The first draw, at the scheduled time of noon CET / 6 a.m. ET sparked administrative chaos as the software utilised to instruct the UEFA officials as to which teams were eligible to face each other malfunctioned during the live event at the home of European football's governing body in Switzerland. This led to an error, as Manchester United's ball was accidentally left out of the pot in the draw to find Atletico Madrid's opponents.
Problems arose when Villarreal were drawn from the pot of group runners-up and paired with United. Under UEFA rules, two teams who faced each other in the group stage cannot face each other again in the first knockout round. This led UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti to order a redraw of Villarreal's opponents, with Manchester City coming out of the pot second time around.
Atletico Madrid are talking to UEFA about the UCL draw. UEFA are currently discussing whether the draw can go ahead in its current guise. Redraw decision coming within the hour is the word.— Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) December 13, 2021
Should the Champions League draw stand? 👀 pic.twitter.com/366xi1c10Y— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 13, 2021
United's ball then appeared to be accidentally left out of the pot for the next draw as Atletico Madrid had their opponents selected from a reduced pool which did not contain United, despite the two clubs being perfectly eligible to face one another.
To make matters worse, Liverpool were included in the pot to potentially face Atletico despite the two sides facing each other in the group stage.
UEFA hasn't cocked up a draw before because it's all computer programmed.— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) December 13, 2021
The computer says who is eligible to face each team.
But the computer said Villarreal could face anyone, including Man United and Real Madrid.
And no one noticed it hadn't been programmed correctly...
United were subsequently pitted against Paris Saint-Germain, leading to great excitement across the soccer world as it meant Cristiano Ronaldo going head-to-head against old foe Lionel Messi in the Champions League once again.
THE GOATS FACE OFF IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE AGAIN! 🐐🍿 pic.twitter.com/wYgZs9AS7Q— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 13, 2021
The draw was then concluded as planned, and for a brief moment in time, these were the round-of-16 fixtures for the 2021-22 Champions League.
The Champions League Round of 16 draw is set 🏆 pic.twitter.com/BUykuLrMcd— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 13, 2021
However, when it emerged that a mistake had been made, complaints were lodged to UEFA and eventually the governing body decided to scrap the first iteration of the draw, declare it null and void, and press ahead with a fresh start.
Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.— UEFA (@UEFA) December 13, 2021
After seeing United's box-office bout with PSG and the prospect of a Ronaldo-Messi face-off wiped from the slate, many football fans were left to mourn what might have been. Something tells us the age-old debate is likely to rumble on regardless.
Can't believe they're going to redo the draw. Just when we were *finally* going to find out who was better out of Messi and Ronaldo.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) December 13, 2021
Many also drew parallels with the administrative controversy that engulfed the culmination of the 2021 Formula One championship over the weekend. Max Verstappen was ultimately crowned world champion over Lewis Hamilton in the final race of the season, but only after the FIA intervened with a questionable call that essentially turned the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix into a one-lap race-off for the title.
The Champions League will be a redraw. Not a great couple days for sporting authorities.— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) December 13, 2021
The timing of all this is hilarious after all the fuss over the F1 yesterday. A real hold my beer moment from UEFA— Si Lloyd (@SmnLlyd5) December 13, 2021
Could be worse: if this was Formula One we'd have to play the group stages again https://t.co/7z6hoInL6Z— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceTel) December 13, 2021
UEFA couldn't even deal with 24 hours of watching F1 take the limelight so had to create a buerocratic shambles of their own 😅 How can you do a draw wrong?!— Ronan Mullen (@RonanReigns) December 13, 2021
As you might expect, the error-strewn Champions League draw brought with it a wave of consternation from many jaded onlookers.
Not saying UEFA are having trouble with draws today but Arsenal have just been paired with Flamengo in the Europa League.— Ian Doyle (@IanDoyleSport) December 13, 2021
Some were skeptical and predicted that, given the epic scale of one of the ties produced by the first draw, it might just be in UEFA's interest to ensure a similar outcome at the second attempt.
#MUFC to draw PSG again, just for clarification, at 2pm— Peter Hall (@PeteHall86) December 13, 2021
Meanwhile, Spartak Moscow took the unusual tack of asking UEFA for their ball to be left out of the Europa League draw lest they find themselves forced to face Erling Haaland and Borussia Dortmund.
🤔 @UEFA, can you please put our ball aside too when you'll be drawing Borussia Dortmund in Round of 16?— FC Spartak Moscow (@fcsm_eng) December 13, 2021
And Spanish second-division club Leganes went one further by trying to sneak their way into European competition with a quick bit of Photoshopping.
Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos simply decided to act as though the whole thing hadn't happened, wryly asking fans for their draw predictions. Nice to see that Kroos can deliver deadpan gold just as masterfully as he delivers inch-perfect through-balls.
Any prediction for the draw?— Toni Kroos (@ToniKroos) December 13, 2021
The redraw eventually happened three hours after the original one once the Europa League and Europa Conference League had been staged, with the latter competition having its own software malfunction.
UEFA suffering more technical issues with the Europa Conference League play-off draw. "It's a technical issue with the software" says Marchetti. At least they're consistent— Simon Bajkowski (@spbajko) December 13, 2021
Reigning European champions Chelsea were made to wait to see who their new opponents in the defence of their title would be -- only for it to be the same as the team they were drawn against first time around.
For the record, here is the FINAL AND DEFINITIVE draw for the Champions League round of 16:
FC Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich
Sporting CP vs. Manchester City
Benfica vs. Ajax Amsterdam
Chelsea vs. Lille
Atletico Madrid vs. Manchester United
Villarreal vs. Juventus
Internazionale vs. Liverpool
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Madrid