What a roller coaster last few weeks it has been for Chelsea who have become European champions for the second time after they beat Manchester City 1-0 in the Champions League final.
The Blues have looked like a different side since Thomas Tuchel was brought in at the end of January to replace the sacked Frank Lampard. The club went from 9th to a staple top four side, flirted with 3rd place but finished in 4th only just. Then they reached the FA Cup final only to lose 1-0 against Leicester, but it doesn't come any bigger than winning the Champions League and when it mattered Chelsea rose to the occasion against City, the new champions of England.
The final marked Pep Guardiola's first appearance in one since 2011 when he was in charge of Barcelona in their prime, since then a manager who was being tipped to be one of the greats failed time and again to win the competition and in truth came up short. Guardiola had witnessed Bayern Munich win the competition in 2013 then joined the club but was unable to win them Europe's prized trophy, though the Germans would win the Champions League when Guardiola left and joined City.
Just to reach the final for Manchester City meant so much of course for a club who had never been able to do so, but they have ultimately stopped short despite being tipped as the favourites and of course making fairly light work of Borussia Dortmund and PSG along the way. It's been 13 years since the money started to roll in for the club and despite more or less dominating in the Premier League, City have come up very short in Europe. In the same amount of time when Roman Abramovic took over Chelsea the Londoners had reached 2 Champions League finals and won once, now it is twice.
As for the game it revolved around Guardiola over thinking the situation and starting with no holding midfielder and on the other side a tactical master-stroke by Tuchel whose set up nullified City. But it wasn't just the fantastic play by N'Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell and Reece James that stood out, City had a lack of ideas and were incredibly slow even at one nil down, there was a lack of urgency. In the end a single goal scored by Kai Havertz was enough to win the cup and this was hardly a vintage game. But did we expect anything more given that the two teams most lethal weapons are not in attack but in defence?
For Tuchel this was sweet given that he was a runner up in the same competition last season with PSG. He has proved if proof was needed that he is a manager for the biggest occasions.
Villarreal stunned Manchester United to win the Europa League and unless you are a Red Devils fan this felt like a victory for football. Villarreal the town whose whole population would easily fit into Old Trafford won their first ever trophy and defended well. Unai Emery, the manager picked up his 4th Europa League in the process and it just seemed gratifying to see the the underdogs defending superbly, and the club had clearly done their homework on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side. As for United the big names didn't turn up and the club played much like they had in the final month of their league campaign, toothless.
Inevitably there will be calls for Solskjaer's job but the Norwegian has survived worst moments at the club and a runners up Europa League and 2nd in the Premier League isn't bad going. One has to wonder though if, in the biggest games, Solskjaer has the tactical nous?
Perhaps the final word surrounds PSG. The French club were supposed to be at one point a shoe in to become European champions, but they couldn't even win the Ligue 1 title as Lille deservedly won that. Perhaps the recruitment process as to who gets fired at the club needs to change too. It can't go unnoticed that the two winning managers of the two European trophies were the last two managers of PSG in Emery and Tuchel. Much like Manchester City, PSG are learning that money does not guarantee European success.
European Team of the Season:
Jan Oblak- Atletico Madrid
Kieran Trippier- Atletico Madrid
Achraf Hakimi- Inter Milan
Ruben Dias- Manchester City
Ben Chilwell- Chelsea
N'Golo Kante- Chelsea
Bruno Fernandes- Manchester United
Marcos Llorente- Atletico Madrid
Joshua Kimmich- Bayern Munich
Robert Lewandowski- Bayern Munich
Romelu Lukaku- Inter Milan