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Just what has brought Europe's falling giants to their knees?
Published : 11 Mar 2010 15:09:00
The dazzling array of stars in Real Madrid's team couldn't do it and AC Milan's old boys weren't good enough either. Another two giants of the game crashed out of the Champions League prematurely last night, leaving us wondering: just what is happening to Europe's old guard? A season of shocks in our domestic league is being mirrored in Europe's premier knockout tournament. The big guns aren't having it their own way. Many of the teams that traditionally dominate are either just scraping through, reduced to playing second best in the Europa League, or even dropping out completely. Here Sportsmail takes a look at where it all went wrong for some of Europe's biggest clubs. On their knees: Real Madrid crashed out of Europe to Lyon last night Liverpool Scroll back five years and Rafa Benitez was guiding the Reds to the Champions league final in his first year at the club. Now, they're struggling to even qualify. The side that won that famous night in Istanbul was largely still the side that Gerard Houllier had assembled and, since that night, Liverpool have only won the FA Cup. Hardly a great return on the millions handed to Benitez to spend to transfers. The Spaniard hasn't replaced the likes of Xabi Alonso, Sami Hyypia or even Peter Crouch with players of equal quality. Little help: Too much responsibility rests with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (left) Set against the backdrop of boardroom unrest, crass emails being sent out by the owners son and a new stadium that has failed to materialise means this is an era to forget for the red half of Merseyside. Where next: Buy some players to give Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher a hand. Juventus Why does it always rain on me...? Juve midfielder Diego (left) and defender Fabio Cannavaro contemplate life at the previously all-conquering club The current predicament of the Old Lady - playing in the Europa League - may seem bad, but it's not as bad as four years ago when they were playing in Serie B. Stripped of their titles from 2005 and 2006 and relegated after their involvement in a match-fixing scandal, they regained their Serie A status under Didier Deschamps a year later. Claudio Ranieri replaced Deschamps soon after but his was a time of underachievement and a run of seven games without a win meant he was replaced by Ciro Ferrara in 2009. However, a 4-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich last December meant Juventus failing to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League and a 2-1 home defeat in the league to strugglers Catania led to Ferrara's departure. ... because even goalkeepers score against you: Hans-Joerg Butt (centre) celebrates with his Bayern Munichteam-mates after scoring a penalty in this season's 4-1 Champions League win at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin Results have improved under new boss Alberto Zaccheroni but, like Liverpool, winning the Europa League will only paper over the cracks of a team in decline. Where next: Choose a manager and stick with him for more than half a season. AC Milan AC creaked and groaned their way to a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Manchester United and looked every inch the ageing, underachieving side which has failed to win a domestic title in six years. True, Milan have the nucleus of a great side, but five years too late. Andrea Pirlo, Filippo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gatusso, Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf and David Beckham are all over thirty and struggling to cope with life after Kaka. The Rossoneri have yet to move on from the Carlo Ancelotti era and, although they're only four points off the pace in the domestic season, head coach Leonardo needs to stamp his authority on the side. Dead wood? Ronaldinho Past it: Filippo Inzaghi Out? David Beckham The obvious answer for the Brazilian boss is to build a new side around his highly-talented compatriot. Not Ronaldinho, who had a shocker against United, but Alexandre Pato. The Brazil striker, 20, has been in free-scoring form this season and has the ability to be the catalyst for a new era of success at the San Siro. Where next: Get a broom with some stiff bristles and sweep out all the dead wood. Real Madrid Underachieving: Real Madrid spent £56m on Kaka There really is no excuse for this sorry lot and it's a lesson to us all: money doesn't buy you success. The revolving-door policy towards managers hasn't helped but neither has President Florentino Perez's plan of buying every high-profile player in Europe. It is now eight seasons since Los Blancos won the Champions League and are into their eighth manager since they last lifted the European Cup. Perez returned as president after a three year absence and went on a spending spree that would make even the monied men at Chelsea and Manchester City wince. In came Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso. The result? Defeat away at Lyon and a subsequent draw at the Bernabeu which saw them exit before the quarter-finals. Not good enough. Where next: Hire a high-class coach to go with the high-class players. Money's not the answer: £80m signing Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) could not help Real into the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in six years Bayern Munich The German giants are another club struggling, with the finger of blame pointed firmly at inconsistency in management for their fall. Last boss Jupp Heynckes replaced Jurgen Klinsmann last year, the 64-year-old guided Bayern to a second-place finish and a spot in the Champions League. And was then sacked. They've had five managers since 2004, and combined with letting players like Lucio depart, then failing to adequately replace them, has left the Germans struggling on the European stage. Hope: Bayern Munich could yet triumph in Europe's premier competition this season with world-class talent Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery in the team The weight resting on the shoulders of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben to deliver the first Champions League title to the Allianz Arena since 2001 is enormous. Ribery has been injured most of the season, and Robben has struggled with injury as well, and it has shown in the way they have stumbled though to the quarter-finals. Where next: Keep Ribery fit and, more importantly, keep him at the club. Real Madrid 1 Lyon 1 (agg 1-2): Pjanic ends final dream of Ronaldo and KakaMan Utd 4 AC Milan 0 (agg 7-2): Wayne's nod to greatness as Italians are crushedFiorentina 3 Bayern 2 (agg 4-4): Robben rocket sees Germans throughLiverpool will silence critics with victory in Lille, insists returning JohnsonFulham boss Roy Hodgson relishing dream Europa tie with mighty Juventus