So, the first batch of Champions League last 16 ties have come and gone for the week, and now it's time for the Europa League to take centre stage. Or something like that.

Now there's no denying that the Europa League is the Champions League's older, balder, fatter, uglier cousin but in recent years it has moved away from its laughing-stock persona and is viewed as a (slightly) more respectable competition.

Tottenham, Newcastle and Liverpool are all in action tonight, while the teams dropping down from the Champions League, including Chelsea, Ajax, Benifca and Zenit St. Petersburg add a certain amount of credence to proceedings.

So here at GMF, we thought it was about time the Europa League was given the limelight it probably doesn't deserve by highlighting the very best moments from its short history. All videos can be found by clicking on the links in the text. Enjoy.

Porto make history

In 2010/11, a fresh-faced Andre Villas-Boas helped Porto do something that only three clubs before them had been able to achieve.

Only CSKA Moscow, Galatasaray, IFK Goteborg had won a domestic treble in the same season as lifting the Europa League - but under the current Spurs' boss guidance, Porto became the fourth club to achieve that feat.

And they did it in style too. A 10-3 aggregate win over Spartak Moscow in the quarter-finals came before a 7-4 aggregate defeat of Villarreal in the semis. A 1-0 over rivals Braga in the final, and history was made.

Falcao takes flight

Pretty much every football fan knows who Radamel Falcao is now, and while he wasn't exactly unknown last season the trajectory of his rise to fame certain took a sharp turn skywards following his exploits in the 2011/12 Europa League final.

Falcao, known El Tigre, went into the final against La Liga rivals Athletic Bilbao somewhat out of sorts with only one goal in his five previous games. How soon that would all change.

His first in the final against a Bilbao side that had seriously impressed (more on them later) all season was a beauty after just six minutes; the Colombian shook off his man and curled a delicious shot into the top corner. The second wasn't bad either.

His early goals blew any chance Bilbao had of winning the Europa League after an exhausting campaign, and moved him up to the next level. A big summer move awaits.

Fulham beat up the Old Lady

Not so much a single great Europa League moment but a string of stunning ones, Fulham's run to the 2010 final is matched only by Middlesbrough's own fairytale charge four years previously.

After emerging from a group containing Roma, Basel and CSKA Sofia, Fulham embarked on a magical run, beating teams considered to be amongst the best in Europe.

First Shakhtar Donetsk were sent reeling. Later Wolfsburg and Hamburg would meet the same fate. But before then, came THAT game.

The first leg against Juventus in Turin didn't exactly go to plan, and when David Trezequet made it 4-1 on aggregate inside 2 minutes in the second leg, the Cottagers looked doomed. Then came the fight back. 

Two goals from Zoltan Gera, one from Bobby Zamora and a remarkable chip from Clint Dempsey sealed the most amazing comeback in the club's history (skip to 4.38). Sadly they lost 2-1 in the final to Ateltico Madrid thanks to a 116th minute Diego Forlan strike, but their run up to that point will live long in the memory.

Bilbao bamboozle United

It's not often that Manchester United are blown away or outclassed by an opponent - indeed Sir Alex Ferguson's side often revel in the fact they are heavy favourites in most games and use it to their psychological advantage.

That was until Atheltic Bilbao came to town. Marcelo Biesla's electric side were a force of nature at Old Trafford last year; a whirlwind that left the Red Devils dazed and confused.

A 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford in the first leg hugely flattered the home side, while a late Rooney consolation certainly added a positive spin to another one-sided 2-1 victory for Bilbao in the San Mames Stadium.

The Premier League giants were humbled by Biesla's killing, pressing machine, and neutrals had a new favourite team to support.

Van Basten returns

It's only right we end on the best goal ever scored in the Europa League - and perhaps in any competition.

Channeling the spirit of Marco van Basten and his 1988 European Championship wonder-goal, Taison hammered home a volley from what looks to be an impossible angle. 

The goal helped his side Metalist Kharkiv to a 3-1 win over Rosenborg back in November. Their reward for progressing to the knockout stages? A tie with Newcastle.

Have we left out any memorable Europa League moments? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below!  

Topics:
Europa League
Football