Europe’s winners and losers – the footballer who was supposed to replace Karim Benzema at Real Madrid fired blanks while Arsenal fluffed their final lines


Karim Benzema

You expect Cristiano Ronaldo, you find Karim Benzema. Twice. The Frenchman was the man to put two past Sven Ulreich and fire Real Madrid to their third consecutive final. The former Lyon striker got his 54th and 55th Champions League goals, responding at once to all his critics, and the many who believe Madrid need a more effective number-nine. Not only is Benzema always great in creating space for Cristiano, but this time he scored himself.

Zinedine Zidane

Put very simply, since he’s been in charge of Real Madrid he’s never been knocked out of the Champions League. It’s unreal. With two trophies already lifted, here’s a record third final in a row. And the premise is that Madrid are favourites to win again. Under Zidane, Madrid have simply been unstoppable, be it luck or skill, or a mixture of both, the French coach has created a hegemony at the very top of European football. Winning a third Champions League title would immediately raise him with the very best coaches ever. He’s already pretty far up the ladder.


Just one goal. One goal to rewrite history yet again, after that incredible night against Barcelona. Roma put four past Liverpool, conceding two at home, and had to end their European journey. But with their chins up. The Serie A side remain the biggest surprise of the season, annihilating the best team of the past decade – Barca – and almost reaching the Champions League final. A round of applause for Eusebio Di Francesco and his Giallorossi, who will now have to build on this.


Robert Lewandowski

The Polish forward has often been named as the best number nine in the world and the ideal candidate to replace Benzema in the heart of Real Madrid’s attack, as an upgrade on the Frenchman. But in two games against the Blancos he was unable to score, with his counterpart netting twice. He left Borussia Dortmund to win the Champions League, and hasn’t even reached the final since that time under Jurgen Klopp back in 2013.


Zero shots on target, in a game in which you must score. Simply not good enough. The Gunners were fragile defensively, useless up front, mixing bad technique with terrible decision-making and being let down by the usual folk, from Mesut Ozil to Hector Bellerin, from Granit Xhaka to Aaron Ramsey. Nobody at the level required. On the other hand Atletico did their job, and it was simply too much for Arsene Wenger’s side. The French manager ends his European career with 250 games in charge, but without winning a single European trophy.

RB Salzburg


Another dramatic comeback, just like against Lazio, but with a different ending. This time around, Salzburg just about managed to get level against Marseille after being 2-0 down from the first leg to take the game to extra time. Some clumsy referee decisions and bad luck saw Marseille get the decisive goal with four minutes left to play, making another comeback impossible for the Austrian side. A pity. But they remain the big surprise in the Europa League.

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