New contenders for the Champions League title means some of the old guard has made way, and here are the most disappointing "favored" sides who didn't wind up coming close to winning it all this season.
The Champions League is down its semifinalists, and there are some surprise contenders for Europe's top prize.
Real Madrid's grip on the trophy has come to an end, a round-of-16 exit at the hands of Ajax sealing its fate and ending its three-year reign. Ajax continued its run to the semifinals, reaching its first final four since 1997. Its opponent there, Tottenham, hadn't reached the semifinal of a European cup cmompetition since 1962, stunning Man City in dramatic fashion to progress.
New contenders must mean that some of the old guard has made way, and it's true that there are a slew of disappointed also-rans who didn't wind up coming close to lifting the trophy they so desperately crave on an annual basis. Here's a ranking of the most disappointing sides from this season's competition.
8. Atletico Madrid
After bloodying the nose of one of the tournament's favorites in the first leg of their last-16 tie, securing a 2-0 victory over Juventus, Atletico built on an impressive group campaign, and made an statement about their intentions in European football this season.
And then Cristiano Ronaldo showed up in the second leg and sent them home, tails between the legs.
The submissive manner in which Atletico crashed out after an exciting start means it edges onto the periphery of this list.
7. Borussia Dortmund
It's difficult to be too harsh on Dortmund, considering it stormed through its group with four wins and a single defeat–especially since Tottenham, which knocked BVB out in the round of 16, just made the semifinals.
In truth, however, more was expectedfrom the side that was in control of the Bundesliga, before letting that slip away too. It looked as if Spurs had drawn a very difficult tie at first, but they made short work of the esteemed Germans over two legs.
A 3-0 win at Wembley in the first leg preceded a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Harry Kane strike at the Westfalenstadion, and now Dortmund's main charge is ensuring the disappointment doesn't extend into its domestic league as well.
Few expected Napoli to go the distance in the Champions League this season, especially after landing in a group of death with Liverpool and Paris Saint-German, but given how impressive it had been domestically under Carlo Ancelotti, you can't help but be slightly underwhelmed by its showing.
Many will point to a narrow defeat at Anfield - which in itself wasn't a horrific result considering Liverpool's home form of late - as the reason behind the club's UCL demise, but all in, Napoli only managed to win two of its six matches (one of which was at home to Red Star Belgrade) and bowed out in third in the group.
Yes, Arkadiusz Milik could have sent Napoli through at the death against the Reds, but he was bested by Alisson Becker and his clutch save.
5. Bayern Munich
It's worth noting that Bayern, by all means, actually had a pretty good Champions League campaign before coming up against Liverpool in the round of 16. It went undefeated in the group stage, and after a 0-0 draw at Anfield came amid the beginning of its domestic revival, the suggestion was that there could be life yet in Niko Kovac's side.
It wasn't to be, however. Coming up against old foe Jurgen Klopp and his formidable Liverpool side, Bayern fell some way short in Bavaria, losing 3-1, and it became abundantly clear that some regeneration is needed if the club is to return to European glory.
To that end, it's already started. Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez have already signed and are expected to be the first of many new arrivals over the coming months.
4. Real Madrid
It speaks volumes about how poor a season it has been all around for Real Madrid that the winners of the last three Champions Leagues crashed out in the last 16, and still hasn't been anywhere near the biggest disappointment.
By its own high standards, defeat to Ajax was catastrophic. Sure, it was surprising, but it had been coming, given how far Real had fallen since Zinedine Zidane's sudden departure following last season's title success.
Real Madrid was very disappointing but deserved no better than it got.
3. Manchester City
Even with Spurs winning 1-0 from the first leg, few expected City to go out. Not with 90 minutes still to play at the Etihad. And when Raheem Sterling struck four minutes into the second leg, it seemed like order would be restored, and Pep Guardiola's team would bulldoze its way through.
The tide would go on to change a further three times before Spurs eventually lost 4-3 yet advanced on away goals, but for City, the end result was the same; disappointment in Europe at the hands of an English side.
It was an especially tough one to take for Guardiola's side, because it was supposed to be the year in which it pressed on and realized its European ambitions after two record-breaking domestic seasons, but it wasn't to be, and it fell short on the big stage again.
2. Paris Saint-Germain
The peculiar case of PSG consistently failing in the Champions League despite spending more money than anyone else rolls onto yet another season.
PSG seems to be terrified of progress beyond the round of 16. Two years ago, it chucked a four-goal lead against Barcelona, last year it was bested by Real Madrid and this time around it lost 3-1 at home to an undermanned Manchester United side after a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford to once again bow out at the first knockout stage. Neymar's injury and the impact of VAR can be used as excuses, but that's not nearly enough to explain away how this side bottled it again.
PSG tends to become embarrassingly poor at the first sign of pressure, and its predictable track record is the only reason it's not ranking first.
Juventus spent north of $100 million to land Ronaldo in the summer and couldn't even make the semifinals.
No disrespect to Atletico Madrid or Ajax - they're both tidy sides capable of beating anyone on their day - but a team with Juve's aspirations, pedigree and personnel should be able to negotiate that run to the last four.
It was bailed out by Ronaldo in the last 16, as he scored a hat trick in the second leg to overcome a 2-0 deficit, and despite him netting a further two against Ajax over both legs, Juventus finds itself out of the competition in the quarterfinals for a second straight season.