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Pick of the week

Published: Friday 29 May 2009, 19.15CET
FC Barcelona's Rome win was the highlight of the last seven days but plenty went on elsewhere, from huge crowds in Germany to the retirement of one of football's stalwarts and exuberant celebrations in Hull and Liege.
by Paul Saffer
Pick of the week
Somewhere in this picture Standard coach Laszlo Bölöni is going hungry ©AFP
Published: Friday 29 May 2009, 19.15CET

Pick of the week

FC Barcelona's Rome win was the highlight of the last seven days but plenty went on elsewhere, from huge crowds in Germany to the retirement of one of football's stalwarts and exuberant celebrations in Hull and Liege.

No doubt about the highlight of the week: FC Barcelona's UEFA Champions League triumph against Manchester United FC. But plenty has been happening elsewhere too, as picks our favourite ten stories of the last seven days.

Team: FC Barcelona
Hard not to pick the new European champions, the first team ever to do the treble of UEFA Champions League, Spanish league and Copa del Rey in a single season. Not bad for Josep Guardiola's first campaign in charge – now the aim is to do what had eluded anyone since the UEFA Champions League began in 1992/93 and successfully defend the title.

Player: Paolo Maldini (AC Milan)
After a mere 25 seasons, more than 1,000 senior appearances, seven Scudetti and five European Champion Clubs' Cup triumphs, the 40-year-old Maldini retires after Milan's match at ACF Fiorentina on Sunday having taken his San Siro bow last weekend. Paying tribute – as well as making a sly offer – was a man two-and-a-half years his junior, Guardiola, after Wednesday's triumph in Rome: "I want to dedicate this victory to Italian football and Paolo Maldini: He doesn't have to worry about anything because the whole of Europe respects him. And if he changes his mind and decides to go on playing for another season, then he will be welcome at Camp Nou."

Number: 60,000,000
The extra revenue in pounds sterling that Burnley FC are tipped to generate next season after beating Sheffield United FC in Monday's Championship play-off final at Wembley to win promotion to the Premier League. Burnley return to England's top flight after a 33-year absence.

Goal: Cléber Santana (RCD Mallorca)
The Brazilian, on loan from Club Atlético de Madrid, will have delighted fans of both his temporary and permanent clubs with a goal against Real Madrid CF described by newspaper El País thus: "Cléber Santana received the ball in the centre circle and advanced, all the while eyeing his opponents. He calmly stole away from Van der Vaart, Lass [Diarra] and Javi García before glancing at the far post and lifting the ball in that direction. It was one of the most beautiful goals of the league this season." Diario de Mallorca was more restrained: "Last night Cléber Santana felt like the Picasso of football because what he did against Madrid was an authentic work of art."

Alternative goal: Lee Miller (Aberdeen FC)
Miller's opener for Aberdeen against Hibernian FC may not have been comparable to the work of Pablo Picasso, let alone an Old Master, but it would have had a place in the Albert Camus-inspired Théâtre de l'Absurde movement. Hibernian goalkeeper Yves Ma-Kalambay had the ball in his hands but his punt rebounded off Miller, stood on the edge of the box, and looped into the goal, and Aberdeen went on to win 2-1 and clinch a UEFA Europa League berth. Perhaps Ma-Kalambay could take comfort from fellow keeper Camus's words of wisdom: "I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come."

Partnership: Grafite & Edin Džeko (VfL Wolfsburg)
The strikers combined for a staggering 54 goals between them to lead Wolfsburg to their first Bundesliga title. Džeko ended the season with a flourish, scoring ten goals in the final five games as FC Bayern München were left trailing in the Wolves' wake.

League: Bundesliga
The Spanish, English and Italian top flights may dominate the UEFA coefficient rankings, and representatives of the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and Ukraine have all secured European club silverware more recently than those of Germany, but if you are looking for drama played out in front of massive crowds, the Bundesliga is the place. Even with three rounds to go six teams were still in the race for the title, and the average attendance of 42,602 was over 7,000 more than the nearest challengers, the English Premier League. Oh, and a mere 50,095 people watched Fortuna Düsseldorf 1895 beat Werder Bremen reserves 1-0 on Saturday to earn promotion from the third division.

Record: UEFA Women's Cup final crowd
There is one German league that does dominate in European football: FCR 2001 Duisburg's victory against Zvezda-2005 in the UEFA Women's Cup ensured the Frauen-Bundesliga's fifth success in the eight seasons of the competition which relaunches as the UEFA Women's Champions League in 2009/10. In the last game under the current guise a modern European women's club record 28,112 crowd packed the MSV Arena to watch Duisburg clinch the trophy with a 1-1 draw. Most of the tickets were bought after Duisburg's 6-0 first-leg win in Russia made the return a formality.

Quote: Leonid Kuchuk (FC Sheriff)
"The secret of our success is simple. Every draw for us is like a defeat and every defeat is like a natural disaster."
Coach Kuchuk reveals the reasons for the dominance of Sheriff, who won the Moldovan Cup at the weekend to complete the double having already clinched the league title for the ninth year running; currently the longest streak in Europe. Oh, and the Football Association of Moldova remodelled the cup after Sheriff players complained last year that they were unable to drink champagne out of the trophy.

... and finally
So 2008/09 is drawing to a close and successful clubs are finding their own ways to celebrate. Hull City AFC avoided relegation on the final day of their debut top-flight season in England, and introverted manager Phil Brown marked the occasion by striding on to the pitch, taking the microphone and treating fans to a rendition of the Beach Boys' Sloop John B. Meanwhile, after beating RSC Anderlecht 1-0 to clinch the Belgian title, R. Standard de Liège coach László Bölöni missed a dinner date. "It was fantastic," he said. "A sea of people all the way from the stadium to the centre of Liege. I had an appointment at 2am with the Standard management in a restaurant at the other side of the River Meuse, but I never got there." However, maybe it is just as well United lost in Rome considering Anderson's promise: "I have a celebration planned. I'm going to strip naked and run round the stadium." Enjoy the summer.

Last updated: 29/05/09 22.40CET

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