Real Madrid clinched the European Cup for the tenth time in their illustrious history on Saturday by overcoming rivals Atletico Madrid 4-1 after extra time in a UEFA Champions League final high on drama. Los Merengues thus earned the right to represent Europe at the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup Morocco, while Atletico, also beaten in the 1974 showpiece, still await their maiden European crown.
The scoreline was harsh on Los Colchoneros, and did not reflect what was a breath-taking encounter between two teams who knew each other inside as they met for the fifth time all season. Madrid needed to battle right up until the very end of normal time to keep their dream alive, having fallen behind with 36 minutes gone.
The real turning point perhaps came after just nine minutes, however, when Diego Costa – not fully recovered from injury – had to leave the field. That early substitution later prevented Diego Simeone from being able to take off defender Juanfran, who finished the game exhausted and was unable to stop Angel Di Maria sweeping past him and sparking the goal that put Madrid in front for the first time. FIFA.com now takes a look back at all the highlights of the 2013/14 Champions League season.
Madrid had been chasing an elusive tenth European Cup triumph for 12 years, ever since Zinedine Zidane's iconic volley in Glasgow. Beaten in the semi-finals by Dortmund last season, they proved a different proposition under Carlo Ancelotti this term, having rediscovered a certain serenity and confidence in their ability. Ancelotti's men made a spectacular start to the knockout phase, dispatching Schalke 9-2 on aggregate, and then exacted revenge against Dortmund before their most impressive performance of the campaign – a 4-0 victory away against outgoing champions Bayern Munich. Despite missing Pepe and Xabi Alonso in the final, two players vital to their defensive set-up, Madrid were ultimately able to dig deep when it mattered. For Atletico, on the other hand, defeat was cruel, Simeone's troops looking drained both physically and mentally during extra time, after an excellent campaign in which they had ousted AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea.
Like last season, eight different countries were represented in the round of 16, but this time five of them had just one club each: Italy, France, Russia, Turkey and Greece. In contrast, Spain boasted three sides, while England and Germany forged ahead with four apiece. The teams from the Bundesliga and English Premier League soon began dropping by the wayside, however, with only Bayern and Chelsea proving their pedigree. As for Spain, they lost Barça in an all-Liga quarter-final with Atletico as the two clubs from the capital swept into the semi-finals.
Having wrapped up another Bundesliga title in March, holders Bayern looked to be in invincible form as the competition progressed. The Bavarian giants were still in relatively good shape at the halfway stage of their semi-final against Madrid, having come away from the Santiago Bernabeu needing to overturn a narrow 1-0 loss on home soil. The comeback never transpired, and Bayern slipped to a 4-0 reverse, their heaviest home defeat in Europe. Indeed, the German champions had never previously lost by more than two goals in 399 European games on their own turf.
Juventus bade farewell to the tournament at the group stage, meanwhile. Heading into the Champions League fresh from winning back-to-back Serie A titles, Antonio Conte's charges lost matches away against Copenhagen and Galatasaray and had to settle for third spot in their section. Benfica suffered a similar fate, and then saw off Juve in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals before losing on penalties to Sevilla in the decider.
Elsewhere, Dortmund and Arsenal booked their tickets to the last 16 courtesy of their head-to-head records, having finished level on points with Napoli in their pool. Their Italian rivals exited the competition despite having amassed six more points than Zenit St Petersburg, who advanced from Group G with just six points on the board.
Uruguayan defender Diego Godin emerged as an unlikely star for Atletico. Solid at the back, the 28-year-old also played a vital role further forward, burying the goal that won his side the Liga title at Barcelona and heading in what so nearly proved the winning effort in the final against Madrid.
With ten goals to his name, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the key man once again for Paris Saint-Germain as the French club returned to the quarter-finals. The Sweden captain finished the competition with the best goals-per-minutes ratio, reaching double figures in 670 minutes on the pitch.
Gareth Bale spent much of the season trying to live up to his staggering transfer fee. He will now be remembered forever as the man who hit the decisive goal in Madrid's Décima triumph.
Did you know?
Chelsea's long unbeaten run at home in the group stage ended on the very first matchday, when they succumbed 2-1 to Basel on 18 September. The Blues had not lost in 29 outings at Stamford Bridge during the initial phase of the competition.
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has now emerged victorious in ten of the 12 finals he has contested during his long and prestigious career.
362 – The number of goals scored in 125 matches in this season's Champions League, with an average of 2.896 rattled in per game. Of those, 150 were struck before half-time and 209 in the second period, including 18 in second-half added time and three during extra time.