2015-16 was concluded with Portugal winning the UEFA Euro Cup, handing Ronaldo his first major international trophy. Though he was injured in the final, he had a massive influence in the tournament and that proved to be more than enough to land him all the major individual honours including another Ballon DOR.
Even before the season started, transfer window provided a lot of drama and excitement, especially from Premier League clubs. Mourinho, Guardiola, now managers of clubs from the same city. It was dubbed a season of Manchester vs Manchester. United made the biggest buzz by signing Pogba on a world record transfer fee.
Meanwhile, Chelsea had also done some progress signing N’Golo Kante after appointing Italian tactician Conte as their new manager. La Liga teams were relatively quiet in transfer business, especially Real Madrid, which was very unlike Madrid.
As the season started, Manchester City were out of the blocks. Reporters already started hailing Guardiola as the greatest manager in the world and their fans started celebrating as if they won the title in September. Manchester United seems was still suffering hangovers from Van Gaal and Moyes era. Though certain players, especially Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia were giving top performances every week. Chelsea suffered an unlikely defeat at Arsenal. However, in that match, Conte changed Chelsea’s system to a back 3 that ultimately proved to be the turning point of their season.
La Liga, as usual, was dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid. Messi this year started getting more on the end of goals. Meanwhile, Ronaldo had a slow start due to his injury in Euros. Bale was the main pivot of Real attacks. Bayern, as usual, was dominating Bayern League and Juventus Serie A. A C Milan was still struggling as they suffered defeats against Napoli, Udinese. French league, however, had a different story. We have been used to seeing Ligue I dominated by PSG, but this year we witnessed a young energetic Monaco side with revived Falco. They were giving PSG a run for their money.
Reality hit hard on Guardiola soon and his team started dropping points. Chelsea started a run and defeated Man Utd convincingly in the process. Previous champions Leicester were rock bottom and looked like a side in the relegation battle. Liverpool were playing exciting football. Mane was indeed a great signing and attacking boost for them.
Real Madrid suffered a series of draws and people started questioning Zidane for his management. Many dubbed him as a manager who won Champions League on luck.
Chelsea still on a great run and form. The absence of European football played in their favour. Man Utd drawing games, a lot of games.
Fast forward, Arsenal had humiliated themselves against Bayern again, losing 10-2 on aggregate. Wenger out! Arsenal Fan Tv was becoming a hub for entertainment and fun for rival clubs. Messi was scoring goals, more goals than Cristiano, especially in the Champions League group stage. He had the big edge to become Champions League top scorer. Ronaldo had been top scorer in this competition since 2012-13 (though Messi levelled him and Neymar in 14-15). Ronaldo was nine adrift of Messi going into the quarter-finals this season.
Man Utd, on the other hand, were disappointing in the Premier League mainly due to poor finishing and draws. Guardiola hype was gone and the title challengers were Chelsea and a young, energetic Tottenham team. However, Man Utd managed to win League Cup. Zlatan proving his worth and class.
Barcelona after being destroyed at Paris made an incredible comeback, defeating PSG at home to overcome 4 goal deficit. It was one of the worst performances in the round of 16 by a leading team (PSG) in the second leg. Also, referring was questionable but MSN got all the headlines, hailed as the greatest comeback ever by their supporters. The usual quarterfinalists Bayern, Real, Barcelona, Juventus, Athletico, Dortmund and surprisingly Monaco, Leicester.
League challenges were almost settled in England, Germany, Italy. La Liga took a dramatic turn when Real lost their game against Barcelona in the injury time, making it not an easy affair as it seemed before.
However, Zidane played a master class. His squad management, almost playing two teams for different occasions means his team always performed. In every single match, they played from there on, they won them all winning La Liga for the first time since 2012.
Manchester United were out of the top 4 race, practically because Mourinho focused all his attention on winning Europa League. He was criticised by pundits for his approach, mocked by Arsenal and Liverpool fans for 6th position. But, he played a masterclass against Ajax in the final. Fellaini won 14 ariel duels in that match! More than combined of the whole Ajax team. Manchester United won the Europa League and earned direct qualification to Champions League group stages next season. In one of the worst seasons, United managed to win three trophies under Mourinho. Not bad.
Chelsea managed to win the Premier League quite convincingly. Though, failed to win double losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup final.
Elsewhere, Bayern and Juventus won league titles in their respective countries convincingly, again. However, it was refreshing to see Monaco winning Ligue I title. A team full of talents and potential future world class players.
Juventus was looking like a team to beat in the Champions League. They convincingly shut out MSN for 180 minutes over two legs. Messi, Neymar, Suarez never looked like scoring. Barcelona were convincingly defeated. Real, on the other hand, defeated Bayern. Ronaldo scoring 5 past Neuer over two legs. And then scoring another hat-trick against Athletico. He was just unstoppable, scoring crucial goals. His team was playing world class football. Final was set to be: “An unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.”
Real Madrid vs Juventus.
The final in itself was a showcase of how good this Real Madrid team really is. Cristiano Ronaldo again striking two crucial goals against the legend, Buffon. Real Scored 4 against a Juve team that had conceded just 3 before in the whole tournament!
A deserved 12th-time champions of Europe.
It will be Manchester United vs Real Madrid for the UEFA Super Cup. Clash of the two most popular clubs on the planet.
Moving on to my end of season awards:
- Team of the Season: Real Madrid
- Young Player of the Season: Kylian Mbappe (Monaco)
- Manager of the Season: Zidane (Real Madrid)
- Golden boot: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
- Player of the Season: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Here is my combined team of the season from all the top teams in Europe.
Subs: De Gea, Dani Alves, Hummels, Harry Kane, Isco, Kroos
Most of the players picked themselves and there is no arguing. You may argue against Carvajal but he provided 5 assists in CL this season (more than Messi). I choose Pogba over Kroos because of physicality, dribbling and flair to score goals and provide assists. He was the best player in Europa League, though Kroos had a ridiculous passing accuracy of 93% this season. There is no arguing over Messi or Ronaldo. I picked Alexis however because he had again an individual brilliant season in a mediocre Arsenal team. There were other great performers this season: Mbappe, Kante, Mendy, Hazard, Herrera, Valencia, Cavani, Verraitti, Aubameyang, Mane, Suarez, Neymar, Griezman, etc.
And finally, my verdict on the never ending Messi vs Ronaldo debate this season. Messi had a great season overall, individually. A sentence used once for Ronaldo quite often. Ronaldo however, rose to the big occasions, outscored Messi in Champions League, and had a decent scoring season at La Liga too despite playing a lot lesser games. Though these fewer games helped him peak his form at the right team.
Messi may not be human but he is getting beaten by a human machine, again.
Ronaldo scoring his 600th career goal in a Champions League final against the legendary Buffon