UEFA’s UCL report: Messi goal beats Ronaldo; Mou’s ball boy coaching praised

Football

UEFA this week released its annual report of the 2019-20 Champions League, which documents and analyses the technical and tactical aspects of the season that ended with Bayern Munich taking the top prize.

Don’t worry, it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds. All readers, from the casual observers to the stats obsessives, will find something of interest.

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The report highlights the brilliance of Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe among other stars, while there is even a note of praise for Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho.

It was put together using input from UEFA’s technical observer group — a group that includes Roberto Martinez, Gareth Southgate, Aitor Karanka and Phil Neville — all of whom attended the majority of games and offered their considered reflections upon them afterward.

But if the thought of thumbing through the extensive 108-page dossier is too daunting then relax: we’ve combed every page and excavated the most interesting nuggets of information so that you don’t have to.

Jump to: Goals | Passes | Saves | Sprints | Mourinho

Goals

With 386 total goals scored in the space of 119 matches, the 2019-20 Champions League campaign certainly wasn’t short on action, producing an all-time high goals-per-game ratio of 3.24.

There was a competition record high number of goals scored in the group stages too (308), beating the previous record by two goals (306, set in 2017-18).

Group B alone contributed 53 goals to the overall tally, with the combined efforts of Bayern, Tottenham, Olympiakos and Red Star Belgrade helping to set yet another Champions League record.


Barcelona‘s Lionel Messi was awarded Goal of Season by UEFA’s technical committee for his incredible solo slip-and-slide goal against Napoli in the round of 16.

With 87 take-ons, nobody attempted to beat more defenders with the ball glued to his feet than Messi.

A vote among fans on UEFA’s website named Cristiano Ronaldo‘s powerful strike against Lyon as their Goal of the Tournament, though the Juventus star’s long-ranger didn’t even find it way into the UEFA committee’s top 10.


As you may know, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski scored in nine consecutive games up to the final to claim the Champions League golden boot — the fifth season in a row that a player over the age of 30 has done so.

As if to fully seal his credentials as the top predator in European football, seven of Lewandowski’s 15 goals were scored from inside the six-yard box.


Elsewhere, Erling Haaland enjoyed a phenomenal competition debut, scoring a hat trick (in Salzburg’s 6-2 opening win over Genk) on his maiden Champions League appearance and going on to become the first teenager to score in five consecutive matches.

With 10 goals from just 21 shots (with 13 of those on target), Haaland also finished with a lethal conversion rate (47.6%) of a goal almost every other shot, better than anybody else who scored five goals or more.

Haaland — who joined Borussia Dortmund in January — also accrued the best goals-per-minute count in 2019-20 too, with the Norwegian youngster’s astounding rate of just 55.4 beating Lewandowski (59.1) into second place.


In terms of preferred route to goal in the 2019-20 season, almost one third of the goals scored came from crosses and cut-backs (29.3% to be precise) — including Kingsley Coman‘s winning goal for Bayern Munich in the final.

In comparison, the number of set-piece goals fell once again — with just one solitary goal coming direct from a free kick during the entire campaign.

Indeed, that was Paulo Dybala‘s exquisite acute-angle effort against Atletico Madrid in the group stages.

Passes

One of eight Bayern players in the report’s Squad of the Season, Joshua Kimmich created more chances than any other player during the 2019-20 Champions League, laying on a total of 28 for his teammates.

Thomas Muller finished third in the same metric, having created 25 chances on Bayern’s flawless run to the championship.

However, it was Paris Saint-Germain‘s Angel Di Maria who registered the most assists, setting up six goals as the Parisians reached their first ever final.


Liverpool amassed the highest possession count of all clubs involved, finishing the campaign with an average tally of 67% (eventual winners Bayern had 64%).

By comparison, the Reds won the 2018-19 Champions League with an average possession of just 50%, and they mustered just 38% in their win over Tottenham in that season’s final.

Liverpool also claimed the highest single-match possession percentage (71.1%) of any club during the 2019-20 season, though it came in their 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the round of 16.

In the same game, Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to register a shot on target as Atletico made 70 defensive clearances — also a Champions League record in its own right.

In the second leg at Anfield, Liverpool had 70.6% of the possession and created 27 chances but still lost 3-0 on the night thanks to late goals from Marcos Llorente (2) and Alvaro Morata — their first home European defeat under Klopp.


Saves

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer kept six clean sheets (more than any other No. 1) in 11 appearances — including in the final — and completed 371 passes in the same time, ending the season with a 98% pass completion rate on his goal kicks and distribution.

However, Ajax shot-stopper Andre Onana led the way in terms of goals prevented, with the Cameroon international ranking first in goals prevented* (5.25) and highest save percentage (82%).

(*Goals prevented is a measure of “expected goals (xG) on target conceded” compared with a goalkeeper’s actual goals conceded.)


A special mention must go to Slavia Prague who emerged as the true workhorses of the 2019-20 Champions League campaign.

Slavia have three players in the top 10 for average distance covered in games — Petr Sevcik (first with 13.47 kilometres/8.36 miles), Tomas Soucek (second with 12.69 km/7.88 m) and Vladimir Coufal (seventh with 11.76 km/7.31 m) — and West Ham have since signed two of them!

Slavia striker Peter Olayinka also led the way with most average sprints per match (60.33) as Slavia players took the top three spots.

Sprints

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Frank Leboeuf gives a passionate response about Kylian Mbappe and Neymar’s struggles vs. Man United.

PSG forward Kylian Mbappe clocked up the fastest sprint of the campaign when he recorded a burst of 33.98 kilometres per hour (21.1 miles per hour).

Mbappe waited until the very last game of the season to reach his top speed, with his sprint coming in the 73rd minute of the final against Bayern.

Coincidentally, the next four fastest sprints in the top 5 were all made by opposing players during games against PSG: Lukas Klostermann of RB Leipzig (33.82 kph/21.01 mph), Hans Hateboer of Atalanta (33.71 kph/20.9 mph), Achraf Hakimi of Dortmund (33.46 kph/20.79 mph) and Alphonso Davies of Bayern (33.37 kph/20.7 mph)


While he may not have been the fastest on record, Alphonso Davies certainly displayed phenomenal levels of athleticism and stamina during the 2019-20 season, sprinting once every 1.73 minutes on average.

The converted winger also helped to keep five clean sheets in his eight appearances for the Bavarian giants.

Mourinho

Last but by no means least, Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho received a special mention in the UEFA technical report for how he and a quick-thinking ball boy played an integral part in Spurs’ comeback win over Olympiakos in the group stage.

Making his home debut as new head coach, Mourinho’s team had been trailing but a smart return from the alert ball boy swiftly led to an equaliser from Harry Kane as Spurs roared back to win 4-2 and seal their qualification for the next round.

As the UEFA report recounts: “Mourinho’s own involvement on the sidelines is worth reviewing in a sequence that showed Spurs’ clever use of the multi-ball system. As one ball flies into touch midway inside the opposition half, Mourinho is on his feet shouting ‘Go, go’ — and even mimicking a throwing action — as the ball boy jumps from his seat and lobs another to [Serge] Aurier. Within five seconds of the full-back’s throw-in, the ball is in the Olympiakos net, prompting Mourinho to give the teenager a congratulatory embrace — and later invite him to lunch with his squad before their next home game.”

Mourinho himself said after the final whistle: “I love intelligent ball boys, like I was. I was a brilliant ball boy as a kid. This kid today was brilliant. He reads the game, understands the game and made an important assist.”

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