With the curtain falling on domestic action across Europe, there have been records set, titles retained, the most unlikely of champions crowned and some fallen giants suffering relegation. FIFA.com guides you through the key twists and turns over the rollercoaster 2015/16 in Europe’s most-followed leagues.
English Premier League
Champions: Leicester City
Relegated: Newcastle United, Norwich City, Aston Villa
The remarkable tale of the Foxes made international headlines after they secured the Premier League title with two games to spare. Their title glory was made all the more extraordinary considering their miraculous escape from relegation in the 2014/15 season. Claudio Ranieri earned plaudits from across the globe in winning Leicester City’s, and his, first top flight title – making Premier League Player of the Season Jamie Vardy, captain Wes Morgan and PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez part of the first squad to win their maiden top-flight crown in England since Nottingham Forest in 1978.
Leicester City. Champions of England. pic.twitter.com/WRwfysTn2N
— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 2, 2016
That success came at the expense of Arsenal, who finished in second place ahead of North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the last day of the season. Manchester City will most likely complete the top four, unless Manchester United win by 19 goals against Bournemouth in their final game. Last season’s champions Chelsea endured a torrid campaign, with Guus Hiddink guiding them to a tenth-place finish after Jose Mourinho had departed in December with the side in 16th.
Despite spending an astonishing 237 days of the season in the relegation zone, more than any other side, Sunderland beat the drop thanks to a run of one defeat in 11 towards the end of campaign – and also thanks to Jermain Defoe’s 15 league goals. The Black Cats’ victory against Everton on the penultimate matchday condemned their bitter rivals Newcastle United to the drop, along with Norwich City. Both sides joined Aston Villa, whose relegation was confirmed in April.
French Ligue 1
Champions: Paris Saint-Germain
Relegated: Stade de Reims, GFC Ajaccio, Troyes
It proved to be a fitting swansong season for Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the French capital. The super Swede smashed 38 goals in 31 Ligue 1 games to help PSG canter to a fourth consecutive title. His final game for the club (in which he scored a brace in a 4-0 win over Nantes) saw a minute’s standing ovation from all at the Parc des Princes.
— PSG English (@PSG_English) May 14, 2016
Remarkably, the capital club wrapped up the title in mid-March, with a 9-0 demolition of bottom side Troyes, who were the first team to have their relegation confirmed in early April. They were joined by Stade de Reims, despite some last day heroics, and GFC Ajaccio, whose swift return to Ligue 2 was also confirmed on the final matchday.
Seven-time champions Lyon were inspired by a move to a new stadium. The Parc OL was inaugurated with a 4-1 victory over the unfortunate Troyes in early January, and they remained unbeaten there for the remainder of the campaign, rounding off their home comforts with a 6-1 victory over Monaco to see them finish second ahead of the principality outfit.
It was a disastrous campaign for Marseille, who saw Marcelo Bielsa shock the footballing world by departing after the opening game. The season went from bad to worse, with Bielsa’s replacement Michel presiding over a record 15 games without victory at home, with OM finishing the season in 13th.
Champions: Bayern Munich
Relegated: Stuttgart, Hannover (Eintracht Frankfurt v Nürnberg in relegation/promotion play-off)
Pep Guardiola concluded his spell in charge at Bayern Munich by guiding the Bavarian giants to a record fourth consecutive Bundesliga title, making Guardiola the first coach to win three titles in their first three years. Bayern won the title by conceding a record-low 17 goals, with Manuel Neuer playing all but 40 minutes of the record-breaking defensive season. At the other end of the pitch, Polish forward Robert Lewandowski became the first player in almost four decades to hit 30 goals in a Bundesliga season, becoming the first non-German to do so.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) May 14, 2016
Bayern’s record-breakers were pushed all the way by Borussia Dortmund, who recovered from a poor 2014/15 campaign to finish with 78 points, making them the best ever Bundesliga runners-up.
At the bottom, Stuttgart – champions as recently as 2007 – were relegated after more than four decades in the top flight on a dramatic final day. Die Roten were defeated by Wolfsburg to confirm their drop to the second tier, joining Hannover who went down in April, while Werder Bremen scored a late winner to save themselves and condemn Eintracht Frankfurt to a relegation play-off against Nurnberg.
One team who steered clear of the drop zone were Hoffenheim, who did so partly thanks to 28-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, who became the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history after he replaced 62-year-old Huub Stevens in February.
Italian Serie A
Relegated: Carpi, Frosinone, Verona
Many may have expected I Bianconeri to be crowned champions of Italy at the beginning of the 2015/16 season, but Massimiliano Allegri’s side certainly did it the hard way. A 1-0 defeat to Sassuolo on 28 October left Juve in 11th place in the Serie A standings, with 12 points from ten games and 11 points off then-leaders Roma. Juventus then showed the spirit of champions. In the 25 games that followed, they claimed 73 points from a possible 75, with Roma’s defeat of Napoli confirming Juventus’ fifth consecutive title a day after they had defeated Fiorentina.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 25, 2016
Despite Napoli having to settle for second place in the standings, their star striker Gonzalo Higuain had something to shout about on the final day. The Argentinian forward’s hat-trick against Frosinone took his tally to 36 goals in 35 games, surpassing Gunnar Nordahl’s 66-year-old record for most goals in a single Serie A season.
— Official SSC Napoli (@sscnapoli) May 14, 2016
Frosinone themselves had already seen their fairytale run halted with their relegation back to Serie B, having experienced two consecutive promotions. Verona slipped back to Serie B after returning to the top flight in 2013, while they were joined by Carpi, whose stay in Serie A lasted just a season after a 3-2 win over Hellas Verona for Palermo on the final matchday.
Spanish La Liga
Relegated: Getafe, Rayo Vallecano, Levante
With much of the attention usually focused on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the battle at the top in Spain, a new face emerged to help Barça seal the title this year, with Luis Suarez taking centre stage. The Uruguyan was in superlative form throughout the season, plundering 40 goals and beating both Messi and Ronaldo to the Pichichi, with his hat-trick at Granada on the final day sealing the La Liga crown.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 14, 2016
That it went to the last day was partly down to Barça’s poor run of form in March and April (taking one point from four matches from 18 March until 17 April), which saw Atletico and Real Madrid claw back ground. Los Blancos were also kept in the hunt by the inspired appointment of former ‘Galactico’ Zinedine Zidane, promoted from the Castilla side after Rafael Benitez’s reign was cut short in January. Atleti pushed Real and Barça all the way courtesy of their miserly defence, with Jan Oblak conceding just 18 goals in his side’s 38 games.
Villarreal were the revelation of the season, with Marcelino guiding a much-changed squad to fourth in the league, and the final four of the UEFA Europa League with Denis Suarez and Cedric Bakambu shining bright for the Yellow Submarine.
Levante saw their six-year stay in La Liga end in early May, and they were joined after a dramatic final matchday by Getafe and Rayo Vallecano after Sporting Gijon's impressive 2-0 win over Villarreal secured their survival.