World Football's 5 Biggest Winners and Losers from the Month of April
April was another month of extreme highs and devastating lows for football fans, players and teams as plenty of major competitions drew closer to an end. Titles, cups and survival all remain to play for and the excitement and tension is growing with each passing week.
As football clubs head into May and the final stages of those competitions, the past four weeks will prove to be pivotal in terms of achieving their preseason objectives. April's performances were also crucial for clubs putting the finishing touches on a campaign that will live long in the memory.
Here we look at which individuals or groups had the best—or worst—month of April.
Winners: Borussia Dortmund
Following up back-to-back domestic championships this season was always going to be a tough ask for Borussia Dortmund. Although they did not manage to retain their league crown, they have, perhaps, achieved an even bigger objective.
Thanks to a fantastic display of attacking football in the first leg, they managed to hold Real Madrid at bay for long enough in the second leg to advance to the UEFA Champions League final.
The 4-3 aggregate win means Dortmund reaches their first final in the biggest knock-out competition in club world football since they last won the trophy in 1996-97. That final was held in Munich—and this time around they might well find themselves playing against Bayern Munich.
Losers: Real Madrid
It has all been very different for Real Madrid, though, the team Dortmund eliminated in the semifinals.
The reigning Spanish league champions made their way unsteadily past Galatasaray in the quarterfinals. However, the thumping 4-1 defeat to Dortmund in the semifinal first leg proved to be their eventual undoing in the competition.
Not only that, but the post-match interview from manager Jose Mourinho strongly suggested that this would be his last season in charge of Real.
Domestically, their fortunes have not been much better as Real failed to mount enough of a comeback on Barcelona to prevent the Catalan side from regaining the league title. Though La Liga is not entirely sewn up just yet, Real trail by 11 points with five matches left to play.
It is fair to say Real Madrid have had better months in the past.
Winners: Robin Van Persie
Following a run of just two goals in nine league appearances for Manchester United, Robin van Persie got back on the goal trail in style in April.
A goal against Stoke City was followed up by a spectacular hat-trick against Aston Villa, the best of which was a marvellous first-time volley and which effectively sewed up the Premier League title for his team.
A penalty on his return to former club Arsenal made it five goals in three outings for van Persie, who will now go on to be crowned the EPL's top scorer for the season and win the Golden Boot. A league title in his first season at Old Trafford will fully justify his decision to depart the Emirates last summer.
To top things off, van Persie was voted into third place in the Player of the Year awards and was given a place in the Team of the Year.
Losers: AEK Athens
Talk about a bad month. Greek side AEK Athens have been relegated from the top flight for the first time in their club's history.
Historically considered one of the three biggest clubs in the country, AEK have won the league championship 11 times all told—the last one coming in the 1993-94 season. They have finished as runners-up seven times since then, and as recently as 2007-08 they finished second in the Super League.
Just two years ago AEK also won the Greek Cup.
A season of turmoil on and off the pitch has ultimately seen them go down for the first time in their almost 90-year history. AEK's fate was settled after an injury-time defeat to Atromitos last weekend.
Prior to that loss, angry fans stormed the pitch to chase off the players following a defeat to Panthrakikos.
AEK have managed just eight victories all season. The club sold off most of their first-team squad last year to try and keep themselves afloat, with financial difficulties prevalent without new investors.
Winners: Bayern Munich
From as bad as it gets to the opposite end of the spectrum: Bayern Munich have had an April to remember.
Results-wise, Bayern have been stellar.
Success in all competitions meant they faced a busy month. Bayern played eight matches all told, and won every single one of them. In doing so, they racked up a combined score of 26 goals scored and just two conceded.
April could not have started on a higher note, as Bayern defeated Eintracht Frankfurt to seal the Bundesliga title in record time. They then made their way into the Champions League semifinal by dispensing with Italian side Juventus, before blasting their way to the final of the German Cup by battering Wolfsburg 6-1.
As if all that was not enough, an historic 4-0 defeat of Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal first leg put them in a great position to reach the final. Bayern also announced the signing of superstar Mario Gotze, who will join the club this summer.
May did not start in a bad fashion either, as they finished off Barça 7-0 on aggregate in the second leg to progress to the Champions League final on May 1.
Losers: Luis Suarez
From being one of the most in-form players in the English Premier League and battling for the Golden Boot award, Luis Suarez's season suddenly imploded in a moment of madness as he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic on the arm during a league match.
Despite going on to score a late equalising goal in that particular match, Suarez's season was over from that moment—and the subsequent 10-match ban he received means that his start to next season will be severely delayed as well.
Suarez suffered a further blow shortly after as was booed at an awards gala attended by mainly professional footballers—and was also pipped into second place for the main prize of Player of the Year.
Winners: Real Sociedad
Moving away from winning trophies but still with major success within sight, Spanish La Liga side Real Sociedad have perhaps just had one of their biggest months in some time.
At the halfway stage of the season Sociedad came off the back of a 4-3 defeat to Real Madrid, and were sat in ninth place in the league.
That was in early January—and since then they have gone 15 league games unbeaten, culminating in a famous 4-2 victory over Valencia last Sunday. That result means that Sociedad sit in fourth place, a Champions League qualification spot, and are five points clear of Valencia and Malaga with just five more games to play.
If they can go on to hold their form into the final month of the season, a top-four finish will yield them Champions League football and their joint-highest league placing since 2002-03, when they ended as runners-up.
Losers: PFA of England
The Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year awards are supposed to be a celebrated and exciting spectacle which honour the best players of the English Premier League season, but this time around it went more than a little wrong, causing a big amount of embarrassment and consternation for the organisers.
Luis Suarez, voted into the top two players of the campaign by his fellow professionals, had his name booed on two occasions by the room filled with fellow pro's, when he was mentioned in connection with the main award and with the Team of the Year award.
In addition, the comedian act booked by the PFA as entertainment for the evening was Reginald D. Hunter, and he caused uproar by using offensive language with racial connotations, causing a whole host of apologies to be made by the organisers.
Carlisle had earlier apologised for the booking, saying: 'As the chairman I am embarrassed. I apologise unreservedly and it won’t happen again on my watch.
'I thought that we made a really gross error of judgement in who we selected for our entertainment last night. I was embarrassed. All that has gone on in football over the past few years, with everything that we purport to stand for, his set was inappropriate, it really was.
'I am probably going to get hung for it. But I can’t be hypocritical. Everything that I have said and stood for over the past three years, if I sit here and say “It’s in the name of comedy” - rubbish, I am not having that.
Winners: Gareth Bale
The evening wasn't a total bust though—at least not as far as Tottenham attacking midfield Gareth Bale was concerned.
He was the recipient of two awards, becoming only the third player to scoop both the PFA Player of the Year award and the PFA Young Player of the Year award in the same season. He was also, of course, nominated in the Team of the Year.
Bale continues to be Spurs' best hope, on the pitch, of winning a top-four place for the season and he hit goals against Manchester City and Wigan during April.
Losers: Queens Park Rangers, Reading and Greuther Furth
The final losers of the month are those who have lost the fight for survival extremely early.
In Europe's top five leagues—France, England, Italy, Spain, Germany—three clubs have already been definitively relegated ahead of next season, namely Reading and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, and Greuther Furth in the Bundesliga.
All three suffered confirmation of their fate during April.
G. Furth have managed just three wins all season, and have failed to show their home supporters even a single victory this term. They are bottom of the German league by some distance, 12 points from safety with only three matches left to play.
QPR and Reading had one final chance to save themselves, albeit perhaps temporarily, but played out a dull, tepid, uninspiring and fight-less 0-0 draw against each other at the end of April. Both will play in the Championship next season.