Champions League Elite 8 action finds American Teenage sensation Christian Pulisic in unusual waters as a possible starter for a team in Quarter Final action of the world’s biggest club competition. Huge games on the docket as all the games listed below are world class now.
GAMES ON TV
Tues Apr 11 –Champions League
2:45 pm FoxSport1 Juventus vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FoxSport2 Dortmund vs Monaco
Weds –Apr 12 Champions League
2:45 pm FoxSport2 Atletico vs Leicester City
2:45 pm FoxSport1 Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid
Thur, Apr 13 – Europa League
3 pm Fox Sport1 Anderlect vs Man United
3 pm FS2 Ajax vs Schalke 04
Tues –Apr 18 Champions League
2:45 pm FoxSport2 Leicester City vs Atletico
2:45 pm FoxSport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich
Weds Apr 19 –Champions League
2:45 pm FoxSport1 Barcelona vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FoxSport2 Monaco vs Dortmund
Thur, Apr 20 – Europa League
3 pm Fox Sport1 Man United vs Anderlect
3 pm FS2 Schalke 04 vs Ajax
Champions League Quarterfinal Predicitions – ESPNFC
US Pulisic Represents Future of Attacking play in Champions League ESPNFC
Dortmunds Aubameyang anxious to settle score with Monaco
Pregame notes Real Madrid vs Barcelona
Why Barca and Real Madrid are in Trouble when Messi and Renaldo start fading – ESPNFC
Foxes plot Atleti shock, Barca vs. Juve, Monaco vs. BVB, Bayern vs. Madrid
We have reached the business end of the Champions League and there’s a tasty-looking quarterfinals in store.Barcelona, fresh from their incredible, miracle comeback against Paris Saint-Germain, face Juventus in their first leg, while attack is likely to be the order of the day in Monaco vs. Borussia Dortmund.And then there’s Leicester — yes, Leicester! — in the last eight and facing a trip to last year’s finalists Atletico Madrid. The Foxes saw off Sevilla in the round of 16 — can they upset the odds again here?Completing the ties, European royalty face off as 11-time winners Real Madrid are up against five-time winners Bayern Munich.How will the first legs go? ESPN FC’s club bloggers and correspondents have their say and you can too by voting in the match polls.
Juventus vs. Barcelona
JUVENTUS: They had hoped for an easier draw or at least for the second leg to be at home, but if Juventus want to overcome Barcelona and prove they are back to being world beaters they must play the game of their lives at home in the first leg. Gonzalo Higuain seems to be back to his lethal best, scoring with ease once again while the balance within Juve’s game has ensured consistent victories. The only problem is that the side are still psychologically weak in Europe and tend to overly respect great opponents. With a little arrogance and organised tactics, Juve are likely to win the first leg.
Prediction: Juventus 2-1 Barcelona — Mina Rzouki
BARCELONA: Barcelona have looked back to somewhere near their best since switching to a back three. However, as Malaga proved, it does come with risks in defence and Juventus should have the quality to take advantage of that. It will be important for Barca to score an away goal — or goals — and they have to ensure they’re still in the tie going back to Camp Nou. They cannot afford another night like they had in Paris because Juve will not capitulate like Paris Saint-Germain did if they’re given a decent head start going into the second leg.
Prediction: Juventus 2-1 Barcelona —
Borussia Dortmund vs. Monaco
BORUSSIA DORTMUND: Dortmund were very content with the draw. Although they aren’t great favourites, they are at least not the underdog as they would have been against most other teams left in the mix. Dortmund have to rely on their strong form at the Westfalenstadion, where they are unbeaten for two years in the Bundesliga and Champions League. However, it is hard to predict what Dortmund’s injury list will look like going into the match. They could be running on fumes going into this first leg. With both teams strong up front and suspect at the back, this could be a goal-laden game.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Monaco — Stefan Buczko
MONACO: When Monaco looked at their list of potential quarterfinal opponents, Dortmund were no doubt in the “we can beat them” category, particularly with the Ligue 1 side’s confidence bolstered by their disposal of Manchester City. Though far from impressive in recent domestic outings, the French league leaders have been sizzling in European competition, and the painful experience of a narrow quarterfinal exit to Juventus two years ago will serve them well this time. With their attack at least equal to Dortmund’s and their defence superior, Leonardo Jardim’s men should get a result that leaves them in a good stead for the second leg.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Monaco — Ian Holyman
Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester
ATLETICO MADRID: For once Lady Luck has been kind to Los Rojiblancos in the Champions League draw — and this should be a tie they negotiate with relative ease compared to previous years. It will be a battle of the counterattacks with neither side particularly keen to dominate possession, however Diego Simeone’s side possess superior weapons to the English champions in that sense. Their experience at this level, desire to lift the one trophy that has alluded them under the Argentine coach and streetwise cunning means there is only one winner.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Leicester — Joe Walker
LEICESTER: This is Leicester’s biggest game in their history. The Foxes will be desperate to get an away goal and keep the scoreline tight and if they do so, a giant killing at the King Power in the second leg is more than possible. Captain Wes Morgan could be sidelined through injury and Riyad Mahrez has looked tired of late, so there are selection concerns at both ends of the field. The key to staying in the tie will probably lie in the hands of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. If Leicester can prevent Antoine Griezmann from running riot, then steal a goal on the counterattack, there is no reason why the Champions League fairytale can’t continue.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2-1 Leicester — Ben Jacobs
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
BAYERN MUNICH: Bayern, whisper it quietly, will be confident even against the holders. Clinical top scorer Robert Lewandowski has a superb scoring record against Real from his time at Borussia Dortmund, and aided by the cunning and guile of ex-Barca midfielder Thiago Alcantara, the in-form duo are perfectly capable of firing the five-time winners into the last four. Add the world’s best keeper, Manuel Neuer “100 percent certain” to return from a toe injury, Bayern look good for a 17th successive home Champions League win (a competition record) to put them into pole position for a semifinal spot.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3-1 Real Madrid — Mark Lovell
REAL MADRID: There will be mixed feelings for Real Madrid’s players and coach Zinedine Zidane as they take on Bayern on Wednesday for a reunion with former coach Carlo Ancelotti — a man who knows the strengths and weaknesses of their “BBC” strikeforce more than anyone. Although man-for-man Madrid just about have a quality advantage over Ancelotti’s side, Zidane’s team are likely to try and play cautiously and hope to decide the tie back at the Bernabeu in the second leg. They would be more than happy to get out of Munich with a draw and an away goal — and they can do just that.
Prediction: Real Madrid 1-1 Bayern Munich — Dermot Corrigan
ESPN FC has all the best coverage ahead of the showdowns in Europe — starting with Simon Kuper’s belief that once Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leave Barcelona and Real Madrid, their dominance at home and abroad will be over. Rob Train reckons it’s make or break for Zinedine Zidane this month, while Nick Ames has a crack at who will go through to the semifinals.Who do you believe is going through? Vote in our polls and have your say in the comments. Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.
Kylian Mbappe and Christian Pulisic represent the future of attacking play in Monico vs Dortmund Clash
Tuesday’s meeting between Borussia Dortmund and Monaco isn’t the most hyped Champions League tie of the day; Juventus’ home match with Barcelona will inevitably attract more viewers.But this could be a sensational match; a clash between Thomas Tuchel’s exciting, high-tempo Dortmund side against Leonardo Jardim’s thrillingly fast, ultra-attacking Monaco. It also features the world’s most exciting 18-year-old footballers: Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe. Between them, they might come to define the next decade of football.In basic terms, they have little in common. One is an American playmaker establishing himself in the Bundesliga, the other a French forward shining in his home country. But there is a similarity. Usually, 18-year-olds are notable for one or two things — their pace and dribbling ability, for example — but these two are curiously complete players, perfect for the this era of universality in which footballers are no longer expected to be specialists in one role, but instead capable of providing numerous different qualities.Right now, Mbappe is the greater star. Describing a youngster as being “the new X” always feels a cheap, simplistic way of explaining his qualities to the world, but it’s difficult to watch Mbappe without thinking of another Frenchman. Indeed, when even Arsene Wenger suggests he “could be another Thierry Henry,” it’s probably time to stop resisting the comparisons. Mbappe, like Henry, has risen through the ranks at Monaco, and he stole two records from the Arsenal legend: He became Monaco’s youngest-ever player, and then, sure enough, Monaco’s youngest-ever scorer, too.He also, incidentally, became the youngest full France international for more than 60 years, and Mbappe’s development in the past few months has been extraordinary. He made just two league starts last season, played only 25 minutes in the Champions League group stage this season, and made consecutive league starts for the first time in February. Jardim has intelligently been trying to manage his playing time at this young stage of his career, but Mbappe has become impossible to ignore and has developed into the most promising young attacker in the world.He’s so highly rated precisely because he seems an incredibly mature, all-round attacker. Whereas many promising youngsters of his age are talented but flashy and liable to overplaying in the final third, Mbappe is brilliantly efficient and tucks away chances with nonchalance. In the first half of the season, he was primarily a provider, racking up three goals and five assists until Christmas. Since then, however, he’s increasingly become the main man. He hasn’t recorded another assist since then but has smashed in 11 goals in his past 11 games.Like Henry, Mbappe is right-footed but prefers playing from the left, cutting inside and finishing coolly. When running at full speed, he sometimes appears leggy and lacks the natural grace and balance of Henry, but he’s trickier in tight situations, capable of throwing feints and stepovers before playing neat, clever passes into onrushing teammates.Mbappe’s major shortcoming is his lack of defensive work; as he’s acknowledged, this is an area he must improve. But then, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard have become top-class players despite their lack of defensive work and have simply convinced managers that their attacking efficiency justifies freeing them from defensive duties. Mbappe might well do the same.
The Frenchman will attract plenty of transfer interest this summer, but that speculation can wait. For now, he’s the most exciting player in arguably Europe’s most exciting side, and with Monaco into the Champions League quarterfinals, there’s no reason they can’t surprise the usual contenders and triumph. First, of course, they’ll have to get past Dortmund — and Pulisic.A talented young American at one of Europe’s most exciting clubs was always likely to be hyped like crazy, but the more you watch Pulisic, the more he appears to have all the attributes required to succeed at the highest level. He seems the real deal, and while he isn’t quite winning games as regularly as Mbappe, it feels like Pulisic’s potential is greater, his ceiling higher. Playmakers tend to peak considerably later than speedy attackers, and Pulisic will get better and better for a number of years.The American offers the perfect blend of counter-attacking directness and more wily creative play in tight positions. Naturally, he feels like a No. 10, but having generally been deployed out wide for Dortmund this season, he’s learning his trade in a different role, developing his all-round game. Besides, for now that might be the best use of his skill set, without putting too much pressure on him to be his side’s primary creative outlet.In a Dortmund side all about quick passing combinations and clever movement, it’s notable how quickly Pulisic uses the ball in tight situations, but more than anything, Pulisic is thrillingly direct. You wouldn’t describe him as a showboater in possession, and he tends to use skills to slalom past opponents quickly and put himself into good positions to play immediate passes. His decision-making is extremely good for an 18-year-old, even if there’s inevitably room for improvement.What’s most distinctive about Pulisic’s game is his short stride length, and when combined with his ability to play the ball with either foot, this leaves his opponents guessing about precisely when he’s going to play the ball, whether a pass or a shot. He can release it at any moment, and compared to players who have longer, less rapid strides and strongly prefer one foot, it means Pulisic is a gloriously unpredictable player.Like Mbappe, Pulisic needs to become better in a tactical sense when the opposition have the ball. Although his work rate can’t be faulted, at times it’s arguable Pulisic does too much running back with his opponent rather than remaining in positions to launch quick counters. It was notable how Philipp Lahm pushed him back easily at the weekend with constant forward running, whereas in the past, Dortmund’s wide players have often caused Bayern problems by being slightly braver with their positioning.It remains to be seen whether either Mbappe or Pulisic will prove crucial in this week’s Champions League quarterfinal, but you sense this won’t be the final opportunity to triumph for either 18-year-old. Both quick, dynamic, versatile and technically gifted, it feels like these two represent the future of attacking play.Michael Cox is the editor of zonalmarking.net and a contributor to ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Zonal_Marking.
Dortmund and Monaco aim to get on front foot
Monday 27 March 2017
Having scored freely in the round of 16, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco will be keen to establish a first-leg advantage when they meet for the first time in the quarter-finals.
Having both produced blistering attacking displays in the round of 16, Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco FC will be looking to reproduce that form when they meet for the first time.
- Both teams have recent UEFA Champions League quarter-final experience, Dortmund appearing in the last eight in 2013/14 and Monaco last featuring the following season.
- Dortmund and Monaco are each aiming to reach a fourth UEFA Champions League semi-final. Dortmund’s last semi-final outing came in 2012/13, when they went on to finish as runners-up to FC Bayern München; Monaco have not been in the last four since losing to FC Porto in the 2004 final.
• This is Dortmund’s eighth European Cup quarter-final, and their third in five years. The German club’s last-eight record is W5 L2.
- On their most recent last-eight appearance three seasons ago, Dortmundwent down 3-0 in the first leg at Real Madrid CF, subsequently bowing out despitea 2-0 home victory in the return.
- Dortmund have won the last four home legs of their UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
- This is the fourth time in five seasons Dortmund have contested the quarter-finals of a European competition, havinglost to Liverpool FC 5-4 on aggregate in last season’s UEFA Europa League. Their sole last-eight success in those ties came against Málaga CF in 2012/13 (0-0 a,3-2 h).
- Since the beginning of last term Dortmund have lost just one of 12 home games (W9 D2) in UEFA competition. Thatsolitary defeat was against PAOK FC on matchday six of last season’s UEFA Europa League (0-1). This season they have a draw and three victories, winning their last three home matches.
- Dortmund’s record in two-legged ties against French clubs is W3 L1; that lone defeat came in the most recent fixture, against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup second round (2-6 aggregate).
- Dortmund’s record at home to French clubs reads W4 D3 L1. Their last encounter was a3-0 win against Olympique de Marseillein the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage, Marco Reus scoring the second goal, with the single loss inflicted in the previous fixture, at home to the same opponents in December 2011 (2-3).
- The German club have won only two of their last six games at home to French visitors; that 2013 Marseille success is their only victory in the last four.
• Monaco are in the European Cup quarter-finals for the fifth time overall. Their record to date: W2 L2.
- Monaco are making a second UEFA Champions League quarter-final appearance in three seasons. On their last outing in 2015 they beat English opposition on away goals in the round of 16, knocking out Arsenal FC (3-1 a,0-2 h); this year they repeated the trick at Manchester City FC’s expense (3-5 a,3-1 h).
- Monaco became the ninth team to successfully overcome a two-goal deficit after the first leg of a UEFA Champions League knockout tie and just the third club to achieve the feat twice, after FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC, having also done so against Real Madrid in the 2003/04 quarter-finals (2-4 a,3-1 h).
- The six goals Monaco conceded against City is the most ever shipped by a victorious side in a UEFA Champions League knockout phase tie. Three clubs had previously exited after scoring five.
- Two seasons ago the Ligue 1 club lost to Juventus at this stage,going down 1-0 in Turinbefore a 0-0 home draw.
- Monaco were beaten in Germany in this season’s group stage,going down 3-0 at Bayer 04 Leverkusen on matchday six havingdrawn 1-1 at home. Overall, Monaco’s record away to Bundesliga opponents is W3 D2 L2; the Leverkusen reverse ended a five-game unbeaten run on such trips.
- Monaco’s record in two-legged ties with German clubs is W3 L1, having won the last three. This is their first knockout tie against Bundesliga opposition since a 5-0 aggregate triumph against Hamburger SV in the 1996/97 UEFA Cup third round.
- The Ligue 1 team have won two of their six away games in this season’s competition, atVillarreal CF in the play-off first legand at Tottenham Hotspur FC in the group stage
, although they have lost the last two.
Coach and player links
• Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played for Monaco in 2010/11 on loan from AC Milan, scoring two goals in 19 Ligue 1 matches.
- Aubameyang also had loan spells at Dijon FCO (2008/09), LOSC Lille (2009/10) and AS Saint-Étienne (2011/11) before signing permanently for St-Étienne in 2011. He scored 37 goals in 87 league appearances for Les Verts, joining Dortmund in 2013.
- Aubameyang was on target in LOSC’s 4-0 Ligue 1 win at Monaco on 13 December 2009, and was in the St-Étienne side that drew 1-1 at home to the principality club on 1 May 2011.
- Ousmane Dembélé struck 12 goals in 26 Ligue 1 outings for Stade Rennais FC, leaving for Dortmund last summer. He played in a 1-1 home draw with Monaco on 24 April 2016.
- Raphaël Guerreiro started his career at SM Caen, making 38 Ligue 2 appearances in 2012/13 – including home (3-0) and away (1-0) wins against Monaco – before joining FC Lorient, playing 110 league games between 2013 and 2016. His record against Monaco with Lorient was W2 D1 L2.
- Benjamin Mendy was in the Marseille team beaten 3-0 away and2-1 at homeby Dortmund in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage.
- While at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Gonzalo Castro played in 1-0 defeats bothaway – João Moutinho scoring– and home against Monaco in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Radamel Falcao got Club Atlético de Madrid’s goal in a 2-1 Liga home defeat by Marc Bartra’s FC Barcelona in May 2013.
• International team-mates
Ousmane Dembélé & Kylian Mbappé, Thomas Lemar, Benjamin Mendy, Djibril Sidibé (France)
João Moutinho, Bernardo Silva & Raphaël Guerreiro (Portugal)
Łukasz Piszczek & Kamil Glik (Poland)
• Guerreiro and Moutinho helped Portugal win UEFA EURO 2016 in France.
• Guerreiro and Marcel Schmelzer are a booking away from a ban.
- Until Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Bayern München, Aubameyang had scored in seven successive appearances for Dortmund, 11 goals in total.
- Dortmund will play Bayern in the German Cup semi-finals on 26 April, having beaten third-tier VfL Sportfreunde Lotte 3-0 in their rearranged last-eight tie on 14 March.
- BVB announced on 30 March that Mahmoud Dahoud will join the club from VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer.
- Erik Durm (muscular) and André Schürrle (ankle) have missed Dortmund’s last three Bundesliga games. Schürrle sustained his injury during Germany’s 4-1 victory over Azerbaijan on 26 March, a European Qualifier in which he scored twice.
- Schmelzer (back) sat out the 3-0 win against Hamburger SV on 4 April but returned against Bayern, while Marco Reus (hamstring) has not played since 4 March.
- Sven Bender (ankle), an unused substitute in the last three Bundesliga fixtures is yet to play in 2017 but Sebastian Rode (groin) made his first appearance of the year at Bayern.
- Mario Götze, who has not featured since 29 January, will not play again this season. The midfielder is suffering from metabolic disturbances, a disorder that is contributing to his ongoing muscular problems.
- BVB announced on 6 April that Piszczek has extended his contract by one year until summer 2019. Gonzalo Casto (2020) signed a new contract in March.
• Falcao, Valère Germain, Sidibé and Fabinho are all a booking away from a ban. Tiémoué Bakayoko serves a one-match suspension.
- Monaco’s run of six successive wins in all competitions ended when they lost 4-1 to Paris Saint-Germain in the French League Cup final on 1 April.
- Leonardo Jardim’s men bounced back three days later by progressing to the last four of the French Cup, Germain scoring twice in a 2-1 home victory over LOSC Lille.
- Falcao (out since 11 March, hip) made his return against LOSC as a late substitute and scored the only goal on Saturday against Angers.
- Mbappé and Mendy made their senior France debuts on 25 March. Mendy and Sidibé started against Luxembourg in the European Qualfiers for the FIFA World Cup, setting up a goal apiece for Olivier Giroud in the 3-1 success, while Mbappé was introduced in the second half.
Aubameyang anxious to settle Monaco score
Monday 10 April 2017
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be hoping to remind Monaco what they missed out on, the Ligue 1 side having allowed the Dortmund forward to slip through their grasp during a loan spell in 2010/11.
When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lines up against Monaco on Tuesday, the Dortmund striker will be raring to show how far he has come since a frustrating loan spell with the Ligue 1 club in 2010/11.
- Link to background/preview
- All the live build-up to Dortmund v Monaco
This week’s UEFA Champions League showdown will stir up some unpleasant memories for the Gabonese international, who joined the Principality outfit while still an AC Milan player in summer 2010. Having already spent time on loan at Dijon and LOSC, Aubameyang travelled to the Stade Louis II eager to leave his mark.”I want to make an impression at an important club that’s developed plenty of young players,” he said, agreeing a year-long deal that gave Monaco the option to make the switch permanent. “I’d really like Monaco to take up that option, which didn’t happen when I was at Lille. I hope it happens this year.”Destiny decided otherwise, despite two goals in Aubameyang’s first four games. With Guy Lacombe at the helm, the then 21-year-old enjoyed the playing time he craved, but those early efforts would turn out to be his only strikes in a total of 23 matches, as he and the rest of his team-mates struggled.Indeed, Lacombe departed after a shock French Cup loss to minnows Chambéry in January 2011, and Aubameyang was gone soon after. Left out of Monaco’s next two matches by new coach Laurent Banide, the forward departed just six months into his stay – penning a loan deal with St-Étienne, where he would eventually forge his reputation. Monaco were relegated that season, while Aubameyang went on to register 37 goals in 87 Ligue 1 games over the next two and a half years with Les Verts, before rumours surfaced of a return to the Principality. “Monaco are the kind of club who’ll be doing something important in two or three years,” said Aubameyang’s father in June 2013. “That’s what I want for my son.”Ultimately he joined Dortmund, and although he has not looked back, breaking the 20-goal barrier once again this term, Monaco have certainly emerged as a surprise European force. Coach Leonardo Jardim and his youthful line-up are now targeting a spot in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, but first they must get past that rarest of things – an exciting young talent they let slip through their grasp.
Real Madrid and Barca will no longer dominate after Ronaldo, Messi fade
Imagine you had a billion dollars and you had to buy a player to replace Lionel Messi, or Cristiano Ronaldo. You couldn’t. There is simply nobody else as good, no matter how much you pay. That is the problem now worrying the people who run Barcelona and Real Madrid. This spring the two clubs sit on top of the world and look favorites to win the Champions League. But their long dominance could end in the next couple of years.There’s an endless silly argument about who is better, Messi or Ronaldo, when the key point is that they are probably the two best club players in history. True, we can never prove that they have more quality than Diego Maradona, Pele or Johan Cruyff. But we do know that their club stats are much better. Ronaldo and Messi reached their current level in about 2008. Since then, both have averaged more than a goal per league game, and between them have won six out of nine Champions Leagues (including Ronaldo’s victory with Manchester United in 2008).There’s a lot more to Messi and Ronaldo than their scoring records, but it’s the stat that most immediately demonstrates how special they are. “When it comes to scoring, these two aren’t just on top of the pile, they’re hang-gliding somewhere way above it,” FiveThirtyEight remarked in a 2014 article called “Lionel Messi is Impossible.” Compare them with the next-best forwards of our time: Luis Suarez averaged over a goal a game in just one of his seven seasons in top-class leagues. Zlatan Ibrahimovic managed it once in 13.But Messi, 29, and Ronaldo, 32, won’t last forever. With Ronaldo you can already see some decline. He no longer makes the rushes he used to, and this season, with 19 goals in 23 league games, is on track for his lowest goals total since 2009-2010. True, that’s partly because he’s had various injuries, but then frequent injuries tend to be signs of age.Madrid and Barcelona won’t merely lose two irreplaceable players. They will also soon lose an irreplaceable generation. From 2008 through 2012, Spain, for the first time in its history, had the best crop of players in the world. Most of them grew up at Barcelona or Madrid, or moved there young for relatively low transfer fees, and then won multiple Champions Leagues.But Carles Puyol and Xavi are gone, Xabi Alonso is retiring this summer, while Iker Casillas is spending his golden years at Porto. Sergio Ramos (31), Andres Iniesta (32), Gerard Pique (30) and Sergio Busquets (28) won’t be around much longer. The Spanish generation beneath them is less brilliant. Forget the impossibility of replacing Messi. Barca and Madrid will find it almost impossible and extremely expensive to replace Iniesta and Ramos.In 2020, these clubs will still have excellent players. But it’s hard to see Spain, a midsized and not very rich country, continuing to dominate the Champions League. Barca and Madrid are the best teams of our era, but that’s an historical anomaly, far from Spain’s normal performance since Real’s great run in the 1950s. From 1967 through 2008, Barca and Madrid won only five Champions Leagues between them. Those meagre times could soon return.Contrary to what many fans imagine, it’s not a club’s history or spirit or inspirational manager that wins trophies. (Ronaldo and Messi have won their six Champions Leagues with five different managers.) The secret to winning in soccer is, simply, money. Money buys or helps you keep the best players. Money has enabled Spain’s dominance. Real Madrid topped the consulting firm Deloitte’s “Money League” of the clubs with the highest revenues for 11 straight years through 2015. Barcelona was usually close behind. But now the Spaniards risk losing their financial lead.The world’s richest club in the 2015-16 season, according to Deloitte, was Manchester United. Scarily for the Spaniards, United generated revenues of €689 million despite exiting the lucrative Champions League after the group stage. Madrid won the competition that season, yet generated “only” €620.1 million, a fraction behind Barcelona.On the field, English teams are currently unremarkable. They are third-best in Europe, behind Spain and Germany, according to UEFA’s coefficient rankings. But they can expect to rise. The Premier League’s broadcasting revenues have kept soaring and are worth more than £8 billion over the next three years.True, Spanish TV revenues have soared, too. La Liga is negotiating its biggest ever deal for foreign rights. But in 2015 the Spaniards decided to share out the TV cash more equally among all clubs. No longer do Madrid and Barcelona bag the lion’s share. The Big Two’s TV income is therefore stagnating at about €140 million a year each, while English clubs are catching up.Crucially, the English domestic TV market dwarves Spain’s: there are about 16 to 17 million soccer TV subscribers in England, against 3 to 4 million in Spain, noted Barcelona’s vice-president Manel Arroyo last year. No wonder the Premier League’s total wage bill of about $3.6 billion is nearly as high as the Bundesliga’s, Spain’s top division and Italy’s Serie A combined.For now, Barca and Madrid lead global soccer in commercial deals. For instance, from 2018 Barcelona will get at least €155 million a season from its kit sponsor, Nike. But once Messi, Ronaldo and Spain’s golden generation fade, these clubs will be less appealing to sponsors.We’ll see the consequences on the field. Last summer Manchester United paid a world-record fee of $116 million for Paul Pogba. He will never be in the class of Messi or Ronaldo, but he might become the best in the world of his generation. This summer United look the favorite to sign his compatriot Antoine Griezmann, another contender to be the world’s best player in the future.Then there’s Bayern Munich, which has been closing the financial gap with the world’s three richest clubs. (It has also closed the intelligence gap and may now be the smartest big club both on the field and in terms of marketing its brand and expanding its reach globally, though unfortunately Deloitte doesn’t rank brains.) Bayern’s home country is larger and richer than Spain and has a more consistent record of producing top-class players.We’ve come to take Spanish dominance for granted. We shouldn’t. Remember that once upon a time Italian clubs, even Dutch clubs, dominated Europe. In the end, all empires decline. I’d bet on Bayern and Manchester United to win more Champions Leagues from 2020 to 2030 than Real and Barcelona.Simon Kuper is a contributor to ESPN FC and co-author, with Stefan Szymanski, of Soccernomics.