Real Madrid won the Champions League in 2016-17, becoming the first side since the European Cup was rebranded as the UEFA Champions League in 1992 to defend their title, collecting their 12th overall. In the final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff against Juventus, a repeat of their 1998 clash, Zinedine Zidane masterminded a 4-1 triumph for Los Blancos, thanks to goals from Casemiro and Marcos Asensio and a double from Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished as tournament top scorer with 12.
The two newcomers to the 2016-17 Champions League group stages were Leicester City, who shocked the world the previous season when they won the English Premier League, and FC Rostov of Russia. In the summer of 2016 there was a managerial merry-go-round which saw elite clubs on the continent appoint new bosses; Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, both two-time winners of the competition as managers, took the reigns at Manchester City and Manchester United respectively.
Carlo Ancelotti was appointed head coach of Bayern Munich, while Unai Emery was put in charge of Paris Saint-Germain’s expensively-assembled squad. As ever, the established sides splashed the cash in preparation for their assault on the Champions League. Manchester United broke the then-world transfer record to re-sign Paul Pogba from Juventus for £94 million, with the Old Lady using the money generated to bring in Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli for £81 million.
Real Madrid started the defence of their title with a match at home against Sporting, but they would have to rely on two late goals from Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata to scrape a 2-1 win. Zidane’s side would finish second in Group F behind Borussia Dortmund, who recorded the highest-ever win at this stage of the competition, an absurd 8-4 victory over Legia Warsaw.
Six teams progressed to the knockout stage without losing a single game - Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, and Juventus - and ended without too many surprises, with only Lyon and Tottenham disappointed with their third place finishes, and exits into the Europa League.
The Round of 16 presented some mouthwatering ties, but Bayern Munich made light work of Arsenal, thrashing Arsene Wenger’s men 10-2 on aggregate, while Real Madrid overcame a nervous first leg to overcome Napoli. However, the real drama was reserved for Barcelona’s clash with PSG.
The French champions demolished the Blaugrana 4-0 at home and it seemed to all of Europe that their project under their Qatar ownership was finally coming to fruition. But Luis Enrique’s men rallied at Camp Nou and forced the most unlikely comeback in history, Sergi Roberto’s injury time strike securing a 6-1 win and sending Paris back to the drawing board.
It has been an incredible end to the season by us. We are the first team to win it two years in a row and I scored two goals. It's another record for us and the players deserve it and so do I because I scored twice and I'm the top scorer in the Champions LeagueCristiano Ronaldo
The quarter-final would prove to be the last hurdle for Barca, though, as they were comfortably denied by Juventus, who won 3-0 over two legs, Paulo Dybala starring. In the last eight, Madrid knocked out Bayern, Atletico Madrid thwarted Leicester’s fairytale, and Monaco, the surprise package of the tournament, eliminated a Dortmund side still shaken from an incident involving their team bus just hours prior to the first leg, in which defender Marc Bartra was injured.
The first semi-final witnessed a repeat of the 2014 and 2016 finals, as Atletico took on Real in the Madrid derby, and as on previous occasions, Los Blancos got the better of their neighbours, 4-2 on aggregate. Juventus ended Monaco’s challenge in the other tie to set up a glamour final in Cardiff.
In a showpiece that seems to grow bigger in scale with each passing year, Madrid, using all of their savvy accumulated over their enviable record in the event, quickly moved ahead thanks to a ruthless Ronaldo effort. Juventus, to their credit, hit back quickly, Mario Mandzukic rounded off a perfectly-executed team move with an athletic bicycle kick that left Keylor Navas completely helpless. But Madrid refused to panic, and while Juve debated whether to stick or twist, Madrid got on with winning. Casemiro, Marco Asensio and Ronaldo, once again showcasing the predator he had evolved into, proved too good, as did Madrid for the rest of their challengers.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Not only did the Portuguese superstar net a double in the final, he scored five against Bayern in the quarter-final over two legs and bagged a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in the semi. Truly a player for the big occasion.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
The lightning-quick starlet, who moved to PSG on the back of his performances in 2016-17, became the youngest player to reach 10 Champions League goals when he scored against Dortmund in a 3-1 win.
CRISTIANO RONALDO - 12 GOALS
TEAM OF THE SEASON
BUFFON; RAMOS, BONUCCI, CHIELLINI, MARCELO; KROOS, CASEMIRO, MODRIC; RONALDO, MESSI, DYBALA.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
MARIO MANDZUKIC with his stunning overhead kick in the final; Juventus play some neat football before the Croatian shows supreme athleticism to direct into the net.
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Barcelona, having trailed from the first leg of their last-16 clash against PSG 4-0, pulled off a comeback for the ages as some glorious work from Neymar set up Sergi Roberto to score the last goal in a 6-1 win, sending the Catalan side through to the quarter-final on aggregate.