When former Real Madrid basketball president Raimundo Saporta alluded to the idea that cold balls where being used in the Basketball European Cup draw (cold rather than hot with the suggestion that they had spent the night in a freezer) he was offering a vision of a seeding system that was later introduced and now accepted as the norm. The premise being that the stronger sides avoided each other in the early rounds. Over time the format and draw system has led to the complex process that we witnessed last night in Monaco, a ‘sudoku’ for the organisers where no sides from the same country can face one another and television considerations to be taken into account along with the political caveat whereby Ukraine champions Shakhtar could not be grouped with CSKA Moscow.
So the intricate draw threw up straightforward group parings for Real Madrid, Barça and Sevilla with Atlético's group C being more complex with Chelsea and AS Roma as serious contenders for the top two placings that give access to the next stage of the competition. The drawing of Chelsea carries the undercurrent of the possible Atleti return of Diego Costa to boot. Real Madrid once again were grouped with Borussia Dortmund on the day it appeared that Bartomeu managed to secure Dembélé from the Bundesliga side. Despite the Catalan club's recent misfortunes there was some good news for Barça with new signing Lieke Martens winning the 2016/17 UEFA Women's player of the Season award.
The UEFA Player of the Year award (also handed out during the draw in Monaco) was won by Cristiano, aided by his fine end of season with key goals against Bayern, Atlético and Juventus in the Champions League. The Portuguese player was in a serious mood wearing a sombre grey suit and was nobly congratulated by Barcelona's Lionel Messi in the Grimaldi Forum. Gianluigi Buffon, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric were also awarded with respective positional player prizes and the event was conducted smoothly despite the complexity of the draw itself.