Biggest winners and losers from UEFA Champions League Round of 16 redraw

(Emrah Gurel/AP)

UEFA received a red card during Monday’s draw for the round of 16 of the Champions League held at its headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

Not content to let the FIA have all the fun after Sunday’s Formula One finale in Abu Dhabi, European soccer’s governing body managed to badly botch its proceedings, and was forced to redo the draw after putting Manchester United’s name into the wrong pot. Atletico Madrid noticed the error and brought it to UEFA’s attention.

The original draw was ruled null and void, and UEFA had to do it all over again in order to get it right.

Here are the big winners and losers from Monday’s “double draw.”

THE BIG WINNERS

Lionel Messi: Originally drawn against Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain ended up being paired with Real Madrid in a matchup that must have left Lionel Messi licking his lips in anticipation. The Argentine star ran roughshod against Los Blancos during his time at FC Barcelona, scoring 26 goals and tallying 14 assists in 45 all-time meetings. Messi tested his wits against tough-as-nails Spanish defender Sergio Ramos in most of those games. But now, as PSG teammates, they will share the same dressing room when they pay a visit to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for the decisive second leg.

Bayern Munich: It’s fair to say the Bavarians “traded down,” as they were originally selected to go up against Spanish powerhouse Atletico Madrid, but ended up being drawn against modest Austrian side FC Salzburg. Bayern cruised through the first round with a perfect 6-0 record, finishing first in a group that included Benfica and Barcelona. They have also won all four of their previous Champions League matches against Austrian opposition, including a pair of wins last season against Salzburg, who will be making its round of 16 debut.

Jonathan David: Things didn’t change at all for the Canadian forward, as French side Lille OSC was selected to play Premier League outfit Chelsea both times. Facing the reigning Champions League holders is a tall task for Lille, but it gives David, a 21-year-old native of Ottawa, a chance to prove himself against one of the best teams in the competition. The consensus at the moment is that he’ll leave France this summer in a big-money transfer move. If the Canadian can put in a memorable showing against Chelsea, that’ll only drive up his wage demands and allow him to pick and choose between the biggest European clubs that are currently interested in him.

Chelsea: The reigning European champions potentially faced difficult matchups against Bayern Munich or Real Madrid after finishing behind Juventus in its group in the first round. But the London-based club dodged a major bullet by being drawn with Lille both times. Chelsea has won each of its last four meetings with French teams in all European competitions, including twice vs. Lille, whose only previous appearance in the round of 16 came in 2006-07 when they lost to another English opponent in Manchester United.

THE BIG LOSERS

UEFA: The kerfuffle began on Monday when UEFA mistakenly drew Manchester United and Villarreal together, a matchup that was ineligible to take place because the clubs played each other in the group stage. The rest of the draw continued, but Atletico Madrid alerted UEFA about the procedural blunder. With the entire draw compromised, UEFA was forced into a do-over. UEFA blamed the mishap on “a technical problem with the software of an external service provider” that tells the draw officials whether or not teams are eligible to play each other. Mistakes happen, of course. But it really is inexcusable that the original draw took place after such a glaring error occurred. UEFA ended up with egg all over its face.

The fans: Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester United was the dream matchup that millions of neutral fans around the world wanted to see, as it would have pitted Lione Messi against Cristiano Ronaldo. The game’s two biggest superstars hadn’t faced each other in a Champions League knockout series since the 2010-11 semifinals. Considering their respective ages (Messi is 34, Ronaldo is 37), there might not be many more chances for these two supreme athletes to square off on club soccer’s biggest stage. Twitter exploded when PSG and Man United were originally drawn together, such was the anticipation of seeing these two greats go at it. But the second draw put paid to any hopes of a Messi vs. Ronaldo showdown.

Atletico Madrid: You have to wonder if the Spanish club regrets just keeping its mouth shut after how things played out. Originally drawn against Bayern Munich, Los Colchoneros ended up being paired with Manchester United, which means they’ll face the daunting prospect of trying to contain Cristiano Ronaldo. Diego Simeone’s side hasn’t had much luck in that department over the years. The Portuguese star has scored 25 goals in 34 matches against Atletico, including a pair of hat tricks in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Ronaldo’s teams (Real Madrid and Juventus) have also knocked Atletico out of the Champions League no less than five times over the last eight years.


John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. To check out TFC Republic, click here.

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