20 Things We Learned from the 2013/14 Champions League

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentMay 26, 2014

20 Things We Learned from the 2013/14 Champions League

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    The 2013/14 Champions League will be remembered as the year Real Madrid clinched their record 10th title.

    It was the year Atletico Madrid nearly stunned everyone, and Pep Guardiola was forced to rethink his tika-taka approach.

    Here's a list of 20 things we learned from this season's Champions League.

    Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree and add your own.

Possession Isn't Everything

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    Pep Guardiola's Barcelona used to pass teams to death. And they were successful with it, winning the Champions League in 2009 and 2011.

    But having the ball isn't everything. Guardiola's Bayern Munich had 69 percent possession against Real Madrid in the semi-final second leg at the Allianz Arena and were still thumped 4-0. 

    It just goes to show there is only one statistic that really matters: goals scored.

La Liga Rules

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    The Champions League is the elite club competition in world football, and La Liga dominated it this year with both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid reaching the final.

    It won't put the debate over which league is the best to bed just yet. But it's as good a reason as any to call yourself the strongest.

The Champions League Does Funny Things to People

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    Manuel Pellegrini was brought to Manchester City in part because of his laid-back, calm approach. 

    But even he snapped after City's defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League second-round first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

    After referee Jonas Eriksson sent off Martin Demichelis and awarded Barcelona a penalty, Pelligrini exploded, accusing the Swede of bias. The outburst, unsurprisingly, was met with swift punishment from UEFA.

Jose Mourinho Has a Semi Problem

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    Jose Mourinho has already written himself into Champions League history by winning the trophy with both Porto and Inter Milan.

    But Chelsea's defeat to Atletico Madrid this season was his sixth in eight semi-final attempts.

    For a manager of Mourinho's stature and standing, that's a pretty poor conversion rate.

Inexperience Isn't the End of the World

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    Some Manchester United fans were concerned David Moyes' lack of Champions League experience might cause problems this season.

    But it was Europe that brought the Scot some of his most pleasing results—especially the 5-0 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen in Germany.

    It was in the Premier League where it all fell apart for poor, old Moyes. And he paid the price with his job.

Romance Isn't Dead

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    If you picked Atletico Madrid to get to the final of the Champions League this season, you knew something most of us didn't.

    And had it not been for Sergio Ramos' late equaliser in Lisbon, they would have won it all. As The Guardian's Sid Lowe noted, Atletico came excruciatingly close to being crowned champions of Europe, much like in 1974, when they lost to Bayern Munich in the final.

    It just shows there's still room for an unfancied side to be successful in a competition dominated by cash-rich giants.

There's Always Hope

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    Manchester United were dreadful against Olympiacos in their last-16 first-leg tie.

    They lost 2-0, but it could've been much worse. 

    But they found a way to turn things around in the home leg, winning 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick from Robin van Persie. 

    It earned United a quarter-final tie with Bayern Munich and bought David Moyes a little bit more time.

Sergio Ramos Is a Danger from Set-Pieces

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    With Real Madrid's semi-final with Bayern Munich still in the balance, Sergio Ramos strode up from the back to score from two set-pieces to send his team towards the final.

    There, a goal down to Atletico Madrid and with time running out, he popped up again to score from a corner and send the game into extra time.

    Not bad for a centre-half.

Manchester City Are Getting Closer

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    Roberto Mancini won the Premier League and the FA Cup during his time at the Etihad Stadium, but he couldn't get out of the group in the Champions League, and it cost him his job.

    Manuel Pellegrini, who enjoyed success in Europe with unfancied Villarreal and Malaga, achieved it in his first season with Manchester City.

    They were knocked out by Barcelona in the last-16, but it was a step in the right direction.

It's Difficult to Retain the Trophy

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    Bayern Munich not only brought in Pep Guardiola as their new coach this season but also signed Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara.

    But they still came up short in their bid to become the first side to retain the trophy since it was rebranded as the Champions League.

    Manchester United came close by reaching the 2009 final after winning it in 2008, but ran into Barcelona.

    And even Barcelona couldn't turn their dominance into back-to-back wins. It's Real Madrid's turn next.

Age Is Just a Number

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    When Manchester United needed some inspiration in the last-16 second-leg tie with Olympiacos, they turned to 40-year-old Ryan Giggs.

    Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Giggs was the best player on the pitch as United won 3-0 to progress to the quarter-finals.

    Even in his last season as a professional, the Welshman still showed he could influence games at the highest level.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is in Decent Shape

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's celebration after scoring Real Madrid's fourth in the final might have been a little over the top.

    But you can understand why he was so keen to get his shirt off.

    All that time in the gym wasn't for nothing. He still could have perhaps waited for his penalty to hit the back of the net before getting his kit off.

But His Dancing Could Use a Bit of Work

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's first goal against Bayern Munich in the semi-final second leg was his 15th of the season, a new Champions League record.

    And he celebrated accordingly with a flash of his fingers to signal all 15 goals. But he ended up looking more like a dancer from Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video. 

    It wasn't his finest moment.

Carlo Ancelotti Is One of the Best

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    Real Madrid's victory over Atletico Madrid in Lisbon gave Carlo Ancelotti his third Champions League triumph as a manager.

    He won the trophy twice with Milan in 2003 and 2007. Then he secured Madrid's record 10th title in his first season at the Bernabeu.

    The Italian deserves his place among the world's best managers.

Gareth Bale Made the Difference When It Mattered Most

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    There was a lot of pressure on Gareth Bale this season as he tried to justify his world-record transfer fee.

    But he made the difference when it mattered most, scoring Real Madrid's second goal in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid after the game had gone into extra time.

    It wasn't his greatest performance, but he found a way to make a telling contribution in the biggest game of his career.

    And according to Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, the best is yet to come from the Welshman. "All season Gareth has been good and he will be better next year," Ancelotti said, per BBC Sport.

Eden Hazard Cost Chelsea

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    Eden Hazard is one of Chelsea's best players. One of the best in the world, in fact.

    But against Atletico Madrid in the semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge, he didn't do the dirty side of his job very well.

    He switched off twice when he was meant to be tracking his man, and Chelsea went out. It's not all about the fancy flicks and spectacular goals at the highest level.

It's All About Winning...and Not Just About Pleasing the Boss

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    It looked for a while that Thibaut Courtois wouldn't be able to play for Atletico Madrid against his parent club Chelsea in the semi-finals.

    But he was given the green light by UEFA and proceeded to do everything he could to knock his employers out of the Champions League.

    His stunning saves against Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill in the second leg earned Atletico a place in the final.

An Englishman Played His Part

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    This season's final might have been contested by two Spanish sides, but an Englishman played his part in Real Madrid's success.

    Paul Clement was on the Real bench alongside Carlo Ancelotti as they won their 10th title.

    Not bad for a man who never got beyond the non-league pyramid when he was playing.

Don't Annoy Diego Simeone

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    When the opposition manager looks like a cross between Razor Ramon and an assassin, then you probably shouldn't kick the ball at him.

    But that's what Raphael Varane did at the end of the Champions League final.

    It didn't take long for Simeone to march onto the pitch to confront the Real Madrid defender. Varane probably won't be doing it again anytime soon.

Real Madrid Are the Kings of Europe

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    The 10th might have taken a little longer than they had hoped, but Real Madrid's triumph in Lisbon confirmed their place as the kings of Europe.

    Only Milan come anywhere close with their seven wins.

    When it comes to their record in the European Cup or Champions League, Real Madrid are the top dogs.