Can anyone now remember the last time we watched the Champions League, in which Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo did not participate? This was two decades ago. To make the figure even more impressive, let’s add the following fact: then the second group stage was played. It is quite symbolic that new big changes await us in the main tournament of the Old World European Cup almost immediately after the two main stars of the generation, with whom the tournament and football in particular have been associated in the last 20 years, have left Europe.
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All this time, you could constantly feel the inner race of these two outstanding footballers, striving to win more and more trophies, score more and more goals and break new records. And although one of them was much more obsessed with this than the other, this does not deny the presence of such an absent duel, which is not so common in team sports. This once again speaks to the magnitude of these players’ personalities.
There have now been attempts to replace this battle with a showdown between Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé, but this does not seem to work yet. This couple is not antagonistic at all, and the degree of their genius has not yet reached the high bar set by Lionel and Cristiano.
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But even without them, apart from some artificial intrigues, the Champions League feels great: Manchester City takes a record 22 shots at the opponent’s goal per half, Lazio’s half-Russian goalkeeper Ivan Provedel scores and equalizes the score in the last seconds, only In one of the eight games on Tuesday, fewer than two goals were scored, and all this on the first day of the new tournament.
It’s funny, but that same 2002/2003 rally without Messi and Ronaldo was the last for Lens, who returned to the Champions League, with Newcastle. Here’s another interesting way the story came full circle. These two teams accumulated approximately the same number of points: nine and eight. But if this was enough for the British to reach the second group stage, where the club finished its performance, then the French at that time reached the UEFA Cup. It is true that the team from northern France made some noise in the group: they almost advanced from the group of death with Bayern, who had won the trophy two years earlier, the future winner of the draw, Milan, and the very powerful Sports. . But the club, also from the north, but from England, managed to leave the group, losing the first three games and scoring the decisive goal in added time of the last game.
Oh yes, also in the same Champions League draw the famous 1:18 occurred, with Spartak without points. But that’s a completely different story. In which Liverpool did not leave the same group, letting Basel pass, Bayern, in the other quartet, occupied the last place with just two points to their name, and Semin’s Lokomotiv managed to leave the group, having even scored in the beggining. Not three, but even four games, just one point.
If we return to the main football heroes of recent decades, we will see once again that, no matter how global stars they are, the Champions League is inherently interesting for fans around the world. It is a wonderful tournament in which the strongest teams participate and with them the players from Europe. A completely new format awaits you soon, so let’s allow ourselves to enjoy one last time the well-known group stage, which is finally fading into oblivion. First they took the second group away from us and now we are preparing to say goodbye to the first. This is just an example that there is nothing wrong with changing if your goal is to improve.