Missing out on the Champions League title in his first season at Juventus still pains Cristiano Ronaldo.
Had it not been for the quarter-final loss to Ajax last season, Ronaldo might not have been leaving yesterday's Uefa group stage draw and awards ceremony empty-handed. So the three-time Uefa Player of the Year has a renewed hunger heading into the group stage, where Juventus were drawn with Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.
It is a swift reunion with Atletico after their round-of-16 meeting last season, when Ronaldo's second-leg hat-trick overturned a 2-0 deficit to send the Italian champions through before they fell to Ajax.
"It's the hardest competition to win," said Ronaldo, who lifted the European Cup once with Manchester United and four times with Real Madrid. "I'm really up for it. But the favourite doesn't always win. Look at Barcelona letting in four at Anfield. Everyone thought we would beat Ajax and we didn't. The same happened to Madrid."
Ajax's astonishing run to the semifinals saw the Dutch side oust Real Madrid in the last 16. Barcelona looked to be coasting into the final before throwing away a 3-0 lead over Liverpool by losing 4-0 at Anfield.
Liverpool's surge to a sixth European title helped Virgil van Dijk beat Ronaldo and Messi to Uefa's Player of the Year award at the ceremony in Monaco after the group stage draw.
Liverpool's title defence starts with a group that again includes Napoli, who Jurgen Klopp's side had to beat last December to advance to the knockout stage. Salzburg and Genk also await in Group E.
For Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City — among the biggest-spending teams of the past decades thanks to investment by state-linked ownership from the Persian Gulf — the quest for a first Champions League title will have contrasting assignments.
Tough for PSG after being paired in a group with a Real Madrid side chasing a record-extending 14th European crown. Relatively straightforward for City, placed in a group with no former champions and that includes newcomers Atalanta.
In Group A, PSG will also face Club Brugge and Galatasaray.
In Group C, City will also take on Shaktar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb while facing doubts about their Champions League participation next season as the Abu Dhabi-owned team is investigated for Financial Fair Play breaches.
One of the most eye-catching groups is F. Barcelona, who last won the competition in 2015, were drawn with former champions Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, alongside Slavia Prague.
Bayern Munich, who have won the European Cup five times, like Barcelona, are in Group B with beaten 2019 finalists Tottenham, Olympiakos and Red Star Belgrade.
Ajax, who had to go through qualifying to reach the group stage, were drawn with Chelsea, who qualified as Europa League champions, Valencia and Lille in Group H.
Group G seems the least appealing for global television audiences: Zenit St Petersburg, Benfica, Lyon and Leipzig.