Real Madrid, the most successful side in the history of the European Cup, finally claimed La Decima after a 12-year gap, at the expense of rivals Atletico Madrid. Madrid won 4-1 after extra-time with Sergio Ramos equalising dramatically in regulation time before Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo each netted to break Atleti’s resolve.
There were some major coaching changes from some of Europe’s biggest clubs in the off season. Gerardo Martino took over at Barcelona and Carlo Ancelotti replaced Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, with the Portuguese subsequently moving back to Chelsea. Pep Guardiola ended his sabbatical to take the helm at Bayern Munich, having the enviable task of replacing the departing Jupp Heynckes, who had won the treble with the Germans in the previous campaign. Manchester United appointed David Moyes to replace the legendary Alex Ferguson - it would be the first season of the Champions League in which the Scot had not managed.
With a new head coach in place with Ancelotti, Los Blancos also flexed their financial muscle by bringing in Gareth Bale from Tottenham for a world record fee of £95m. There was also massive moves for Neymar, who joined Barcelona from Santos, and Mesut Ozil, who left Real Madrid to join Arsenal.
Barcelona and Real Madrid spent heavily in the summer of 2013, and this could be attributed to their respective eliminations from the previous season’s Champions League. Barca, in particular, were humbled 7-0 over two legs by Bayern Munich, while Madrid lost out of Borussia Dortmund. Germany had claimed the ascendency and Spain looked to hit back.
Defending champions Bayern started in comfortable fashion, defeating CSKA Moscow 3-0 at the Allianz Arena with the hero of the 2013 final, Arjen Robben, netting along with David Alaba and Mario Mandzukic. The group also featured Viktoria Plzen and Manchester City, with the the big two reaching the knockout stages.
Real Madrid were almost flawless, dropping only two points and scoring 20 goals in their six matches. There were similarly emphatic qualifications for Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, and Barcelona as the group stage begun to resemble more of a procession than a competitive structure.
The proverbial Group of Death featured Arsenal, Napoli, Dortmund, and Marseille, and the first three would all finish on 12 points each, with Napoli cruelly losing out due to an inferior goal difference despite an equal head-to-head record with the Gunners. Three teams progressed to the knockout stage without losing a single game - Madrid, Manchester United, and Atletico.
There is, however, invariably one established side who makes qualifying seem like hard work, and in this case Juventus failed to escape a group including Madrid, Galatasaray, and Copenhagen. Their decider against the Turks was originally abandoned due to heavy snowfall, and when the remaining 60 minutes were played, Wesley Sneijder appeared to condemn the Old Lady to an unceremonious exit.
The pick of the Round of 16 fixtures saw Manchester City face Barcelona, with Lionel Messi scoring decisive goals in either leg to maintain their position among the elite at City’s expense, at least for now. Arsenal were swatted aside by Bayern 3-1 on aggregate, while AC Milan’s demise begun to crystallise, Atletico and Diego Costa efficiently taking them apart over the two legs.
When you're a little boy you dream of lifting the Champions League, and to lift the tenth one for Real Madrid is special.Gareth Bale
The last eight produced a repeat of the 1999 final with Manchester United taking on holders Bayern, and although David Moyes’ outfit secured a draw at Old Trafford, the Bavarians were too good, progressing 3-1 overall. Revenge was on the cards for Madrid as they took on the team that eliminated the previous year, Borussia Dortmund. Los Blancos would progress by a solitary goal after winning 3-2 over both legs. Atletico, meanwhile, solidified their status as a contender for the tournament by eliminating Barcelona, a Koke strike in the second leg good enough.
The best action could be found between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, and it would be the English team who would progress thanks to an 87th minute winner from Demba Ba in the second leg to put them through on away goals.
To the semi-final stage, and a match-up of two exceptional sides in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. But after a tentative first leg in which neither committed themselves, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos came to the fore in an earth-shattering 4-0 win in the Allianz Arena. Atletico Madrid would prove too good for Chelsea, and an Intercity derby was booked for just nearby, in the Estadio da Luz in Portugal.
After losing the prone Diego Costa early on to injury, Atleti hoped that a Diego Godin header would be enough to get them over the line. But Ramos, exceptional for the entire campaign, salvaged his side in injury time and Atleti simply ran out of gas. Bale, Marcelo, and Ronaldo rubbed salt into the wounds of their rivals, while the latter flexing with his shirt off will be the iconic image of the final.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
No less than 17 goals for the Portuguese superstar - seven more than any other players. He also netted in every single stage of the tournament, including the final.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
The tactical masterclass in the match against Bayern in the semi-final earns the Italian this accolade.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
The Belgian was being considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, even at the age of 21
CRISTIANO RONALDO - 17 GOALS
TEAM OF THE SEASON
GOAL OF THE SEASON
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC enjoyed one of the best years of his career in 2013-14, and his raw power can be summed up by this strike against Anderlecht.
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Just when the Champions League looked to be Atletico Madrid’s for the first time ever, Sergio Ramos rose high inside the box to send a bullet header into the corner from a Luka Modric corner-kick.