Ron­aldo’s Ju­ven­tus drawn with Man United in Cham­pi­ons League Mo­dric wins best player in Europe vote

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo is go­ing back to Manch­ester United and Paul Pogba will re­turn to Ju­ven­tus af­ter the sto­ried teams were drawn to­gether at the Cham­pi­ons League group stage on Thursday.

Af­ter win­ning four ti­tles at Real Madrid, and one with United, Ron­aldo aims to end Ju­ven­tus' 23year wait for a third Euro­pean ti­tle.

Pogba played for Ju­ven­tus in its 2015 fi­nal loss against Barcelona and won four straight Ital­ian ti­tles be­fore mov­ing back to Manch­ester — where he was first re­cruited as a teenager — for a then-world record fee in 2016.

Va­len­cia and out­sider Young Boys, Swiss cham­pion for the first time in 32 years, are also in Group H with United and Ju­ven­tus.

"We can­not hide the fact that we are among the fa­vorites this year," Ju­ven­tus CEO Giuseppe Marotta said.

Three-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Real Madrid will start its quest for a record-ex­tend­ing 14th Euro­pean ti­tle in Group G with Roma, CSKA Moscow and Vik­to­ria Plzen.

Barcelona heads a tough-look­ing Group B with Tot­ten­ham, plus for­mer cham­pi­ons PSV Eind­hoven and In­ter Mi­lan.

Three more for­mer Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Bay­ern Mu­nich, Ben­fica, Ajax are to­gether with un­der­dog AEK Athens in Group E.

Liver­pool, the run­ner-up last sea­son, was the tough­est third-seeded team and landed with Paris Sain­tGer­main, Napoli, and Red Star Bel­grade in Group C.

"I ex­pected a dif­fi­cult group, we have a dif­fi­cult group and that's what the Cham­pi­ons League is all about," Liver­pool coach Juer­gen Klopp said.

English cham­pion Manch­ester City got a fa­vor­able draw in Group F with Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon and Hof­fen­heim.

Atletico Madrid, whose Metropoli­tano sta­dium hosts the fi­nal on June 1, is grouped with Borus­sia Dort­mund, Monaco and Club Brugge in Group A.

Loko­mo­tiv Moscow, seeded in the top pot as Rus­sia's cham­pion, will play Porto, Schalke and Galatasaray in Group D.

The 32 teams will share 1.95 bil­lion eu­ros ($2.28 bil­lion) in prize money from UEFA with the win­ner likely to top 100 mil­lion eu­ros ($117 mil­lion) for the first time..

Games kick off on Sept. 18, and two teams from each group ad­vance to the Round of 16 in Fe­bru­ary.

There were 13 for­mer cham­pi­ons in a draw that in­cluded three teams — Hof­fen­heim, Red Star and Young Boys — mak­ing their group-stage de­buts in the 27-sea­son Cham­pi­ons League era. Red Star won the old Euro­pean Cup in 1991, one year be­fore the for­mat changed.

Teams from the same coun­try could not be drawn to­gether Thursday, and teams from Ukraine and Rus­sia were also kept apart due to on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal ten­sions.

This sea­son kicks off a new three­year cy­cle of broadcasting and spon­sor deals that have raised prize money to record lev­els. All 32 teams get a ba­sic 15.25 mil­lion eu­ros ($17.8 mil­lion) just for be­ing in the draw.

UEFA will also al­lo­cate 30 per­cent of the to­tal to re­ward teams for their sto­ried his­tory in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions and re­sults over the past 10 years.

Real Madrid is guar­an­teed to earn at least 50 mil­lion eu­ros ($59 mil­lion), plus a share of Span­ish TV rights money and re­sults bonuses.

UEFA pays 2.7 mil­lion eu­ros ($3.2 mil­lion) per group-stage win and 900,000 eu­ros ($1.05 mil­lion) for a draw. More fees are earned for reach­ing each sub­se­quent round.

Mo­dric wins best player in Europe vote; Beck­ham hon­ored

Croa­tia cap­tain Luka Mo­dric has been voted the best player in Europe last sea­son, edg­ing for­mer Real Madrid team­mate Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Liver­pool for­ward Mo­hamed Salah for the UEFA award.

Mo­dric helped Madrid to win a third straight Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle, and fourth in five sea­sons, be­fore lead­ing his coun­try to the World Cup fi­nal. Croa­tia lost 4-2 against France.

Vot­ing was by Cham­pi­ons League coaches and in­vited journalists across Europe.

"It's an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment for me and I feel ex­cited and proud to have won this great award," Mo­dric said.

Ron­aldo, who joined Ju­ven­tus in the off­sea­son, was the only nom­i­nee to skip the an­nual awards cer­e­mony held dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons League draw in Monaco.

"Ron­aldo's de­ci­sion not to at­tend tonight's event must be re­spected. It is a per­sonal and pri­vate de­ci­sion," Ju­ven­tus CEO Giuseppe Marotta said.

Madrid swept the over­all elec­tion for best player in last sea­son's Cham­pi­ons League af­ter goal­keeper Key­lor Navas, de­fender Ser­gio Ramos, mid­fielder Mo­dric and for­ward Ron­aldo won the in­di­vid­ual po­si­tional prizes.

Re­turn­ing with his tro­phy to his seat be­hind Salah, Ramos tapped the left shoul­der of the Egyp­tian. Salah left the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in tears af­ter the same shoul­der was in­jured in a tackle by Ramos.

The best women's player award was won by Pernille Harder of Den­mark and Wolfs­burg.

David Beck­ham re­ceived the an­nual Pres­i­dent's Award for his achieve­ments on and off the field, in­clud­ing his char­ity foun­da­tion work­ing with the United Na­tions agency for chil­dren, UNICEF.

The for­mer Manch­ester United and Real Madrid star "uses the power of foot­ball to help the dis­ad­van­taged," UEFA Pres­i­dent Alek­sander Ce­ferin said.

"It is one of my proud­est things to be in­volved in an or­ga­ni­za­tion that does so much to help chil­dren around the world," Beck­ham said on stage.

UEFA

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