better than Sarri’s narrow ‘Christmas Tree’. While Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa are still out injured, a 4-3-3 gives them the opportunity to play out wide in their natural roles, rather than being pigeon-holed into a central position. With Ronaldo drifting in from the left-wing and Dybala interchanging, Cuadrado, Douglas Costa or Bernardeschi will all have a chance to stake a claim for the final place in the front-three. The increased competition will likely help the wingers hit new heights.

As Juventus look to compete on three fronts, simply put, they will need to create more chances. Sarri’s latest shuffle may not work, but it’s definitely worth a shot, and if anything, suits Juventus’ attacking options way better than their current setup.

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The fallout from Manchester City’s 2 year Champions League ban

There was more controversy in the Premier League with VAR, namely in the Chelsea-Manchester United game where it seemed clear as daylight Harry Maguire should have seen a red card. But nothing was even looked into, and the inconsistencies of VAR really need to be looked at.

However VAR seems to dominate the pages when it comes to controversial moments but off the pitch the story that could change English football’s greatest superpower was doing the rounds and that is Manchester City being banned by UEFA for 2 years in the Champions League.

There is no proof of course that City have done any wrong doing, and we can’t say they have because the club have appealed UEFA’s decision. But after a thorough investigation UEFA seem fairly confident that they have a case against City, and together with the ban they have fined the club £25m. City can deal with the fine, even though that is huge compared to say, the fines that UEFA dish out for racism, but that is for another day and another story. But City can’t deal with not being in the Champions League.

The FFP is one of contention too- so City may have overspent and UEFA do not like how clubs can be run. At the same time the flip side to that argument would be how were City ever going to be able to catch up to Manchester United their eternal rivals? How were they going to be a force in Europe? FFP seems to target clubs who want to make investments and challenge the bigger teams. Are UEFA trying to stifle the progress of new clubs and just keep the Real Madrid’s, Barcelona’s and Bayern Munich’s happy?

Of course in an ideal world the FFP rules would make sense. But ideal and football doesn’t go together, at least in the top tier’s, it really doesn’t. When TV deals are being negoitated in one country to show live football for upwards of £3 billion over a 3 year period, that is off the ball in itself and makes no sense the money being talked about so TV can show a games of football. For this UEFA look out of their depth even if their initial plans was to make football fairer, it actually is doing the opposite. Maybe that is why we are seeing the same teams win the Champions League?

But City may not have a leg to stand on if they have done wrong and it is proven. Even if you don’t agree with the FFP rules surely every club had to sign up for it? City must have and if those rules have been broken, then what would be the excuse? Still there is so much power in football and City will certainly fight their case, one thing is sure we will learn just how much power and influence UEFA have in today’s game, and if City win the appeal it would seem that they would have fairly little.

There’s quite a fall out to be had too. Have UEFA shot themselves in the foot for example? If Europe’s most powerful clubs feel stifled by their budgets and spending, could they be banned in the future? Will the clubs simply form a breakaway from UEFA or create a Super League which has been touted for years? Do the big clubs need UEFA if they don’t like their rules?

Also for City if they are banned surely that will mean the end for Pep Guardiola. He has hinted he would stay, but really would he, when he is going to leave in the summer of 2021 anyway? Some of their stars could leave too, and whilst City would still remain a quality team and powerful one, if the appeal loses one suspects it could knock the club back a few good years.

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Juve still unconvincing despite Brescia win

Juventus are in the midst of a demanding stretch both physically and psychologically. Juve remain in both the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. This means Juve will play two more games than Lazio in the next 15 days.

On paper, Juve have a big squad yet with injuries to key players such as captain Giorgio Chiellini (who made his return near the end of the Brescia game) and the long-term absence of Merih Demiral, the squad is being stretched to its limits. On top of that the club’s management made some questionable decisions in the transfer market, such as signing Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman’s quality is not in doubt, however, his history with injuries and his fitness problems are well documented.

While fans should celebrate a precious win over Brescia (2-0) with Paulo Dybala scoring from a wonderful free-kick, it is hard to find many positives other than the three points and the return of club leader Chiellini. Brescia stand in 19th place and are one of the biggest candidates for relegation. They were missing Sandro Tonali as well as other players in addition to the first goalkeeper only for his backup to suffer an injury early in the game and get replaced with the club’s third keeper.

Dybala did hit the bar and whenever he moved the team looked better. Still, his partner Gonzalo Higuain looks off in recent weeks and his movement appears to get heavier with every passing week. Below are some of the key observations based not just on events during the Brescia game but over the last few weeks:

1) Higuain’s decline in form: Gonzalo has failed to score or assist in the last 6 Serie A matches. His last goal came in the 4-0 win against Cagliari on January 6th, 2020. The bigger concern is how he has looked heavier in terms of movement.

2) Injuries: Fans are well aware of Ramsey’s status and the fact he is injury prone. What makes matters worse is the absence of Douglas Costa who is currently sidelined as well. Danilo, signed to play as right-back or serve as a backup left-back, is also injury prone but he made his return against Brescia. Pjanic barely played versus Brescia before pulling out due to injury.

3) Lack of creativity: With Ramsey’s well documented status, Costa’s absence due to injury and now Miralem Pjanic’s scare, much if not all of the responsibility to create will fall on Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo. Opponents will pay special attention to both stars and perhaps even put extra players to keep an eye on them when they have the ball. This will effectively take away from Juve’s ability to do much during games.

4) Dependence on CR7: Maurizio Sarri did well to rest Ronaldo against Brescia on Sunday. The schedule ahead is demanding and there are some decisive games, particularly in Coppa Italia and the Champions League, around the corner. Ronaldo has scored in his last 10 Serie A games which is a remarkable achievement considering the Portuguese superstar recently turned 35-years-old.

Having mentioned the above, Juve should not keep relying exclusively on CR7 to win games and to score goals. Ronaldo was signed to help deliver the Champions League but on his own he cannot do everything. The numbers do not lie. Ronaldo has done the utmost to keep Juve winning in recent weeks.

5) Playing Dybala: At times, Sarri has opted to “rest” (or to bench would be the more proper word) Dybala but that has meant playing CR7 and Higuain together. Higuain’s recent form is well below the standard he set back in November 2019 when the Argentinian veteran was performing quite well.

With Higuain off-form, Sarri must start Dybala or else all the pressure will fall on CR7. Ronaldo has looked more isolated when Dybala is not starting or playing. It is up to Sarri to find the best formation and strategy to get the best out of both CR7 and Dybala because they have proven they are the difference makers for the Bianconeri.

6) Tough Schedule: Juve’s fixtures for the next couple of weeks will see the club play 5 matches compared to Lazio’s 3 games. Lazio is just one point behind Juve in the league table and can focus fully on the league while Juve must play the 2nd leg against Milan in the Coppa Italia and next week will face Lyon in the Champions League.

Without being repetitive but the growing injury list, particularly to the creative players, means the pressure will keep intensifying on both Dybala and CR7 who will be asked to create, assist and score goals. In addition, the injuries will mean the squad is stretched even further because when players such as Douglas Costa and Pjanic are sidelined then Sarri has no option but to use less convincing players or to use certain players in different positions.

Sarri must pick his Starting XI very carefully the next few weeks and as mentioned earlier, resting CR7 yesterday was a positive move. In the meantime, Sarri must not only find the ideal XI but also motivate the players, work on getting the best out of Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado- both of whom started the season quite well before gradually declining.

It is up to Sarri to push his players and to motivate them the right way. The next two weeks could prove decisive in terms of Juve’s push to win the treble. Making sure Ronaldo and Dybala are getting the proper support from their teammates on the field will go a long way towards determining whether this hectic stretch will be a positive or detrimental one for Juve.

The players Juve must offload this summer

Juventus remain tied first in Serie A, are in the semi-final of Coppa Italia and are still in the Champions League. Despite still being in contention on all three fronts, Juve’s unimpressive performances- for an extended period of time- highlight the need for change at the club.

Several players must be sold or released from their contract. Below is a list of the players who should no longer be part of the Bianconeri squad for 2020/21 season:

Mattia de Sciglio

The Italian full-back is often sidelined by injury or fitness concerns. There are three advantages to keeping Mattia: his relatively low salary, his ability to play as right-back or full-back and the fact he is Italian.

No wonder the Juve supporters- at least on social media- were divided when word broke out about a potential swap deal which would involve Mattia joining French champions PSG.

While de Sciglio has experience with Italy as well, there’s no point denying that he is often injured. He has featured even less than Aaron Ramsey and Douglas Costa- two other injury-prone players who have played more minutes than Mattia in the Italian league.

Daniele Rugani

Rugani is still 25-years-old but his future at Juve appears to be coming to an end. Every season the expectation is that Rugani will get more playing time and his chance to prove he can cut it at a massive club such as Juve.

So far this season he has managed a single appearance in Serie A. This is despite captain Giorgio Chiellini’s heartbreaking injury during the first weekend of action in Italy. Young signings Merih Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt have stolen the spotlight and already showed they are much more prepared to start for Juve this season.

Despite Demiral’s unfortunate injury, Rugani still cannot get any playing time with de Ligt partnering club captain Leonardo Bonucci in the heart of the defense. With Chiellini expected to return to action soon, it’s hard imagining Rugani getting much playing time. The best outcome for both club and player would be for Rugani to move elsewhere to cement his place as a starter while Juve can earn a decent fee from his sale.

Sami Khedira

The veteran midfielder- a former World Cup winner- turns 33 years-old before the end of the season. The German has started just 9 league games (with another 3 substitute appearances) in Serie A this season. Last season, he started just 8 times in the league with another 2 appearances as a substitute.

Such stats highlight not just the player’s inability to remain injury free but also his declining ability on a squad in desperate need of physical presence and younger legs to cover more ground. Khedira is also among Juve’s big earners in terms of salary.

Factoring in age, declining ability and a considerable salary, Juve should offload Sami in the summer.

Aaron Ramsey

Ramsey seems to do all the rights things such as learning Italian and he is well liked- whether by Arsenal or Juve fans- but has failed to meet expectations when it comes to the most important thing: simply being able to step on the field to play on a regular basis.

Ramsey has started just 6 league games with another 6 appearances as a substitute. Those are very poor numbers for a midfielder brought it not just to fill a squad member or serve as backup. Per revised figures, Ramsey is one of the club’s highest earners, behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.

To earn such a high salary, Ramsey needs to repay that with not just regular appearances in the league and in Europe but also some solid performances. The concern is Ramsey’s recent history does not bode well. He made just 14 league starts and another 14 substitute appearances in the Premier League in 2018/19.

If we go back to the 2016/17 season, he made just 13 starts and a further 10 league appearances as a substitute. Even during one of his best seasons in recent memory, the 2017/18 season, Ramsey made 21 starts and another 3 appearances as a substitute in the English league. Clearly, the Welshman has fitness concerns and a history with injuries.

Douglas Costa

Just as Ramsey, winger Douglas Costa spends more time getting treatment than starting matches for the Bianconeri.

So far Costa has started just 5 league games with another 8 appearances as a substitute. He is currently injured again. For the 2018/19 season, he made just 7 starts with another 10 appearances as a substitute in Serie A.

Costa is extremely talented and is very fast, but he just cannot stay fit or healthy. He is 29-years-old so it could be worthwhile to sell him this summer over keBreping an injury prone player who will make at most 15 league appearances next season. Juve should cash in and reinvest the money where needed.

Other names

There are a few other players who should be sold under the right circumstances. For instance, if full-back Danilo receives the right offer and Juve can make up the fee paid last summer then it would be wise to sell him. The Brazilian player is injury prone and was signed as part of the deal to sell Cancelo to Manchester City.

Another name to consider is Blaise Matuidi. The Frenchman can cover space and is a willing runner but this is football and at Juve he is required to do much more than just run around. When fully fit, Matuidi can track back and tackle, however, has poor control and is a poor passer as well.

Matuidi slows down the team and often kills the momentum when Juve launch counter-attacks. His need to take multiple touches to control or pass the ball mean that the opposition may have recovered by the time he released the ball or passed it to a teammate. Matuidi also turns 33 years-old in a few weeks.

Another player who should be sold is Federico Bernardeschi who is having an awful season. Bernardeschi’s last impressive performance was against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in the Round of 16 last season.

If Juve’s management is looking to conquer and then dominate in Europe, some of the struggling players must be sold to make way for better players with the right skills. This summer is expected to be a decisive one in Juve’s quest to maintain hegemony in Italy and to win in Europe. The Champions League is the aim of certain club stars, particularly Cristiano Ronaldo.