European football talking points: Bayern Munich give Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery perfect send off; Ajax clinch Eredivisie title
Bayern Munich produced a trademark swashbuckling display of football to ensure the title remained in Munich on Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery's final match for the Bavarians.
Bayern Munich produced a trademark display of football to ensure the title remained in Munich on Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery's final match.
Ajax put on a show for their fans in Amsterdam this week after securing the Dutch Eredivisie title in the midweek.
With the season coming to an end, teams will now be setting up a plan for the upcoming year and narrowing down on their transfer targets.
The Game of Thrones series-ending episode might have taken the sheen off what was otherwise hyped up as the last big weekend of European football before the players took leave for the long summer. But that is not to say the Gameweek had any less suspense or action than the fantasy TV series with the dramatic German and Dutch league title races coming to an end.
Bayern Munich produced a trademark swashbuckling display of football to overpower Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 to ensure the title remained in Munich much to the despair of Borussia Dortmund who ended up two points short despite a 2-0 victory against Borussia Monchengladbach on the final day of the Bundesliga season.
Here are five talking points from a Gameweek that saw Ajax's latest golden generation footballers add another major piece of silverware into the club's huge trophy cabinet.
Robbery, one last time
Two goals to seal an important victory and win the championship! It is fair to say even the best of scriptwriters could not have come up with a better farewell plan for Bayern Munich's "Robbery". Bayern's iconic double-act of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were in the scoresheet in their final game for the Munich side as they helped the team secure a seventh straight league title. Ribery, 36, and Robben, 35, both second-half substitutes in Bayern's match against Frankfurt, have been the club's most influential attackers since they started playing together in 2009, scoring 266 goals and making 284 assists between them.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) May 17, 2019
Despite being marred by injuries through their careers, both Robben and Ribery leave the club as legends and will now make way for a young set of wingers in Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry. There are also rumours that Bayern are after highly-rated pacy wingers in the transfer window with Ajax's Hakim Ziyech and Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi in their radar.
A winter's tale
So close yet so far! That would be the ideal way to sum up Borussia Dortmund's Bundesliga season after coming so close to winning the league and ending Bayern's hegemony. But Lucien Favre's men will only have themselves to blame after bottling what looked for most parts an unassailable lead.
When Dortmund look back, they will identify the winter break as the turning point of their season. The team failed to regain their scintillating form after the winter halt while Bayern used it well to recharge their batteries. In fact, the extended break in Germany acted as a major game-changer for a lot of teams. Gladbach, Dortmund's opponents in the weekend, were second in the league standings till the break. They ended the season in fifth place without Champions League football for the next season.
But all is not bad at the Dortmund camp. The season saw Marco Reus peak into a forward in the Cristiano Ronaldo-mould while Jadon Sancho has converted himself into an assist-making machine. The British teenager became the youngest player in Dortmund history to reach double figures in goals and assists in a single campaign. Favre will lose Christian Pulisic to Chelsea in the summer but the money is expected to be invested in bringing in talent. Thorgan Hazard is already on his way to the Westfalenstadion while Julian Brandt could also be wearing the prestigious Yellow and Blacks by next August.
Ajax sing their favourite sons goodbye
Electronic music, fireworks, flares… Ajax and Amsterdam certainly know how to celebrate, don't they? The Dutch Eredivisie champions put on a show for their fans in their home city this week after securing the title in the midweek.
Ajax couldn’t have the end this season better. WHAT A CELEBRATION!!!!!!
— Nadyice (@nadyice_) May 16, 2019
The team came very close to reaching the Champions League final and played a football that even Ajax and Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff would be proud of but the summer will mark the beginning of the end of a yet-another exciting team from Amsterdam. Big teams have been eyeing Ajax's star players of the team ever since they proved their mettle against Juventus and Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Frenkie de Jong is on his way to Barcelona with Matthijs de Ligt also likely to join Ajax's player of the season at Nou Camp. Hakim Ziyech is likely to be a part of a transfer tug-of-war between Liverpool and Bayern Munich while Andre Onana is being lined up by Manchester United as a potential David de Gea replacement. It's a pity we won't get to know what heights this Ajax team could have reached but such is the reality of modern football and Ajax of all clubs would know how to deal with it. Be rest assured, the Dutch giants will have another batch ready in no time, especially if Erik ten Hag continues as the manager next season.
Napoli expose gulf in class in Serie A
Napoli versus Inter Milan was billed by many as the clash to watch out in the Serie A this weekend but the Carlo Ancelotti's side schooled Inter to show the huge difference in quality between the teams. The Naples team won the match 4-1
Fabian Ruiz scored twice for Napoli in the second half after Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens put the side ahead while Inter scored one through a late penalty by Mauro Icardi. The result meant with one game left, Inter dropped to fourth with 66 points, behind Atalanta, who drew 1-1 against Juventus, on the head-to-head record. Inter's arch-rivals AC Milan are a point behind in fifth.
A long summer awaits
With the season coming to an end, teams will now be setting up a plan for the upcoming year and narrowing down on their transfer targets. The likes of Barcelona have already made great strides forward by signing Frenkie de Jong while Real Madrid are reportedly close to signing Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic. Meanwhile in England, Manchester United, after yet another woeful campaign, will be getting their cheque-books ready for a busy summer.
Transfer season will also see a merry-go-round for coaches with Juventus' main post lying vacant after the management decided to part ways with Massimiliano Allegri despite leading them to an eighth successive Serie A title. Antonio Conte, former Juventus coach, seems to be heading to the Inter Milan hot seat while there are rumours that Conte's successor at Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri, is among the list of potential candidates vying for the Iron Throne at Juventus. For players, this might be off-season, but this is when the club's management earn their money.
He scored two goals in 21 games in Madrid before joining Milan last season on loan, scoring seven goals in 39 appearances for the northern Italian outfit.
"Ronaldo? He's back with great motivation," Allegri told a press conference of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner who had been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Serie A: Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo undergoes medical ahead of fourth season with Turin club
The 36-year-old Portugal international, who has one-year left on his contract, flew back to northern Italy on Sunday night.