For the first time in 16 years, the quarter-finals of the Champions League – Europe’s Premier football competition – won’t feature Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo after both Barcelona and Juventus were knocked out of the competition in the Last-16 stage.
The 2020-21 edition is the first time the two football greats have gone out before the quarter-finals since 2004-05. It comes on the back of the pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 edition where neither Messi nor Ronaldo reached the semi-finals.
Juventus crashed out of the last 16 for the second year running on Tuesday, losing to 10-man Porto on away goals despite winning the second leg 3-2 in Turin. Barcelona went down to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday after a 1-1 draw in the second leg took last year’s runners up to the quarter-finals 5-2.
Incidentally, Juventus and Barcelona were drawn in the same group and it was a 3-0 home defeat inflicted by the Italian side that saw the Spanish giants finish second in the group and draw the tough French opponents.
But while one era is ending, football fans seem to see a new one dawning as Kylian Mbappe and Erling Braut Haaland played a starring role to their teams to the quarter-final.
In a symbolic performance, French world champion Mbappe had scored a whirlwind hat-trick at Camp Nou in the first leg and netted a penalty in the second to seal Barcelona’s earliest exit in 13 years.
Meanwhile, rising star Haaland scored twice as Borussia Dortmund held off a late Sevilla fightback to reach the Champions League quarter-finals with a ‘crazy, amazing’ 5-4 aggregate win.
The rise of Mbappe and Haaland offers a counterpoint to the early exits of Messi and Ronaldo in stark contrast. Here’s a look at some of the reactions on Twitter:
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