Chelsea’s underdog victory against Manchester City in the Champions League Final on Saturday marked the end of the European domestic football season, as the focus shifts immediately to Euro 2020/21.
With all club fixtures wrapped up and a busy summer of buying and selling ahead, it’s time to reflect on the season that was and see how the top five European leagues finished.
English Premier League
Champions: Manchester City
Despite their sluggish start to the season, Pep Guardiola’s side put their foot down and rocketed to a third Premier League title in four seasons. Although not setting the world alight with their final points tally, the blue half of Manchester secured the title in a canter as all rivals fell before them.
However, it was a bittersweet season for the Sky Blues. They were unable to claim their elusive first Champions League title, stumbling at the final hurdle in an all-English final against Chelsea.
New signing Ruben Dias was a revelation in a defence that many thought was lacking last year – and has arguably been the best player in the league since his arrival – whilst the effervescent Kevin De Bruyne had another stellar season, delivering six goals and 12 assists.
With the departure of Sergio Aguero, City will be looking to bring in a new centre forward. Tottenham and England skipper Harry Kane looks like the perfect fit as they aim to make it defend their crown next season.
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 11, 2021
Across town, Manchester United managed to scrounge into second spot, but – like their Manchester counterparts – fell short in a European final, losing in the Europa League decider on penalties against Villareal.
With that defeat, the club sees another year of no silverware under manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær. United’s issues from the end of last season are still prevalent with them still needing a right winger, central midfielder and centre back to partner Harry Maguire.
Midfield dynamo, Bruno Fernandes, was the talisman for United in his second season in England. The Portuguese star chalked up 18 goals and 12 assists from 35 starts.
Hometown hero Marcus Rashford had somewhat of a successful season too, finishing with 11 goals and nine assists in the league despite playing with serious injuries for most of the season.
Prior to season 2020/21, Liverpool fans wouldn’t have expected a year of no trophies and only just scraping into the top four. With the beauty of hindsight, they may well view their third-placed finish as a monumental achievement given their form at the turn of the year.
Sitting in tenth place with eight games remaining, it seemed as if the injuries to key players Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip would be too much to overcome for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
However, the Reds found it within themselves to press on, winning eight of their last ten encounters to slide into the top four.
World-class winger Mo Salah had another incredible campaign, finishing second in the Golden Boot with 22 goals, whilst their patchwork central defensive line – which throughout the season was manned by a pairing from a pool of Nat Phillips, Ozan Kabak, Rhys Williams and Fabinho – was enough to secure continental football for the Reds.
Chelsea were also fortunate to slide into the top four at the eleventh hour, however would have had their Champions League win to lean on should they have failed, guaranteeing their place in next season’s tournament.
The sacking of club legend Frank Lampard as manager at the back-end of January left many Blues fans wondering what direction they’d go in from there. The appointment of the disciplined German, Thomas Tuchel, proved fruitful for those at Stamford Bridge.
Whilst the arrival of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz did not provide the numbers many hoped they would, while young midfielder Mason Mount was arguably their player of the season.
Outside the top four lies poor old Leicester, who were well entrenched in the top four fight until the final day. The Foxes couldn’t hold on to qualify for the UCL.
Brendan Rogers did lead the club to their first ever FA Cup after outlasting Chelsea 1-0 in the final at a crowd-cladded Wembley Stadium.
Relegated: Fulham, West Brom, Sheffield United
Top scorer: Harry Kane (Tottenham, 23)
Most assists: Harry Kane (Tottenham, 14)
Promoted teams: Norwich City, Watford, Brentford
Zero Striker POTY: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Spanish LaLiga Santander
Champions: Atletico Madrid
Atleti upstaged Real Madrid and Barcelona to claim their 11th LaLiga title against all odds.
Diego Simeone proved that his game-plan can go the distance, with his defensive style leaking just 25 goals for the season, the lowest total in the league.
Pipping cross-town rivals Real to the title would have brought untold amounts of joy to Atletico’s devout fans, but no one connected with the club would have been happier than ex-Barca and Liverpool striker, Luis Suarez.
After being effectively dumped by Barcelona with the appointment of Ronald Koeman in 2020, Suarez signed on with the Colchoneros to help them to the title, finishing as the club’s top scorer with an impressive tally of 21 goals.
⚽️ Led by the mercurial @LuisSuarez9, eventual @LaLiga champion @Atleti provided an early flex of its attacking muscle in February with a 4-2 win over Cadiz | Enjoy the full highlights! pic.twitter.com/Wp2AriV8rx
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_AUS) May 27, 2021
Real Madrid were bested by their neighbours, with their quest for back-to-back titles falling short. Despite tasting some success, the truth is Real haven’t been able to hit their stride to the extent that they would have been hoping for since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018.
Many fans of Los Blancos would have been expecting a bit more from a club of Madrid’s stature, and the lack of contribution from big signings in recent times such as Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic has left the squad with gaps to address.
The signing of Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti – and the departure of club legend Zinedine Zidane – has raised some eyebrows, but considering the legacy Ancelotti has at Madrid, things might improve for the Spanish giants.
Speaking of struggling titans, Barcelona once again had a season to forget.
Compounded by financial woes off the field, like Madrid, they haven’t looked the same as they once did. Lionel Messi was, as he always is, pivotal.
The Argentine scoring 30 goals in 33 starts, whilst his manager struggled to find a consistent and effective game-plan to roll with.
However, the very recent arrival of Messi’s compatriot, and close friend, Sergio Aguero, coupled with the rumoured signing of Liverpool midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum, could be just what Ronald Koeman needs to deliver results for Barca.
If Lionel Messi elects to stay at the Catalan club, Koeman’s side could have a fair go at not only the league, but also the Champions League next season.
Further down the table, Villareal would not care for their eighth-placed finish considering their Europa League triumph booking their spot in the Champions League.
Relegated: Huesca, Valladolid, Eibar
Top scorer: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona, 30)
Top assister: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo, 13)
Promoted teams: Espanyol, Mallorca, TBA
Pick for POTY Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Champions: Bayern Munich
Another year, another Bundesliga title for Bayern. For the ninth season running, the Bavarian club claimed top spot by some margin.
It was star striker Robert Lewandowski who was in monster form, finishing with a whopping 41 goals in the Bundesliga, 13 clear of the runner up in Frankfurt’s Andre Silva.
Thomas Muller claimed the top assister of the year as the club said goodbye to coach Hansi Flick, who departs to manage the German national team. David Alaba was too bode farewell as the side looks to gear up and go again for a historic 10th league title in a row.
@lewy_official was voted the best player of the last season of the #Germany #Bundesliga. The @FCBayern striker outclassed competitors, obtaining 75 percent of the votes of other players.#sport #football
— Poland In (@Polandin_com) June 2, 2021
RB Leipzig were the bridesmaids in 2020/21, losing out to Munich by a sizeable gap following a successful 2019/20 season that saw them make an admirable run to the Champions League semi-finals.
The sale of Timo Werner last year might have left a huge gap in their forward-line, but it was the other end of the pitch that really earned the club their second-placed finish. A watertight rearguard that conceded the least goals in the league this season.
However, the departure of star centre-back Ibrahima Konate to Liverpool as well as Dayot Upamecano being linked with a move away could see that defensive solidity disappear in 2021/22.
Despite the prolific form of their frontline, Dortmund could not make it count for anything in the league this season as they scraped in at third place. Their DFB-Pokal victory would have bought joy to many, as they smashed Leipzig 4-1 in the final.
Erling Haaland continued his insane form which seems to show no signs of stopping anytime soon, chalking up 27 goals in 28 Bundesliga appearances. Coach Edin Terzic will do well to keep him this summer considering the intense interest he has generated over the past 18 months.
Another man who has been linked with a move away is youngster Jadon Sancho, who finished with eight goals and 12 assists in 26 league appearances this year. However it was another Englishman who starred in the second half of the season for BVB, with teenage sensation Jude Bellingham setting the league alight, earning him a spot in Gareth Southgate’s setup for the Euros.
With the side in a relegation scrap only a few years ago, Wolfsburg has managed to qualify for next season’s UCL with an incredible campaign under coach Oliver Glasner. However, with Glasner deciding to make the switch to rivals Eintracht Frankfurt, ex-Bayern player Mark van Bommel will take the reins as they look to make a splash in Europe next season.
Centre-forward Wout Weghorst was instrumental for the club in 20/21, chippings in with 20 league goals and also topping the side’s assist count with nine. The real facet of the side that fans attribute to their fourth placed finish – similar to Leipzig – was their defence.
With the likes of fullback Kevin Mbabu, American John Brooks and centre-half partner Maxence Lacroix, Glasner’s side were able to comprehensively shut-out the opposition, conceding the second-least number of goals in the league with 37.
Relegated: Werder Bremen, FC Schalke
Top scorer: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, 41)
Top assister: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich, 19)
Promoted teams: Vfl Bochum, Furth
Pick for POTY: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Champions: Inter Milan
Internazionale secured their first Scudetto in over a decade, stopping Juventus’ streak of nine consecutive title wins. It was ex-Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku who put in the work for Antonio Conte’s side with 24 goals and ten assists in 34 appearances.
Front-line partner Lautaro Martinez was also lethal for Inter chalking up 17 goals and ten assists as he featured in every match of the season. If they are able to keep a hold of the Argentinian in the summer, it’ll bode well for the club as they attempt to make it back-to-back Scudettos.
To knock off the Old Lady, you must possess a complete team, and like all title winning teams, Inter’s defence was solid as ever. However, the sudden departure of Conte means that the club will be under the guidance of Italian legend Simone Inzaghi next year which may bring a change of fortunes.
Inter Milan get their hands on the Serie A title for the first time since 2010 💙🏆 pic.twitter.com/5ga2VvVO79
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 23, 2021
Down in second are crosstown rivals AC Milan, who finished 12 points behind Inter under manager Stefano Pioli. It was another productive season for the ever-thrilling Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he ended the campaign with 15 goals to his name.
Meanwhile, Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie had a fruitful year with his 13 goals, with 11 of those coming from the penalty spot. They kept it relatively tight at the back as well, racking up ten clean sheets in the league, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma having a solid year.
The back four in front of him that usually consisted of the likes of Theo Hernandez, Simone Kjaer, Fiyako Tomori and David Calabria combined for the third best defence in the league.
Should the club manage to keep the aforementioned Tomori, who is on loan from Chelsea, then they should be able to maintain a rigid spine throughout their side.
Third placed Atalanta had another great season and have now established themselves as a regular top four side in Italy. The departure of centre-forward Papu Gomez in the summer left a hole in their squad, but was filled by the likes of Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata.
The Columbian connection bearing fruit in the form of 37 league goals between them.
For the first time in what seemed like forever, Juventus were not atop the podium lifting the Serie A title at season’s end.
Despite another insane season from the legendary forward that is Cristiano Ronaldo, the Bianconeri could not keep out Inter and co. as they dropped down to fourth with club legend Andrea Pirlo at the helm.
Unfortunately for Pirlo, the Juve board did not see the side progressing anywhere fast under his guidance, with Le Zebre parting ways with the legendary midfielder at season’s end.
Aside from their poor league campaign, their Coppa Italia win would have provided some consolation, beating Atalanta 2-1 in the final.
As for the rest of the league, Napoli and Lazio secured Europa League football as they both aim to return to the top competition in Europe next season. Benevento, Crotone and Parma were the unlucky clubs to face relegation.
Relegated: Benevento, Crotone, Parma
Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus, 29)
Top assister: Ruslan Malinovskyi (Atalanta, 12)
Promoted: Empoli, Salernitana, Venezia
Pick for POTY: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Champions: LOSC Lille
This year in France, it was little Lille that trumped heavyweights PSG, with their incredible campaign resulting in their fourth title win in the club’s history.
It was down to their steadfast, resolute defence, with centre-halves Sven Botman and Jose Fonte alongside fullbacks in the shape of Zeki Celik and Reinildo providing a tight backline that conceded just 23 goals for the campaign.
Turkish veteran Burak Yilmaz provided the bulk of their goals with a total of 16 for the season, whilst prodigious Canadian Jonathan David finished with a tally of 13 in an impressive debut season for the side.
The scenes in Lille after they clinched a first Ligue 1 title in 10 years 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/12jrwDLSMT
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 24, 2021
Despite having almost unparalleled financial backing, Paris St-Germain were unable to secure Ligue 1 this season despite having far and away the best squad in the land.
Superstar Kylian Mbappe had another productive year for the Parisian side, finishing with the Golden Boot to further bump up his price for potential suitors should he not sign on in the French capital.
Brazilian superstar Neymar had a quieter year for PSG, finishing with nine goals and five assists in a campaign he’d ultimately rather forget.
With Mauricio Pochettino already being linked with a move away from Paris despite him not even having a full season with the side, things aren’t looking too rosy for the Parisians at this point in time.
Despite their disappointing year, PSG still won the French Cup, beating Monaco in the final 2-0 to muster some kind of consolation for their ultimately unsuccessful campaign.
FC Nantes survived the drop as they narrowly beat Toulouse in their playoff match on away goals 2-2 to stay in France’s top division.
Relegated: Nimes, Dijon
Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe (PSG, 27)
Top assister: Memphis Depay (Lyon, 12)
Promoted sides: Troyes, Clermont Foot
Pick for POTY: Kylian Mbappe (PSG)