Champions League: A year in review

28May 2013

Bajnokok Ligája


Bayern Munich lifted their first Champions League since 2001, but who were the standout performers of this year's competition? Luke Moore takes a look...


It was a superb occasion at Wembley last Saturday night as the cream of European football duked it out, questing to lift that famous trophy at the home of football on  the 150th anniversary of the Football Association. But what were the stand-out moments of this year's competition?


Player of the Tournament: Arjen Robben


Arjen Robben's winner came with a healthy dose of subtext as he finally put to rest his Champions League Final demons at the third time of asking and just a year after  missing a penalty in the final last year against Chelsea. His classy finish in the final minute of the game, added to an energetic all-round performance in the final  and both semi-finals, meant he no doubt slept very soundly indeed that night.


Robben may have only scored four goals in the tournament and only started to feature regularly after an injury to Toni Kroos, but three of those goals came in the  three biggest games, and it's the fine margins that make the difference between success and failure on the grandest stage. One in each semi-final leg and then the  winner in the final mean that the Dutchman was the key player in the latter stages this tournament. And that's when it really matters.


Manager of the Tournament: Jurgen Klopp


Don't buy into all the 'plucky little Dortmund' narrative that was crudely inserted into the build up to the Champions League Final; Dortmund may have lost their key  player to Bayern Munich from next season but they have plenty of resources of their own which enabled them to pluck Marco Reus, Sven Bender, Ilkay Gundogan and others  from lesser rivals. This was no home-grown team from the streets of Dortmund.


Nevertheless though, it was a great achievement by the manager to assemble a team of this quality on a reasonably small budget and Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for  that. He may have fallen short at the final hurdle, but Klopp got his team playing lovely football with a coherent pressing strategy that has made them the envy of  most of Europe. Aside from negotiating a tough group undefeated, sweeping aside Real Madrid in the semi-final was probably the standout achievement, especially the  Lewandowski-inspired first leg which would arguably go down as the performance of the tournament.


Klopp is clearly a man with ambition and it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him arrive at the entry door to an even bigger club soon. He'll be at Dortmund next  season though and it'll be exciting to see what he can achieve with this side with the additions he's expected to make over the summer. The man born in Stuttgart slap  bang in the middle of the Summer of Love has proven to the world not only that he's a great manager, but also that it can be done with a smile on one's face. At 45  he's only going to get better.


Goal of the Tournament: Philippe Mexes


An honourable mention has to go to Robert Lewandowski's hat-trick goal against Real Madrid: a dexterous touch or two followed by a blistering shot into the roof of the  net on a night in which even Gandalf himself could have stopped the Pole making dangerous in-roads at will into Madrid territory.


But it would be remiss to not award this to Philippe Mexes. A free kick is floated in to the edge of the area, Mexes takes it on his chest, moving away from goal, and  then with the athleticism that has long been his trademark manouevres himself into position and unleashes a sweetly-struck, looping overhead kick beyond Silvio Proto  in the Anderlecht goal. It was a goal that any player would have been proud of, but a centre-back in a game that Milan needed to win to escape the group? Unreal.


Game of the Tournament: Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona


In truth, there were many breathtaking games and results in this year's Champions League: Celtic's surprise win over Barcelona, Dortmund's dramatic turnaround against  Malaga as well as the final itself. But Bayern Munich's humiliation of a previously dominant Barca side has to top the list.


This was a imperious display of near perfect football against a team that contained the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro and Dani Alves. These are men that had  written the football blueprint over the last few years, a blueprint that was ruthlessly ripped up and tossed to one side by Jupp Heynckes' team in a fashion that  bordered on frightening. True, Lionel Messi was less than fit, but there would have been little even the greatest player of all time could have done in the face of  such dominance.


The fact that Bayern went to the Camp Nou for the second leg and came away with a 0-3 win just made the whole thing even more terrifying. It was hard to deny that a  torch had been passed.


Fancy Bayern Munich to become the first team to successfully defend the Champions League? Or can Jurgen Klopp go one step further next season? Bet on the winner of  next year's Champions League here.



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Keywords: Champions League, Arjen Robben, Jurgen Klopp

Source: Betfair

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