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Big players who failed to meet expectations in the Champions League this season

As we approach the Champions League final, it’s still unclear whether Liverpool or Real Madrid will be crowned kings of Europe in Paris, as they go head to head in a rematch of the 2018 final in Kyiv. Those checking the Champions League final betting odds will have a hard time deciphering whether Carlo Ancelotti or Jürgen Klopp will reign supreme in one of the most exciting tournaments in recent years. 

Aside from all the dramatic moments, there have been a number of standout performances and new players that have risen to prominence over the last nine months, however there have also been plenty of other big names that have failed to leave a mark. Read on, as we look at some of the most disappointing players from this season’s Champions League campaign.  

Lionel Messi 

Shockwaves were sent throughout the footballing landscape last summer when Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest to ever play the game, left Barcelona after many thought he would spend his whole career there, joining Paris Saint-Germain at the end of his contract in Catalonia. With Mauricio Pochettino signing so many world class players that summer to add to his already impressive squad that reached the 2020 final under Thomas Tuchel, Messi looked to be the missing piece of the puzzle. However, PSG bowed out rather underwhelmingly in the round of 16, leading the tie against Real Madrid before a Karim Benzema hat-trick prematurely ended the Parisians’ European campaign. 

Messi was supposed to be the difference maker in the side and while he scored a crucial brace in the group stage against RB Leipzig, the Argentinean failed to grasp any of kind of influence on the Madrid tie, and his difficult domestic season couldn’t have helped either, with the magician struggling to replicate his goal tally from La Liga in his debut season. 

Erling Haaland 

Let’s move on to the newest addition of the Manchester City squad — Erling Haaland. The £69 million man will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, plying his trade in the Premier League after a difficult final season in Germany. Haaland’s season with interrupted by persistent injuries and it meant Dortmund’s form suffered, especially in Europe. 

Considering he has one of the most impressive goal-to-game ratios in the competition’s history, and is still just 22 years old, the season hasn’t been a spectacular failure for Haaland by any means. The Norwegian did score three goals but the Black and Yellow finished third in their group and didn’t make the round of 16. It will be interesting to see how Haaland performs next year under Pep Guardiola.  

João Félix 

Another season has gone by where João Félix has failed to live up to expectations. The Portuguese international, who was signed for over £100 million by Atlético Madrid from Benfica, is in his fourth full campaign in Spain now, and while there are times he looks like a perfect false nine to play in Diego Simeone’s system, there are also times he is a victim of it. The 22-year-old clearly has the creative spark to score goals, and the industry to maintain El Cholo’s exemplary standards, but for some reason things aren’t clicking for Félix consistently enough. 

Félix did manage a goal in the round of 16 against Manchester United, but was a bystander in the quarters against their neighbours Manchester City, struggling to deal with the La Liga champions’ lack of possession and dark arts. On another night the Spaniards could just have easily progressed, but they’ll have to wait until next season to try and get their hands on the big-eared trophy. 

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