Hello, goodbye in Europe's top leagues
While the title triumphs in Barcelona, Dortmund, Lille, Manchester and Milan dominated global attention, some equally dramatic finales were taking place at the other end of Europe’s major leagues. There, several major footballing names have battling merely to cling on to their top flight status, with those in the divisions just below scrapping furiously for the right to replace them.
Now, with all but a couple of these promotion and relegation issues settled, FIFA.com takes a look at the ups and downs that have brought both elation and devastation to fans across the continent.
Premier League: Last-day drama and a Welsh first
England’s glittering top tier has rarely seen a battle to avoid the drop as dramatic and unpredictable as this one. Remarkably, the entire bottom 12 entered the final straight with relegation a genuine worry, and while West Ham United succumbed to their fate on the penultimate weekend, five teams went into the final day - dubbed ‘Survival Sunday’ – with their futures on the line. Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers all survived, albeit only just, while Birmingham City – League Cup winners only a few months earlier – and the much-admired Blackpool were left to face up to second tier football. Replacing them in the Premier League will be the Championship’s runaway winners Queens Park Rangers – back for the first time since 1996 – and Norwich City, winners of back-to-back promotions under Paul Lambert. There will also be a Welsh presence in England’s top tier for the first time in the Premier League era, with Swansea beating Reading 4-2 in a thrilling play-off final on Monday to take their place.
Moving up: Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City, Swansea City
Going down: Birmingham City, Blackpool, West Ham United
La Liga: Deportivo's despair, Betis return
For the first time in two decades, Deportivo La Coruna – a club that not so long ago finished in La Liga’s top three five years running – will be playing second tier football next season. A 2-0 final day defeat to Valencia sealed the fate of the 2000 champions, who will be joined in the Segunda Division by Hercules and Almeria, both of whom were long since resigned to the drop. Another famous Spanish name is on the way back to La Liga, however, with Seville’s Real Betis returning after two seasons in the second tier. Rayo Vallecano have also secured promotion, while the final matches this weekend begin with Barcelona B – who cannot be promoted – in third, leaving Granada, Elche and Celta Vigo to fight over the last ticket to La Liga.
Moving up: Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, TBC
Going down: Deportivo La Coruna, Hercules, Almeria
Bundesliga: Close shaves and newcomers
It turned out to be a season of narrow escapes in Germany, with Wolfsburg, Schalke and Werder Bremen ending the season in the places just above the relegation zone. Joining these big guns in surviving by the skin of their teeth were Borussia Monchengladbach, who maintained their top flight status with a 2-1 aggregate win in a tense relegation/promotion play-off against Bochum. Not so lucky were Eintracht Frankfurt and St Pauli, who went down after ending the season on miserable seven and 12-match winless runs respectively. Taking their places will be 2. Bundesliga champions Hertha BSC, who finished nine points clear, and Augsburg, a team that will be playing top flight football for the first time in their history.
Moving up: Hertha BSC, Augsburg
Going down: Eintracht Frankfurt, St Pauli
Serie A: Samp on the slide
A lesson in how quickly fortunes can change in football was delivered in Italy, where Sampdoria went from the UEFA Champions League to relegation in the space of one disastrous season. Unable to compensate for the loss of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, the Genoa outfit went down alongside Brescia and bottom club Bari – who won just five of their 38 games – with the division’s second-worst scoring record. Their despair stood in stark contrast to the joy of Atalanta and Siena, both of whom comfortably won promotion back to Serie A at the first attempt. A third spot is also up for grabs and will be fought over by Novara, Padova, Reggina and Varese in the upcoming Serie B play-offs.
Moving up: Atalanta, Siena, TBC
Going down: Sampdoria, Brescia, Bari
Ligue 1: Monaco's misery, debutants primed
Of all the relegation victims in Europe this season, Monaco are arguably the most high-profile. The team from the principality have gone down to Ligue 2 for the first time since 1976 and become the first Champions League finalists be relegated on merit. While he seven-time champions lost their top flight status on the final day, Lens were already resigned to relegation, while Arles Avignon had been doomed for much of the season, having won just one of their first 35 matches. History was also made in Ligue 2, where champions Evian and Dijon won promotion to the top flight for the first time, while Ajaccio ended a nine-year exile.
Moving up: Evian, Ajaccio, Dijon
Going down: Monaco, Lens, Arles Avignon