By Jack Gallagher and Wilf Dutton.
Following a season in which:
- Fabio Quagliarella was the best player in the world.
- Lionel Messi wasn't.
- Manchester United put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the 'wheel' of their metaphorical car.
- He crashed it.
- Tottenham Hotspur nearly went out of the Champions League a million times.
- They didn't (they nearly won it).
- Matthijs de Ligt was crowned the best defender of all time.
- He's 12.
We (Jack Gallagher and Wilf Dutton), using the very best quotes from the very best films from the very best filmographies from the very best directors in cinematic history (and breathe), DEFINITIVELY rank the best teams in Europe for the final time this season.
"In this age, optimism like that is a revolutionary act." (Jerry Maguire)
The farms of French football have been a sparse, arid place of late, with little cause for optimism away from the grand factories of Paris or the fancy organic produce of Monaco. But that didn't stop plucky Rennes from dreaming a dream, and then realising these dreams.
Paris Saint-Germain had won the previous four French Cups with an aggregate score of 8-2, but Rennes went in with a level of belief unseen in any of those finals, and their penalty shootout victory was vindication for that. It also provided the perfect platform for Hatem Ben Arfa to throw the ultimate revenge shade at his former employers.
14) Paris Saint-Germain
"You will find a fortune, but it will not be the one you seek." (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
Oh, Paris Saint-Germain, What Art Thou? What do you do, and what's the point? You found your fortune, and what a f*&^ing big fortune it was, but what you have done with it? Nowt.
You delved into this fortune to buy Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, and what have you got to show for it? A truckload of domestic cups and leagues and whatnot. That's not what you seek, is it?
What you seek is the Champions League, yet under their stewardship, you have yet to get past the last 16 and haven't got past the quarters this century.
And now it appears both those stars are seeking pastures new, so what to seek now? And how?
"My problem? I don't know. I don't have a problem, uh, Dale. In fact, I have the opposite of a problem. I made over 550K last year. How much did you make?.I am the VP of the biggest executive-helicopter-leasing company on the Western Seaboard. Okay? I haven't had a carb since 2004." (Step Brothers)
It would be fair to say that, with a record-extending 37th Primeira Liga title - their sixth this decade - and a decent semi-final run in the Europa League, Benfica have very few problems right now.
Joao Felix is a carb-neglecting god, but even if he is a carb-neglecting god destined to depart, he is a carb-neglecting god who will make the club around €120m. How much did you make?
“I know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”
An odd season at Juventus created a very rare opportunity for someone else to win something in Italy.
And it was opportunity that seized Lazio.
In the 2018/19 season, Le Aquile became the first team other than Juve since the dawn of time (or 2014/15) to win a domestic trophy on the peninsula.
"I lost something on the way to wherever I am today." (Last Days)
As mentioned above, Juventus had an odd season.
Sure, they won their eighth consecutive Serie A title, but (as I've written before) Juve lost a lot in search of European and domestic glory.
- The stripes.
- Claudio Marchisio, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Alessandro Del Piero & Stephan Lichsteiner.
- Lo Stile Juve.
- Fans, due to the ever increasing ticket prices.
Now what Juve are left with is a 'marketable' football club; but not a very likeable one.
"I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint." (Amadeus)
Atalanta are the 10th best team in Europe.
Yes, Atalanta are better than Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter.
Atalanta were so good in 2018/19 in fact, that they made what was generally a depressing Serie A, watchable; and t
So, Atalanta: you are champions. The patron saints of mediocrities in the world. Proof that in an ever-more cynical footballing landscape there is still room for cinderella stories.
9) Borussia Dortmund
"Choose Life." (Trainspotting)
Choose Life. Choose football. Choose Borussia Dortmund. Choose a favourite footballer. Choose a f*cking big stadium, choose the yellow wall, pyro, flags and f*ckin' banners. Choose good football, low transfer fees and bargain buys. Choose a fighting fit absolute f*ckin' football God like Marco Reus. Choose a brilliant youth academy. Choose your two-time hero Mario Gotze. Choose yellow and black jerseys and matching socks and shorts. Choose an English prospect so good that it f*ckin' pains the f*ckin' idiots at Man City that let him leave. Choose BuLi and wondering how the f*ck you're going to beat Bayern Munich. Choose sitting on that couch praying that next season will not be as spirit crushing as the last, and that new signings and renewed hope will give you a chance to finally f*ckin' win the title.
Choose Borussia Dortmund.
"You never say 'I'm gonna fight you', you just smile and act natural, and then you sucker punch them." (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou)
At their lowest nadir of the season, Valencia never explicitly told their supporters that they would ultimately qualify for the Champions League and win the Copa del Rey, but they never ruled it out, either.
In fact, as manager Marcelino Garcia Toral explained in the aftermath of these successes, he didn't change a thing before the winning run commenced - the only palpable difference was, when they got a chance, the confidence was there to put it away. And thus, with this mindset, when the time came - May 25th, Benito Villamarin Stadium - their Catalonian sucker punch was ready and waiting.
"I hate losing more than I love winning." (Moneyball)
Saying that there's a downside to supporting a football powerhouse like Barcelona is ridiculous.
There is a downside.
Because, as Barça fans will likely attest, winning isn't really that fun anymore.
Rather than bringing genuine euphoria, winning week in, week out merely evokes a sigh of relief; as let's face it, Barcelona - with their Lionel Messi and their Luis Suarez - should win week in, week out.
Losing, on the other hand, evokes genuine horror.
Losing is a disaster.
And that is why a season in which Barcelona romped to the La Liga title with consummate ease will be remembered for two defeats: the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool, and the Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia.
6) Tottenham Hotspur
"When life reaches out at a moment like this it's a sin if you don't reach back, I'm telling you it's a sin if you don't reach back! It'll haunt you the rest of your days like a curse. You're facing a big challenge in your life right now at this very moment, right here." (Silver Linings Playbook)
Dear Mr. Levy,
I hope this letter finds you in good stead. I am taking the time out of my day to write this letter as I have something vitally important that I must request from you.
5) Bayern Munich
"I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!" (There Will Be Blood)
If the 2018/19 season taught us anything, it taught us that Bayern do not condone any other German team winning anything ever.
Borussia Dortmund tried to win the Bundesliga: Bayern beat them 5-0 and won the title.
RB Leipzig reached their first DfB-Pokal final: Bayern crushed their hopes and dreams at the Olympic Stadium with a 3-0 win.
In Germany, Bayern Munich will win every trophy and drink every milkshake. DRINK. IT. UP.
"Obviously we made certain sacrifices as a result of having children." (The Royal Tenenbaums)
What an incredible, incredible season for Ajax. Incredible.
Now, obviously, certain heights weren't ultimately reached, and it's hard to deny the fact that the playful youthful naivety that had served them so well through that iconic Champions League run let them down in the second half of that Spurs clash.
But still, an Eredivisie-KNVB Cup double should not be sniffed at and, even if their team is dismantled beyond repair this summer, the memories they created will last a lifetime.
"He was who he was, he didn't care." (American Hustle)
Yes, Chelsea are third. Yes, it may seem high, but who do you want ahead of them? That barely-reaching-par-for-the-course Bayern team? That significantly below-par Barça side? The conquerers of the vaunted Dutch league? No. The Europa League champions it is. And they have two men to thank, both of whom are probably leaving.
Yes, one of them is Eden Hazard, but enough ink has been spilled on the Belgian's wondrous talents, so let's spare a thought for Maurizio Sarri, who can be inexplicably(?) removed from these kinds of acknowledgements by, err, certain parts of the media.
Sarri was unbending in his desire to implement his style and his philosophy at the club, and no amount of pressure from fans or journalists changed this fact. He was who he was and he didn't care, and he got the first winners medal of his career because of it.
2) Manchester City
Pep Guardiola is a football genius.
By winning the Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup (and Community Shield.but who cares about that.it's just a big plate), he proved it. He proved that he's got vision and the rest of the Premier League managers wear bifocals.
Man City, with Guardiola at the helm, look pretty much unstoppable. Next season, the goal will be to finally bring that unrelenting form to the continental stage.
"You know, I may have never liked you. Point of fact, I despise you. But that shouldn't suggest I don't respect you." (Kill Bill, Volume 1)
"WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME!"
"FINALLY! SOME RECOGNITION FROM THIS COMPLETE IDIOT!"
"WE GOT THE RESPECK THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD DESERVE!"
This is the four trillionth pat on the back Liverpool football club have been given this week, but it's the first one that 90min's Definitive European Power Rankings team have ever given them.
After 35 editions of 90min's Definitive European Power Rankings, after watching Ajax, Manchester City, Juventus, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund hog the top spot, Liverpool have FINALLY reached the summit.
Liverpool are FINALLY atop of 90min's Definitive European Rankings.
So, you know, well done. Enjoy your medals. Enjoy your big massive trophy. Enjoy your Gerry & the Pacemakers. Enjoy it all.