For a gang of clubs across Europe’s top five leagues and elsewhere, the end of the 2018-19 campaign couldn’t come soon enough.
Narrow relegation escapes and uncharacteristically poor efforts feature aplenty for the teams below. Here’s a look at the biggest disappointments across Europe this season:
2018-19 league finish: 6th (out of 20)
2017-18 league finish: 2nd
Increasingly poor performances on the pitch and fractious relationships off of it have become a calling card of Jose Mourinho’s enduring “third season syndrome.” The Portuguese manager’s third term in charge of Manchester United bore a striking resemblance to similar seasons with Real Madrid and Chelsea, ending in a mid-December dismissal.
An upswing in results during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s interim spell abruptly ended once his caretaker gig became permanent. Beyond a spirited continental victory at Paris Saint-Germain, the 2018-19 season was a forgettable one for the Red Devils.
Several holes in the squad make for a summer of uncertainty, especially when coupled with continuous chatter linking uncommonly under-performing pair David De Gea and Paul Pogba with departures. There are also still doubts that Solskjaer is up for the job following an end-of-season stretch with only eight points earned out of a possible 27.
2018-19 league finish: 14th (out of 20)
2017-18 league finish: 5th
Four victories over their last seven matches amid Javier Calleja’s swift second go-around at the helm of the Yellow Submarine largely floated Villarreal’s once-rapidly sinking season.
Villarreal finished 14th in La Liga on 44 points, just seven ahead of Girona and the drop, a stark decline from last year’s top-five standing. Terrible results at the Estadio de la Ceramica that saw the Castellon club win just one of its first 12 league fixtures at home outweighed surprisingly decent away form. More is expected from one of the six sides in Spain with first-team wages exceeding €100 million.
It’s not all doom and gloom at Villarreal, however. Despite the eerie similarities to the team that was relegated in 2012, a return to the second tier was avoided, and Santi Cazorla’s third time with the club was a successful one after injuries nearly squashed his career. Teenage dizzying dribbler Samuel Chukwueze also provides a reason for measured excitement.
2018-19 league finish: 16th (out of 20)
2017-18 league finish: 8th
Seventeen years after their last demotion to Serie B, Fiorentina are an utter mess. La Viola entered the final day with five league defeats on the spin, and they were winless in 13 while hovering just three points away from relegation amid a logjam at the bottom of Italy’s top flight.
That became 14, as Sunday’s scoreless draw at home against Genoa saw both sides secure safety in a captivating affair where the visitors managed three shots and zero on target. Regardless, Empoli’s fateful 2-1 loss at Inter meant Fiorentina and Genoa were rewarded for pantomining a football match for 90 minutes. T’was an enjoyable final matchday in Serie A.
Considering the talent on hand through the likes of Federico Chiesa, Nikola Milenkovic, and Giovanni Simeone, with loanees Marko Pjaca, Kevin Mirallas and, Luis Muriel sprinkled in, Fiorentina’s campaign has been a shocking calamity. It doesn’t help that the Della Valle family, the team’s owners, appear disinterested and unwilling to invest in a squad certain to lose its best players.
2018-19 league finish: 17th (out of 20)
2017-18 league finish: 2nd
Monaco’s transfer policy was always going to be a risk, though the depths they fell this season are still no less shocking. Selling emerging stars, replenishing the squad with young talent, and praying for the best met its ominous match this season.
Thomas Lemar, Joao Moutinho, and Fabinho were sorely missed. Summer additions failed to fill the void, with World Cup darling Aleksandr Golovin inexplicably terrible. The Thierry Henry experiment didn’t work either, as Monaco followed an opening-weekend victory with a 12-match winless run.
Injuries to Rony Lopes, Danijel Subasic, Stevan Jovetic, and Kamil Glik played a massive role, as did some reported backroom cleavages and a significant drop in form from Radamel Falcao.
There’s still heaps of talent on a young team that’s hoping teenagers Willem Geubbels and Pietro Pellegri have big seasons ahead.
2018-19 league finish: 14th (out of 18)
2017-18 league finish: 2nd
A year after storming to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga under rookie gaffer Domenico Tedesco, Gelsenkirchen side Schalke flirted with relegation until the final weekend of the 2018-19 season.
Tedesco was sacked in March following a 7-0 battering against Manchester City, the most lopsided defeat a German team has suffered in the Champions League. Caretaker manager Huub Stevens wasn’t much better, winning just two of the team’s final nine fixtures to finish the campaign. Former Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner is set to take over next season.
City destroying Schalke is one thing, but losing at home to Fortuna Dusseldorf is another, and it’s indefensible. At this point, the club simply isn’t good enough, and with all due respect to Steven Skrzybski and Cedric Teuchert, Schalke need some major upgrades. Failing to replace Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer didn’t help, either.
Elsewhere: Grasshoppers, the most successful club in Swiss football history, were relegated, ending a run of 68 straight years in the top flight. Finishing the campaign without a victory in 17 matches will do that. Belgians Anderlecht finished sixth and missed out on European football for the first time in 55 years, ending the second-longest streak (Barcelona, 58 years). Finally, 2009-10 Super Lig winners Bursaspor became the first former Turkish top-flight champ to suffer relegation despite Sunday’s entertaining win at Yeni Malatyaspor that saw Diafra Sakho draw one of three red cards.