Five things we learned in European football this weekend
Bayern Munich clinched a seventh successive Bundesliga title, Benfica completed a remarkable run to reclaim the Portuguese crown, while Gareth Bale was denied a farewell appearance for Real Madrid.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five main talking points from the weekend in European football:
Six seasons after arriving to fanfare and a blockbuster transfer fee, Gareth Bale was left on the bench for what is likely to prove his final game for Real Madrid with coach Zinedine Zidane wanting rid of the Welsh winger.
Bale watched on as three substitutes came on ahead of him in the 2-0 home loss to Betis, denied a farewell appearance by Zidane ahead of an expected departure this summer.
They finish a full 19 points behind bitter rivals Barcelona and delivered a suitably miserable end to a poor season, with Zidane admitting afterwards “the best thing for us is that it’s over”.
Zidane insists the 29-year-old forward does not fit in his team, and while he would be welcome at a host of top clubs, his superstar salary may prove an obstacle for all but the richest.
Kovac on the brink after struggle
Bayern Munich staggered to a seventh straight Bundesliga title after a season-long struggle with Dortmund ended Sunday with a 5-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, and coach Niko Kovac is far from secure in his job.
Kovac, 47, has been plagued by rumours of dressing room disharmony and a lack of trust from the boardroom since taking the reins at the beginning of the season.
Reports in German media earlier in the week suggested that he would be sacked even if he were to win the league and cup double this season.
Tellingly, Bayern president Uli Hoeness, one of Kovac’s strongest advocates on the Bayern board, avoided confirming that the Croatian would stay next season.
“I have never been involved in this discussion,” he told Sky.
Ancelotti wants Napoli extension
Carlo Ancelotti dismissed talk of a move back to Juventus to replace Massimiliano Allegri, saying he wanted another two years at Napoli after thrashing Inter Milan 4-1 on Sunday.
Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo is reported to be backing Ancelotti to return, having won Real Madrid’s tenth Champions League title together in 2014. Ancelotti, who managed Juve for two years between 1999 and 2001, joined Napoli last summer on a contract until 2021.
“I’m tied to the club and I’d like to stay for another two years,” said the 59-year-old former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain boss. “I have a clause on May 30, and I hope Napoli will exercise it.”
Benfica youngsters make mark
Benfica sealed the Portuguese league title on Saturday after appointing coach Bruno Lage in January and embarking on a winning charge led by a string of players from their academy.
In a season where fans marvelled at Ajax’s youthful crop, Benfica’s youth system produced a fine vintage too with the 19-year-old attacking midfielder Joao Felix the most eye-catching and touted as a replacement for Antoine Griezmann at Atletico Madrid.
The 22-year-old centre-back Ruben Dias, 19-year-old midfielder Florentino Luis and slightly-built 20-year-old winger Jota also played their parts in a surge that brought 72 goals in 19 games.
“Until January, the team was not doing very well, but we have made up a lot of points. It’s unbelievable!” said Joao Felix, after raising the trophy with his teammates, before 60,000 euphoric fans at their magnificent Stadium of Light.
Mbappe sparks doubts over future
France’s World Cup winning line-up was full of stars, but the most glittering among them was teenaged striker Kylian Mbappe, who dropped a bombshell Sunday by suggesting he may look to leave Paris Saint-Germain.
After a season when he scored 38 times for PSG, Mbappe fuelled speculation surrounding his future on Sunday, saying that he wants “responsibilities, maybe at PSG, maybe elsewhere”.
Named Ligue 1 player of the season on Sunday, he refused to deny a potential move away from France could be in the offing.
“It (the award) is an important moment for me, a turning point in my career… The moment of having more responsibilities, maybe at PSG, maybe elsewhere,” he told BeIN Sports.