The season is over, transfer rumours are swirling, some big names have already switched clubs, and the summer international tournaments are underway. In an attempt to make sense of a wonderful, dramatic, exciting season, I’ve compiled my final club power rankings for 2012/2013.
If you’ve seen a previous edition, you probably disagreed with something. If you haven’t, here’s the breakdown: the rankings are based on some combination of league performance (relative to overall strength of the league), European performance (Champions and Europa League), and my own personal bias and subjectivity.
Many of these teams did not play each other, or performed very well in one competition but were lacking in others. It is very difficult to rank teams across many leagues, but I think it’s a fun exercise and thus worth doing. If you disagree with the rankings, please tell me why in the comments below. And now, the final European Club Power Rankings of the 2012/2013 season:
Europe’s Final Four
1. Bayern Munich (unchanged)
After achieving a second place treble the previous season, Bayern atoned for past failures and stamped their dominance on the European game by lifting all three trophies this year. Die Roten had the Bundesliga title mathematically sealed by early April, shattered the record for most points in a campaign with 91, and finished 25 points ahead of the closest challengers, Borussia Dortmund. That alone would make for an historic season, but the addition of the Champions League and the DFB-Pokal trophies makes it absolutely legendary.
2. Borussia Dortmund (unchanged)
Dortmund may have paled in comparison to their Bavarian rivals in the Bundesliga, but they were still able to flex their muscle in Europe this year, and only a last minute Arjen Robben goal denied them extra time in the Champions League final. Mario Götze has already jumped ship to Munich and Robert Lewandowski is looking to follow him, so BVB will have a tough time hanging on to this spot next season. They can spend the summer with the knowledge that this year, at least, second best in Germany also meant second best in Europe.
3. FC Barcelona (up 1)
Barcelona weren’t just knocked off their perch by Bayern Munich, they were seized and unceremoniously thrown from it. While the blaugrana had no answer for the speed and steel of the German giants, they did manage to tie the record of 100 points in La Liga, irking rivals Real Madrid, who achieved the mark just last year. Barcelona have now made the final four of the Champions League for six straight years, an astonishingly difficult feat. With the addition of Neymar, they will be expected to make that seven years running this coming season.
4. Real Madrid (down 1)
Falling to Atlético Madrid for the first time in 14 years sealed the end of the José Mourinho era at Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti has been named the favourite to take control in the Spanish capital, but is still in the process of disentangling himself from Paris Saint-Germain. Florentino Pérez was elected without opposition for another term as president of the club and is looking at Gareth Bale, Luis Suárez, and Edinson Cavani as potential galácticos. Madrid went trophyless this season (unless you count the Spanish Supercup), but were only a late goal away from contesting the Champions League final at Wembley instead of Dortmund.
5. Juventus (unchanged)
Nothing has changed regarding the Old Lady since the last rankings, except transfer rumours of course. Champions of Italy for a second straight year but goalless against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarters, it is clear that a striker is needed to take Juve to the next level. Carlos Tévez, Gonzalo Higuaín, and Stevan Jovetić are all possibilities.
6. Manchester United (unchanged)
With Fergie out and David Moyes in, will Manchester United be the same? Well, Sir Alex isn’t completely gone and the club is looking to strengthen a few positions this summer. The Wayne Rooney saga will have to be dealt with by Moyes, and if Rooney does stay he will need to start regularly or the drama will continue. What is almost certain is that United will have a tougher path to the Premier League trophy next season, with Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal (gasp) looking to spend on new players.
7. Paris Saint-Germain (up 3)
Under Carlo Ancelotti, nouveau rich PSG won Ligue 1 for the first time since the 1993/1994 season. Featuring several new additions to the side including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Lucas Moura, PSG acquitted themselves well in the Champions League, tying Barcelona over two legs only to lose on away goals. Ancelotti may be trading Paris for Madrid this summer, but the new manager will be expected to maintain PSG’s rise into Europe’s upper echelon.
8. Chelsea (up 1)
Chelsea finally achieved a trophy on their eighth try this season, with a last minute Branislav Ivanović header enough to beat Benfica in the Europa League final. Rafa Benítez was never staying beyond the end of the season, and with José Mourinho back in charge at Stamford Bridge, more will be expected of the Blues next year. Chelsea were at least able to secure automatic qualification for the upcoming Champions League season, something that’s becoming more and more difficult for teams in the Premier League.
9. Galatasaray (up 3)
Galatasaray made a breakthrough in Europe this season, going all the way to the Champions League quarter finals and even beating Real Madrid in one game in Turkey. Star signings Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder along with one of the standout players in the Champions League, Burak Yilmaz, propelled the Istanbul-based side to the Turkish League title and another chance amongst Europe’s elite next season. They will hope to keep hold of their top players, with clubs reportedly interested in Yilmaz, Sneijder and Felipe Melo already.
10. Shakhtar Donetsk (up 5)
Shakhtar continue to be perhaps the best team at scouting and signing Brazilian talent, which is even tougher when you consider they must also convince them to come play in Ukraine. The club lost Fernandinho to Manchester City in the past few days, but have swooped in for Grêmio’s Fernando and Fluminense’s Wellington Nem. Shakhtar won the Ukrainian league and cup double, and were eliminated in the Champions League by eventual finalists Borussia Dortmund, a very impressive season indeed.
11. FC Porto (previously unranked)
Porto snatched the Liga Sagres title away from Benfica at the last minute; a stoppage time goal from Kelvin gave Porto all three points in the penultimate game of the season, which put Porto ahead of Benfica by one point. The Dragões would not relinquish that lead the next week, winning away at Paços de Ferreira to seal their third straight Portuguese Liga title. The amount of success Porto have had while consistently selling their best players continues to astound.
12. CSKA Moscow (previously unranked)
CSKA didn’t play in Europe this year, but that looks to have benefitted them domestically, as they brought home the league and cup double. The Russian league has become more difficult in recent years with ambitious big spenders like Zenit and Anzhi strengthening their sides. CSKA were also helped by the fact that their closest competitors had European competition to distract them, but a domestic double is something any team would sign up for at the beginning of a season.
13. Atlético Madrid (unchanged)
Back in the Champions League and victorious over their city rivals in the Copa del Rey final, it was a satisfying end to the season for the rojiblancos. Radamel Falcao has moved on, as expected, although his new club was a bit of a surprise for many. Atléti needed the funds from his sale as well as the Champions League qualification money to help their precarious financial situation. Under the leadership of Diego Simeone, the club will attempt to continue on their upward trajectory next season.
Could Have Beens
14. Benfica (down 8)
It was a very rough end to the season for Jorge Jesus and Benfica. Despite bowing out of the Champions League at the group stages, Benfica were on course for a treble of league, cup, and Europa League as recently as the 90th minute against Porto on May 11. Then Kelvin scored an extra time goal to give Porto the three points, and Benfica dropped to second in the league table. On May 15th, Benfica lost a heartbreaker to Chelsea in the Europa League final, and to make matters worse, they fell to lowly Vitória de Guimarães 2-1 in the Portuguese Cup on May 26. What could have been such a promising season ended in disaster, and Benfica will be the team rueing their chances most this summer.
15. Málaga (down 3)
The ultimate could have been of the season was Málaga vs Borussia Dortmund, leg two of the Champions League quarter finals. In the 82nd minute, Málaga went ahead 2-1 on a Eliseu goal that appeared to be offside. This meant Dortmund needed two goals in just about 10 minutes to advance. We all know what happened next. Marco Reus scored less than a minute into stoppage time, and Málaga’s European dreams were crushed by a Felipe Santana header shortly after, on a play where four Dortmund players appeared to be offside. The Germans were through, though, and the Andalucians were heartbroken. Coach Manuel Pellegrini is moving on, and Málaga may struggle to reach the same heights in the coming years, but no Malaguista will ever forget the wonderful run they had this season.
16. Manchester City (down 9)
After advancing past Chelsea to reach the FA Cup final, it appeared that Manchester City would conclude a successful season in spite of finishing last in their Champions League group. Second place in the Premier League and a second FA Cup in three years seemed likely, as City were heavily favoured against opponents Wigan Athletic. 90 minutes at Wembley later and City were trophyless, Roberto Mancini was on the outs, and it was straight to the transfer market for reinforcements. Jesús Navas and Fernandinho have already arrived, and their new club will hope for a more favourable Champions League group draw on August 30 to help them take the next step in Europe.
Also Noteworthy (no order)
Arsenal, Tottenham, Celtic, Real Sociedad, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke 04, Ajax, FC Basel, Napoli, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Fenerbahçe, Zenit St Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala
This last group was too difficult to rank in order, but all of these teams had seasons worthy of a mention in this article. Again, if you feel like I made a mistake with the rankings, please leave your comment below and explain why.