The end of European football season is here – and most leagues that began in August culminated over a chaotic weekend of last-gasp relegations and results in May. This year will forever be remembered as the year fairy tales came true once again in England. Leicester City pipped all the top teams to the title, and not simply by the breadth of a hair. They finished 10 points clear of anyone else, and while Claudio Ranieri has enchanted one of England’s multi-ethnic towns, no similar stories took place elsewhere in the less ‘popular’ leagues around the continent.
Here’s a lowdown on the 2015-16 football season for all the primary countries, many of whose teams will play in the Champions League next season:
England: Premier League
Leicester captured the world’s imagination with their 81-point season, 10 clear of – you didn’t guess it – second-placed Arsenal, who seem to have had the best final weekend after beating a spiraling Tottenham to second place in the table. Tottenham collapsed after their draw to Chelsea two weekends ago, a result that officially handed Leicester the title. The “noisy London neighbors” were left to contemplate on an almost-season that ended once again behind Arsene Wenger’s perpetual underachievers. Manchester City, despite a last-day draw, finished fourth, ahead on goal difference of derby rivals and the ever-popular Manchester United, who finished a disappointed fifth (out of the Champions League qualification spots) in Louis Van Gaal’s first season in charge as manager. Chelsea had a horror season, managed to finish in the top 10, just behind Liverpool, who were vastly inconsistent in Jurgen Klopp’s first season in charge. Tottenham and Leicester penetrated the top 4 and gave a lot to the ‘traditional big boys’ to think of.
Spain: La Liga
Barcelona, after a mini meltdown last month where they lost three La Liga games in a row followed by their Champions League quarterfinal to Atletico Madrid, recovered in style, scoring 25 goals in the last five games and finishing one point ahead of rivals Real Madrid. Madrid went into the last day hoping for a Barcelona draw or loss, while they defeated Deportivo and held up their side of the bargain. But Barcelona, with new golden boy Luis Suarez, who broke the Ronaldo-Messi stranglehold of the La Liga Golden Boot with 40 goals (including a hat-trick in the final game), proved too good and deservedly won the title once again. They also play the Copa Del Rey final soon, and could do a league-cup double after their treble last year. Both the Madrid teams, meanwhile, who finished second and third in the league, will compete for the ultimate European prize at the end of the month: The Champions League final.
Italy: Serie A
Champions Juventus finished nine points ahead of Napoli, who sealed second spot with a Gunzalo Higuain hat-trick on the final day. In the process, the ex-Madrid striker broke a 66-year-old Italian goal-scoring record, by taking his tally to 36 for the season.
Who else but Bayern Munich, for the fourth time in a row. Outgoing coach Pep Guardiola won his third straight title with the German giants, finishing 10 points ahead of Dortmund, losing just two games all season. They will however be hurting after losing to Atletico Madrid in the semis of the Champions League – a title Pep failed to win with Bayern over his time in charge.
France Ligue 1
Perhaps the most one-sided league in Europe and recent memory, giants Paris Saint-Germain ended a full 31 points clear (96) of second-placed Lyon, who pipped Monaco to second on goal difference. Laurent Blanc’s side ended with a record haul of points, but still came up short in the Champions League once again. Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished his Ligue 1 career with two goals in the final match to take his tally to 38 for the season, and 48 in total for the year.