Champions begins new era without Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – 09/18/2023 – Sport

Champions begins new era without Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – 09/18/2023 – Sport

A new era will be written in the Champions League from this Tuesday (19), when the group stage of the 2023/24 season begins. The tournament is being held without Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time in 20 years.

The last time this stage was played without at least one of the two was in 2002/03, when Milan became champions with a victory over Juventus. Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored 12 goals for Manchester United, was the top scorer.

That year, a young Cristiano Ronaldo, 17 years old at the time, played for Sporting, the team that revealed him. The Portuguese team competed in the preliminary round, but fell to Inter Milan and did not reach the group stage.

The difficult start contrasts with the victorious story that the star managed to write in the tournament over the following two decades. In addition to having lifted the trophy five times —once with Manchester United and four with Real Madrid—, he is the top scorer in the history of the championship, with 141 goals.

The second on that list is precisely Messi, who scored 129 goals. The distance to his rival could be smaller, but he debuted in the Champions League later, in 2005, with Barcelona. It was also with the Catalan team that he won the four trophies he lifted in the championship.

After years of shining in Europe, the duo decided to leave the continent in 2023. The Portuguese had a troubled departure from United, in his second spell at the club, and settled with Al Nassr, from Saudi Arabia. Messi also didn’t leave much to be missed when he left Paris Saint-Germain for Inter Miami, from the United States.

In recent years, neither the Argentine nor the Portuguese were able to display the talent that made them the greatest inspirations of recent generations. Meanwhile, new names like Mbappé, Vinicius Junior and Erling Haaland emerged and started fighting to fill the void left by the stars.

Of the trio, only the Frenchman is still fighting for the unprecedented title. The Brazilian won the competition in 2021/22. and the Norwegian has been one of the greats of Manchester City, the current European champion.

Neymar could also be part of the list of players who want to inherit the throne occupied for years by the duo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the Brazilian was another who left Europe for football in Saudi Arabia, leaving PSG for Al Hilal.

This Monday (18), he played his first game as a starter for the Saudi team, in the Asian Champions League. His team debuted with a 1-1 draw against Navbahor, from Uzbekistan.

Without Neymar and Messi, PSG debuts in the European version of the Champions League this Tuesday (19) against Borussia Dortmund, at 4pm, in Paris.

At the same time, the ball also rolls at the Etihad Stadium, where Manchester City debuts against Red Star. Another six duels this Tuesday and eight more on Wednesday (20) complete the first round of the group stage.

See where to watch the first round of the Champions League

1:45 pm – Milan x Newcastle – TNT and HBO Max
1:45 pm – Young Boys x RB Leipzig – Space and HBO Max
4pm – PSG x Borussia Dortmund – SBT, TNT and HBO Max
4pm – Manchester City x Crvena zvezda – Space and HBO Max
4pm – Barcelona x Antwerp – HBO Max
4pm – Feyenoord x Celtic – HBO Max
4pm – Lazio x Atlético Madrid – HBO Max
4pm – Shakhtar x Porto – HBO Max

1:45 pm – Real Madrid x Union Berlin – TNT and HBO Max
1:45 pm – Galatasaray x Copenhagen – Space and HBO Max
4pm – Bayern Munich x Manchester United – TNT and HBO Max
4pm – Braga x Napoli – Space and HBO Max
4pm – Arsenal x PSV – HBO Max
4pm – Benfica x RB Salzburg – HBO Max
4pm – Real Sociedad x Inter Milan – HBO Max
4pm – Sevilla x Lens – HBO Max

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