Remember when Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe lifted the trophy aloft that crowned them champions of Europe? No, not that one. The other. Yes, that’s right. Here’s why we’re excited to see the competition back.
1. Crazy Games
You might think the cream of European football competition would be sophisticated, with only the finest footballing philosophies on show, but you’d be wrong. It’s utter carnage at football’s top table; there’s food everywhere and the tablecloth is stained. And it’s brilliant.
Chelsea’s barmy 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp was a fine example. With just 10 men against a rampant Barcelona side, the Blues went 2-0 down on the night, only to somehow recover to 2-2 with a logic-defying equaliser from Fernando Torres, qualifying for the final. They did so with just 46% pass completion: unbelievable.
2. Great Goals
Of course, when the best of the best play one another, it often takes something pretty special to break the deadlock. Cue long-range stunners, solo goals and passing moves. From Thierry Henry’s mazy Bernabeu run, to Zinedine Zidane’s outrageous volley, the best goals in club football are arguably scored here.
3. Teams and Tactics
Where else would the best teams in Europe congregate? If you want to watch the finest managers putting their philosophies into action, the Champions League is your answer.
Pep Guardiola’s passing game realised its potential in this competition; Sir Alex Ferguson’s class of 1999 completed their treble here; Diego Simeone’s counter-attacking game still strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents in the competition.
But remember, as good as these teams are, no-one has ever retained the Champions League in its current format. Over to you, Cristiano.
Of course, no tournament is complete without its share of big teams knocked out by little teams, and if the FA Cup has its magic, there’s definitely something in the air on a Champions League night.
Sometimes it’s the making of a man, like Jose Mourinho’s defeat of Manchester United in 2004 with Porto, and other times it’s a one-off, like APOEL FC beating Lyon on penalties to reach the quarter-finals in 2012.
5. Heroes and Galacticos
And finally, the Champions League would be nothing without its mercurial individuals. Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are just a handful of the big names who have lit up this competition, and every year someone new emerges.
Who’s about to make a name for themselves this time?