Ronaldo’s Juventus drawn with Man United in Champions League
MONACO — Cristiano Ronaldo is going back to Manchester United and Paul Pogba will return to Juventus after the storied teams were drawn together at the Champions League group stage on Thursday.
After winning four titles at Real Madrid, and one with United, Ronaldo aims to end Juventus’ 23-year wait for a third European title.
Pogba played for Juventus in its 2015 final loss against Barcelona and won four straight Italian titles before moving back to Manchester — where he was first recruited as a teenager — for a then-world record fee in 2016.
Valencia and outsider Young Boys, Swiss champion for the first time in 32 years, are also in Group H with United and Juventus.
“We cannot hide the fact that we are among the favorites this year,” Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta said.
Three-time defending champion Real Madrid will start its quest for a record-extending 14th European title in Group G with Roma, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen.
Barcelona heads a tough-looking Group B with Tottenham, plus former champions PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan.
Three more former European champions Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax are together with underdog AEK Athens in Group E.
Liverpool, the runner-up last season, was the toughest third-seeded team and landed with Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, and Red Star Belgrade in Group C.
“I expected a difficult group, we have a difficult group and that’s what the Champions League is all about,” Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp said.
English champion Manchester City got a favorable draw in Group F with Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon and Hoffenheim.
Atletico Madrid, whose Metropolitano stadium hosts the final on June 1, is grouped with Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Club Brugge in Group A.
Lokomotiv Moscow, seeded in the top pot as Russia’s champion, will play Porto, Schalke and Galatasaray in Group D.
The 32 teams will share 1.95 billion euros ($2.28 billion) in prize money from UEFA with the winner likely to top 100 million euros ($117 million) for the first time..
Games kick off on Sept. 18, and two teams from each group advance to the Round of 16 in February.
There were 13 former champions in a draw that included three teams — Hoffenheim, Red Star and Young Boys — making their group-stage debuts in the 27-season Champions League era. Red Star won the old European Cup in 1991, one year before the format changed.
Teams from the same country could not be drawn together Thursday, and teams from Ukraine and Russia were also kept apart due to ongoing political tensions.
This season kicks off a new three-year cycle of broadcasting and sponsor deals that have raised prize money to record levels. All 32 teams get a basic 15.25 million euros ($17.8 million) just for being in the draw.
UEFA will also allocate 30 percent of the total to reward teams for their storied history in European competitions and results over the past 10 years.
Real Madrid is guaranteed to earn at least 50 million euros ($59 million), plus a share of Spanish TV rights money and results bonuses.
UEFA pays 2.7 million euros ($3.2 million) per group-stage win and 900,000 euros ($1.05 million) for a draw. More fees are earned for reaching each subsequent round.
Group A: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Club Brugge.
Group B: Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV Eindhoven, Inter Milan.
Group C: Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade.
Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray.
Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens.
Group F: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim.
Group G: Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen.
Group H: Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, Young Boys.