The Champions League final means the conclusion of the 2022/23 season. Not just in England, but all across Europe, it has been a mental year.
Instead of a bog-standard European team of the season featuring Erling Haaland and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, we give you our TOTS consisting of players who failed to qualify for the Champions League with their respective clubs. Many of these players could be on the move in the summer…
GK: Alisson (Liverpool)
Even though Liverpool were rubbish for the vast majority of the season, Alisson was arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League in 2022/23, further cementing himself as one of the finest players in the world in his position.
The Brazilian had 14 clean sheets in 37 league appearances as the Reds finished fifth, narrowly missing out on a top-four finish behind Newcastle and Manchester United.
It is going to be a big summer transfer window at Anfield, but one thing is for certain: Jurgen Klopp will be sticking with Alisson while he renovates his entire midfield.
Right-back: Jeremie Frimpong (Bayer Leverkusen)
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is reportedly very keen to bring Jeremie Frimpong to Old Trafford with Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka both not deemed quite good enough to be his long-term first-choice right-back.
Frimpong has been very impressive for Bayer Leverkusen since joining from Scottish champions Celtic in 2021, displaying all the skills a perfect modern-day wing-back should possess. The 21-year-old recorded an outstanding 15 goal contributions in the Bundesliga last term, scoring eight and assisting seven on his way to making the German top flight’s official team of the season.
The Dutch international is an incredible ball carrier and possesses a fantastic ability to take players on but is not the best defensively, which is why he is better suited to a wing-back role than as an out-and-out full-back, where he might possibly get found out in England.
Centre-back: Gleison Bremer (Juventus)
It has been a difficult campaign for Serie A giants Juventus, who were hit with a 15-point deduction in January, before seeing it rescinded and then changed to 10 points at the end of May. The penalty means the Old Lady will not be in Europe’s premier competition next season. If Max Allegri’s side had not been docked points, they would have finished in the Champions League places instead of AC Milan. That has got to sting.
One of the few positives of Juventus’ season was Brazilian centre-back Bremer, who was signed from city rivals Torino for €41million before 22/23 got underway and has been excellent in black and white.
It was actually quite tough to choose between Bremer and Roma’s Chris Smalling, but the former just edged it having quickly adapted to his new team.
Reports suggest Bremer is untouchable at Juventus, so a summer transfer is pretty unlikely, but if the Italian club decide they want to cash in, he would be a superb signing for anyone.
Centre-back: Konstantinos Mavropanos (Stuttgart)
It might be a little bizarre to include a player from a team that finished in the bottom three yet here we are, with Konstantinos Mavropanos partnering Bremer in our back four.
The former Arsenal youngster has been a rock at the back for Stuttgart since he first joined them on loan from the Gunners in July 2020. It is clear he deserves a lot better than an annual relegation battle. Mavropanos is everything a central defender should be: he is strong, quick and great with the ball, which is necessary for a top defender these days.
It was another outstanding season for the Greek international – from an individual standpoint at least – and a bigger and better club has to come in for him in the summer.
Left-back: Jose Gaya (Valencia)
One of the most loyal players in world football, Jose Gaya has stuck by Valencia through thick and thin and was there this season to help them avoid relegation from La Liga. The Spanish left-back will probably retire at Valencia, even if their financial struggles see them fall down a division or two.
Gaya played 31 times in La Liga last term, notching four assists as his side finished 16th, which is also where Stuttgart finished in the German top flight.
Midfield: Moises Caicedo (Brighton)
Brighton had an amazing 22/23 and will be playing in Europe for the very first time next season. A lot of their success comes down to Moises Caicedo, who has been nothing short of outstanding and is deservedly rated at over £70million by his club.
Arsenal and Chelsea are vying for Caicedo’s signature and whoever lands him is getting an absolute gem. The Ecuadorian international would be the perfect replacement for Thomas Partey and, should he join the Gunners along with Declan Rice, that would be an outrageous midfield.
Midfield: Gabri Veiga (Celta Vigo)
Like with Caicedo, there is a vast amount of interest in signing Celta Vigo youngster Gabri Veiga, who is coming off the back of a superb La Liga campaign, scoring 11 goals and providing four assists.
At the age of 21, Veiga is one of the most promising players in Europe and his €40m release clause looks like it will be an absolute bargain. Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal have all been linked with the Spaniard, but it is anyone’s guess where he will end up.
Midfield: Pedro Goncalves (Sporting)
Sporting will be back in the Europa League next season following their fourth-place finish in Liga Portugal. Pedro Goncalves did everything he could to get them into the Champions League, from scoring 50-yard screamers at the Emirates in the Europa League to scoring 15 goals and providing 12 assists in 33 league appearances. It was not to be, though.
Goncalves has an €80m release clause, which might be a bit tempting given his Bruno Fernandes-like numbers at the Manchester United man’s old club.
The Portuguese playmaker did play for Wolves once upon a time, but that ended up being a colossal waste of time.
Forward: Randal Kolo Muani (Frankfurt)
Randal Kolo Muani was signed for nothing from Nantes last summer but could be off to Bayern Munich or Manchester United for £100m in the 2023 summer transfer window. You’ve got to feel a bit sick if you are on the French club’s board, haven’t you?
Kolo Muani enjoyed a stunning debut season in Germany, providing 40 goal contributions across all competitions, with 29 of those coming in 32 appearances in the Bundesliga. £100m, though? If only he’d scored that chance in the 121st minute in the World Cup final…
Forward: Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Harry Kane might have the most uncertain future out of everyone in this XI. His Tottenham contract expires next summer and the London club have failed to win a single piece of silverware during his reign as captain and supreme goalscorer. Will he leave this summer for a fee or wait a year and waltz away on a free transfer?
Kane had an incredible individual season in what was a woeful campaign for Spurs. He scored 30 goals in 38 Premier League appearances and the fact he will not be in the Champions League next season is a crime against the beautiful game. Real Madrid have got to sign him.
MAILBOX: Does Harry Kane want to be the new Zlatan or Matt Le Tissier?
Forward: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Where was this player at Arsenal, then? After a disappointing end to his career at the Emirates, Alex Lacazette proved he is not finished by scoring 27 goals in Ligue 1 in 22/23. Farmers.
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