Messi vs Ronaldo fans, UEFA and the winners and losers from the chaotic Champions League last-16 draw

After one of the most controversial European draws in years, more clubs than normal were either thrilled or furious with how the pairings worked out
After one of the most controversial European draws in years, more clubs than normal were either thrilled or furious with how the pairings worked out

We will have to wait until February for the matches to kick-off, but the Champions League last 16 has already thrown up plenty of drama.

A mix-up in the intial draw on Monday meant that it had to be voided and redone some three hours later, with some clubs happy and others furious with how it panned out for them.

But who were the biggest winners and losers from the first knockout stage draw of this year’s competition?

Winners – Bayern Munich

Being paired with Red Bull Salzburg was a kind draw for Bayern Munich, but drawing the Austrian champions after initially believing that they wouid be facing Atletico Madrid will have made it all the more sweeter for the Bavarians.

The redraw of the Champions League last-16 was always going to make some teams happier the second time around, but none will be more delighted than Bayern.

While Atletico struggled to qualify for the knockout stages, Diego Simeone’s side are a dangerous opponent, with their mix of defensive strength, use of the “dark arts” and threat on the break.

After one of the most controversial European draws in years, more clubs than normal were either thrilled or furious with how the pairings worked out

Salzburg, on the other hand, are the first Austrian club to reach this stage since Sturm Graz some 21 years ago, and are the least experienced side in the competition in terms of both age and European pedigree.

As such, Bayern – who mercilessly brushed aside Spanish giants Barcelona in the group stage and have a six-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table already -will be massive favourites for the tie, and after last season’s quarter-final exit will likely be more focused than ever on getting the job done.

Losers – Real Madrid

While Bayern can be thankful for the result of the redraw, Real Madrid will be absolutely furious at how it worked out for them.

Initially paired with Benfica before the mix-up even took place, behind the scenes some within the Santiago Bernabeu were already calling the decision to include them in the redraw a ‘scandal’.

To compound matters, Carlo Ancelotti’s side were then handed what was, along with Chelsea, their toughest possible opponent when they were drawn to take on Paris Saint-Germain.

After one of the most controversial European draws in years, more clubs than normal were either thrilled or furious with how the pairings worked out

The tie throws up a number of mouthwatering prospects, not least the return of Lionel Messi to the Bernebeu and the chance for him to break Real hearts once again.

Messi’s former Barcelona team-mate Neymar will also be involved, while Kylian Mbappe – who many expect to join Los Blancos on a free transfer next summer when his contract expires – will also be keen to impress.

Madrid legend Sergio Ramos will also return home for the first time in a high-stakes last-16 tie that will thrill neutrals, but that will eliminate one of the tournament favourites at a very early juncture.

Winners – Pep Guardiola

It is now 11 years since Pep Guardiola last won the Champions League, and the Manchester City boss says he will be judged on whether he lifts the trophy, despite all his domestic achievements at the Etihad Stadium.

He never won the competition in his three years at Bayern, and there are those who have questioned whether he can do it without Messi in his team.

Last season, City went closer than ever, beating Borussia Dortmund and PSG on the way to the final where they were beaten by Chelsea.

This time around, with the group stage once again navigated quite comfortably, Guardiola must be happy to be paired with Portuguese champions Sporting C.P..

That said, City have unhappy memories of Lisbon, having lost their quarter-final tie with French side Lyon there behind closed doors in 2020.

Drawn against Villarreal the first time around, City will remain big favourites to make it to the quarter-finals for a fifth straight year under Guardiola following the redraw.

Losers – Messi vs Ronaldo fans

Another casualty of the redraw was that fans of both Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were denied the opportunity to see a rematch between the two legends of the modern era.

Manchester United were initially paired with PSG, setting up the chance for supporters to both cheer on their own hero, and – in all likelihood – troll fans of the other star attacker in the coming weeks and months.

There is, of course, the possibility that Messi and Ronaldo could still face each other later in this year’s competition, but the reality of them being on the same pitch again is growing less likely with each game.

Ronaldo will celebrate his 37th birthday in the same month as the first leg of United’s clash against Atletico Madrid, and while he dragged the Re Devils into the last-16 almost single-handedly with a number of crucial goals, he cannot go on forever.

Messi versus Ronaldo is still the most enduring battle of the 21st century and, for a couple of hours, we thought we were going to go through it all one more time. Whether we will again is very much up in the air once more.

Winners – Chelsea

There were plenty of glum faces when Thomas Tuchel and his Chelsea squad missed out on topping their group on the final matchday as Zenit St. Petersburg snatched a point against the Blues in stoppage time.

But those frowns will have been turned upside down after the defending champions were handed what looks to be the easiest opponent they could have hoped for in Lille.

After one of the most controversial European draws in years, more clubs than normal were either thrilled or furious with how the pairings worked out

Not only were they paired with the French champions in the redraw, but they were also set to face them when the original ties were chosen, avoiding Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Ajax (their only other possible opponents heading into the draw) on both occasions.

Lille, of course, shocked Paris Saint-Germain on the way to winning the Ligue 1 title last season, but part of the reason they went into the last 16 as a seeeded team was thanks to them being handed a relatively kind group alongside Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg.

They will pose Chelsea a threat with exciting young forward Jonathan David, while at the other end of the field they are led by highly-rated defender Sven Botman, who is being scouted by some of the biggest clubs in Europe.

But as they chase their first Premier League title in five years and with Club World Cup commitments to come too, Chelsea will be delighted to have avoided some of the giants of Europe at this stage of the competition.

Losers – UEFA

You had one job!

The last-16 draw descended into shambles when Manchester United were erroneously drawn against Villarreal – a team they faced in the group stages and so could not take on again in the first knockout round.

Though the mistake was quickly rectified, the confusion it caused meant that United were then left off the list of possible opponents for Atletico Madrid; an error which eventually led to the whole draw being voided around 90 minutes after it was completed.

For the biggest competition in European football, it was hugely embarrassing that a simple draw could not be carried out first time.

So too were the excuses, blaming the errors on a computer when anyone could have worked out the possible opponents for each club.

With clubs left questioning the integrity of the draw, how the easiest task could go so badly wrong is astonishing.

One thing is for sure – you wouldn’t get this in a Super League… (don’t even think about Florentino Perez!)

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