It was entirely appropriate that the Uefa mandarin, following yesterday's draw for the Champions' League's first knock-out round, should conclude the formalities by wishing the assembled club representatives a "prosperous" new year rather than a "happy" one. That was, after all, what the 16 clubs were gathered in Nyon, Switzerland, to seek.
The prospects of England's three representatives, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, achieving that appear mixed after a draw which threw up one heavyweight tie, several intriguing ones, and guaranteed at least two outsiders a quarter-final place.
The glamour tie is Bayern Munich v Real Madrid. Real may be competition favourites but they have a poor record against Bayern in recent years. The tie will pit David Beckham against the team beaten in the final while he was at Manchester United in 1999, and whose general manager, Uli Höness, this summer derided him as "a circus act". It will also provide his first return to Munich's Olympic Stadium since leading England to their 5-1 triumph in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup finals.
Chelsea also face German opposition and while VfB Stuttgart may not have the history of Bayern they have a better current team. The Bundesliga leaders may have lost to Manchester United in midweek but both sides had already qualified. Stuttgart, who have conceded only three goals in 15 league games, had beaten United 3-1 in Germany. The match is a re-run of the 1998 European Cup-Winners' Cup final when Gianfranco Zola scored the only goal, but that match is hardly a form guide. All the victorious Chelsea team have moved on and only Zvonimir Soldo remains at Stuttgart.
United themselves drew the Uefa Cup holders, Porto. This is a repeat of a 1997 quarter-final when United won 4-0 at Old Trafford and then drew in Portugal. In an indication of United's continuity the Neville brothers, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane all survive from the tie compared to just Jorge Costa, back after his stint at Charlton, for Porto.
In 1997 there were problems at the crumbling Estadio das Antas stadium when heavy-handed police assaulted United fans. This time the tie - Sir Alex Ferguson's 100th in the Champions' League, a competition record - will be in the new Estadio do Dragao, a possible England semi-final venue in Euro 2004.
Ferguson may turn for advice to his former assistant Carlos Queiroz, a Portuguese national whose Real Madrid team beat Porto in the group stages. "It's one of the more difficult draws," Ferguson said. "Porto are a very good side and their home form is terrific." Cristiano Ronaldo, United's Portuguese winger signed in the summer from rivals Sporting Lisbon, will relish the tie.
Arsenal were given the most favourable draw of the English trio. They play Celta Vigo who are struggling in Spain's La Liga. Though the Spaniards went through by defeating Milan in the San Siro, the holders, having qualified, fielded a weakened team. The match will see the return to Highbury of the Brazilian Silvinho, and a reminder for English viewers of Savo Milosevic, once of Aston Villa, now on loan from Parma.
The other tie to catch the eye is Deportivo La Coruña v Juventus. The Spaniards will test a Juventus side seeking to justify their coach's claim of an Italian renaissance. Italy provided three of last season's semi-finalists but are already down to two representatives this year, making Marcello Lippi's claim appear precipitous when he said: "We have shown already that we are back at the top of European football and I am sure that we can improve again."
Their fellow Serie A survivors, Milan, were given a negotiable path into the last eight with a tie against Sparta Prague. The other pairings pitted France's surprisingly impressive qualifiers, Lyon and Monaco, against Real Sociedad and Lokomotiv Moscow respectively. Le Championnat will expect its first quarter-finalist in six seasons.
Champions' League draw and form guide to opponents of English Sides
Sparta Prague v Milan
Celta Vigo v Arsenal
Lokomotiv Moscow v Monaco
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid
Matches to be played on
Tuesday 24 February
Deportivo La Coruña v Juventus
Porto v Manchester United
VfB Stuttgart v Chelsea
Real Sociedad v Lyon
Matches to be played on Wednesday 25 February
Juventus v Deportivo La Coruña
Manchester United v Porto
Chelsea v VfB Stuttgart
Lyon v Real Sociedad
Matches to be played on
Tuesday 9 March
Milan v Sparta Prague
Arsenal v Celta Vigo
Monaco v Lokomotiv Moscow
Real Madrid v Bayern Munich
Matches to be played on
Wednesday 10 March
Route to last 16: Fourth in Spain. Beat Slavia Prague in qualifying round. Second in group behind Milan, ahead of Bruges, Ajax.
Current league position: 17th in La Liga.
European Cup record: Debut season.
Manager: Miguel Angel Lotina, Basque who has held several posts in northern Spain but has little European experience.
Key players: Alexander Mostovoi, experienced Russian No 10; Juanfran, Spanish international midfielder signed from Valencia.
Record v Arsenal: No previous meetings.
Route to last 16: Portuguese champions. Second in group behind Real Madrid, ahead of Marseilles, Partizan Belgrade.
Current league position: leaders
European Cup record: 19th entry, winners 1987.
Manager: Jose Mourinho, son of an international, his managerial break came as interpreter to Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, then at Barcelona.
Key players: Deco, Brazilian-born playmaker naturalised and capped by Portugal; Victor Baia, veteran Portuguese goalkeeper.
Record v Manchester United: P4 W1 D1 L2. Beat United in 1977/78 ECWC, 6-5 agg; lost 4-0 on agg in 1996/97.
Route to last 16: German runners-up. Second in group stage behind Manchester United, ahead of Panathinaikos and Rangers.
Current league position: Bundesliga leaders.
European Cup record: Already best campaign of three attempts.
Manager: Felix Magath, scored only goal of 1983 final for Hamburg v Juventus.
Key players: Kevin Kuryani, Brazilian-born striker with German father and Panamanian mother, capped by Germany; Timo Hildebrand, promising German goalkeeper.
Record v Chelsea: P1 L1. Beaten 1-0 in 1998 ECWC final.Reuse content