Team: Athletic Club
The Basque outfit were the biggest winners in Spain last weekend after Ernesto Valverde's side made sure of fourth place, claiming a UEFA Champions League play-off spot in the process. Aiming to return to the group stage of European club football's elite competition for the first time since 1998/99, the 2012 UEFA Europa League finalists took a significant step towards that goal courtesy of Friday's 3-0 Liga win at Rayo Vallecano de Madrid. "The unity, the connection within our group is our strength; in that sense it's the best [group of players] I've had," said Valverde.
Player: Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace FC)
The 23-year-old former carpenter enjoyed the most memorable night of his nascent professional career on Monday, scoring twice in the last nine minutes as Palace rallied from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at home to title-chasing Liverpool FC. Gayle's first, a tidy side-footed finish from inside the area, was his first Premier League goal since 26 December. His second, which earned the Eagles the most unlikely of points, was his third against Brendan Rodgers' team this term, the east Londoner having registered in the reverse fixture at Anfield. It was the latest reminder of the meteoric rise of a forward who, following his release by Arsenal FC, was turning out in the ninth tier of English football as recently as 2011.
Goal: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF)
Just when you thought the Portuguese international had scored every type of goal imaginable, he produces a jaw-dropping back-heel volley to salvage Carlo Ancelotti's side a 2-2 home draw with Valencia CF. With the clock ticking down at the Santiago Bernabéu last Sunday, Ángel Di María swept the ball across goal after receiving possession wide on the left and Ronaldo did the rest, dropping off his marker and firing in exquisitely.
"I never imagined I would achieve so much here, because when I came to Romania I knew almost nothing about the country or the club." Thus Portuguese defender Cadú, who this week reached a club-record 200 top-flight appearances for CFR 1907 Cluj, having joined the Transylvanian outfit from Boavista FC in 2006. The centre-back, 32, has now been Liga 1's longest-serving foreign player for some time as he nears the end of his eighth season. "It is an honour to be the first foreigner to achieve such a milestone," the former FC Paços de Ferreira man told UEFA.com.
"Maybe we will buy some champagne on our way home. We did not buy any beforehand."
FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk coach Sergei Borovski admits to something of an oversight after his team beat FC Neman Grodno 1-0 in last Saturday's Belarusian Cup final.
Lucky charm: Michael Jackson (Fulham FC)
Former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed has blamed the club's relegation from the Premier League on current paymaster Shahid Khan's decision to take down the statue of Michael Jackson that formerly stood outside their Craven Cottage home. Fulham's 13-year stint in England's top flight ended last weekend, with the model of the 'King of Pop' – erected in 2011 – having been evicted in September.
"This statue was a charm and we removed the luck from the club and now we have to pay the price," Fayed said. "When [Khan] asked me to move it I said: 'You must be crazy.' This is such a fantastic statue which the fans are crying out for. But now he has paid the price because the club has been relegated. He called me because he told me he wanted Michael to return. I told him: 'No way.'"
First lady: Helena Costa (Clermont Foot 63)
Portuguese coach Helena Costa has become the first woman to take charge of a professional club in France, after being appointed by Ligue 2 side Clermont. To date, there have been no examples of European men's top-division clubs managed by women, but the 36-year-old – who has been a youth coach at SL Benfica and a scout for Celtic FC – has a chance to become the first if she can lead her team, currently 14th in the table, to promotion next term.
"I chose her because she is driven and I want Clermont to be seen in a different way," said the club's president Claude Michy. "We Googled her just to see what she looked like," admitted full-back Emmanuel Imorou sheepishly. "But for sure there will be no doubting her footballing knowledge."
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