Champions League draw blunder means Real Madrid or PSG will miss out on millions
Everyone makes mistakes.
But they are not usually as high profile as this. And they rarely have such wide-reaching implications.
During the draw for the first knockout round of the Champions League on Monday, there was a mistake. It turned out to be a big one.
Manchester United was drawn to play Villarreal but that shouldn’t have happened. The pair played each other in the group stage so were not permitted to meet in the last-16. As a replacement, Manchester City was drawn, but then United’s ball was not returned to the draw.
Atletico Madrid was then drawn and a possible opponent should have been United. Instead, Atletico was drawn against Bayern Munich.
Several clubs, including Atletico, were quick to register their frustration with the process. Acknowledging mistakes had been made, UEFA agreed to declare the draw null and void and redraw teams again.
“Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16,” UEFA said in a statement.
There seemed to be agreement that repeating the draw was the logical thing to do. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City manager, said: “I think it is fair. It was a mistake but sometimes these things can happen. If there was a mistake you have to repeat so it is not suspicious.”
Yet it is inevitable the luck some had during the first draw would disappear for the second version. Two teams likely to be especially annoyed are Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid after they were paired together in the redraw.
In the first draw, PSG was drawn against Manchester United. Not an easy tie by any means, but probably more inviting than taking on the runaway leaders in Spain.
Real Madrid, which already has a grudge with UEFA for its desire to form a European Super League, was drawn against Benfica, currently third in Portugal’s Primera Liga.
Now, PSG and Real Madrid will meet in what is the standout tie of the round. It will see Barcelona legend Lionel Messi taking on his former club’s arch-rival and Kylian Mbappé, a target for Madrid, trying to knock out what may be his future employer.
It also means one of those clubs will miss out on the $12 million awarded to teams that reach the quarter-final. As well as the cash and prestige of reaching the latter stages of soccer’s most prestigious – and lucrative – club competition. Real Madrid has won the competition more than any other club. PSG is desperate to claim its first title.
Liverpool will also feel unfortunate to be redrawn with Italian champions Inter, having been selected with RB Salzburg in the void draw. Still, Jurgen Klopp’s side will be favorite to advance.
Two teams that look like winners from the redraw are Atletico and Manchester United. They will face each other, which is an intriguing tie and on paper looks evenly matched. Previously, United had drawn PSG (meaning a meeting of Ronaldo and Messi) and Atletico had Bayern Munich.
UEFA takes these draws seriously. There is pomp and ceremony and a lot of build up. So this sort of mistake really shouldn’t be happening.
It has, though. And, for at least one of Europe’s biggest clubs, the consequences will be severe.
The Champions League last-16 draw:
Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich
Sporting vs. Man City
Benfica vs. Ajax
Chelsea vs. Lille
Atlético vs. Man United
Villarreal vs. Juventus
Inter vs. Liverpool
PSG vs. Real Madrid