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The Evolution of UEFA Champions League

Written by: Darth Anakin

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With the quarterfinals of the Champions League upon us, we look back at the different teams that have made it to the latter stages of the tournament...

The Real Madrid Era (1955-1960)

During the mid-1950s, Real Madrid dominated the other European teams. They boasted legendary players such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Francisco Gento and Raymond Kopa. This helped them achieve a feat that has never since been achieved in the European Cup; win the tournament 5-years in a row.

Alfredo Di Stefano is regarded as the best Real Madrid player ever by many

The teams that made it to the final but fell short to the mighty Madrid were: Reims (55/56), Fiorentina (56/57), AC Milan (57/58), Reims (58/59) and Eintracht Frankfurt (59/60). Reims came agonisingly close in the first tournament, while AC Milan took Real Madrid to extra time when they faced each other. However, none could defeat the mighty Spaniards.

 


The other teams that reached the Quarter Finals can be seen above. Some of the teams you will recognise, however, there may be some names on there you are not familiar with. Vasas SC for example, one of Hungary’s major sports clubs, however, they have not won a trophy since 1986.

Another one may be Wismut KMS, who are currently known as FC Erzgebirge Aue. Originally formed as part of East-German football they had their best years, following re-unification however, they have not seen the same highs.

Benfica: The Highs and Lows (1960-1968)

Following Real Madrid’s domination, nobody thought they could be stopped. Enter FC Barcelona. Their bitter rivals knocked the defending champions out in the first round, with Luis Suarez (no, not the same one!) scoring 2 goals at the Bernabeu to upset Madrid in the first leg, before coming out 2-1 victors at home. The title would end up with Benfica after they defeated FC Barcelona 3-2 in the final.

Benfica managed to repeat this feat the following year when they beat the kings of the European Cup in a thrilling final in Amsterdam. Despite a first half hattrick by Puskas, Benfica came out 5-3 winners on the night. And so we entered the Eusebio years but they were cursed.

The famed Benfica side of the 1960s

The following year at Wembley, Benfica were going for a 3-peat. Unfortunately for Eusebio, new manager Fernando Riera and the Benfica fans, they were defeated by a spirited AC Milan side. Benfica were to reach two more finals during this time, however, were beaten first by Internazionale Milan in 1965 and then by Manchester United in 1968. The curse is real.

After the AC Milan victory in 1963, the European Cup stayed in Italy and more specifically, in Milan for the next two years. However, it was AC Milan’s rivals that would win the most sought after European trophy. First, they beat five-time winners Real Madrid in 1964 final and then they beat Benfica the following year.

Real Madrid eventually got their revenge. During the 1965-66 season, they beat Internazionale in the semi-finals before beating Partizan Belgrade in the final. Internazionale managed to reach the final the following year, beating Real Madrid in the process. However, they couldn’t beat Jock Stein’s legendary Celtic team.

Munich and Amsterdam: A Tale of Two Cities (1968-1976)

Between 1968 and 1976, Ajax and Bayern Munich appeared 7 out of the 8 finals. The other final (1970) saw Feyenoord beat former champions Celtic 2-1 in extra time.

Ajax’s first experience of a final did not go so well. They were comprehensively beaten by AC Milan 4-1 in what could be described as a wake-up call for them. Boasting legendary figures like Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens, Rinus Michels Ajax would come back to the big stage during the 1971 finals. Their opponent was Greek side Panathinaikos managed by none other than three-time European Cup winner, Ferenc Puskas. This time Ajax did not disappoint coming out 2-0 winners.

Although Michels was no longer their manager, Ajax were back in 1972 final defending their title against two-time winners Internazionale Milan. They won this game 2-0 with Cruyff scoring both goals in a man of the match display. In 1973 Ajax completed their 3-peat becoming the first team since the invincible Real Madrid team of the 50s to this. It is only telling that they beat Real Madrid in the semi-finals before downing Juventus 1-0 in the final.

The all conquering Bayern Munich team had Beckenbauer and Rummenigge in it

The following year saw two newcomers battle it out for the title. Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid. The game was not settled on the first attempt and required a replay before a winner could be selected. Bayern Munich came out 4-0 winners in the replay and were crowned European club champions.  

Bayern reached the final for the second year running and faced Leeds United in the final. Boasting a team with names such as Beckenbauer, Maier, Muller, Houness and Rummenigge to name a few, it is no surprise they emerged 2-0 winners on the night. Bayern then did what Ajax had just done 3 years earlier. They completed a 3-peat with a 1-0 final victory over Saint Etienne. Unfortunately for Bayern, they didn’t know at the time, but their next victory was to come 25 years later. 

England’s European Dominance (1976-1985)

Between 1976 and 1985 an English club failed to make the final on one occasion: 1983. Every other year there was a finalist, what is even more remarkable is that out of the 8 finals they won 7 of them. That is staggering.

First up: Liverpool. Led by the legendary Bob Paisley, Liverpool were an unstoppable force. 1977 final Liverpool emerged 3-1 victorious over Borussia Monchengladbach. The following season Liverpool lost star player Kevin Keegan to Hamburg and replaced him with one Kenny Dalglish. They won the European Cup again, beating Club Brugge in the final this time. However, they were unable to complete a 3-peat as they were beaten in the First Round by Nottingham Forest.

Kenny Dalglish led a Liverpool side in the Brian Clough-Nottingham Forest era

Next up: Nottingham Forest. The Nottingham Forest story is one of legend and deserves an article by itself. But the magic that came from Brian Clough at the time was a joy to behold. In the final Forest faced Swedish team Malmo coached by Englishman Bob Houghton. Clough and Forest emerged winners, however, with a 1-0 victory on the night. After having to beat a former champion in Liverpool the previous year, this time around they had to beat the mighty Ajax in the semi-finals. Forest then successfully defended their European cup title against Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg side, winning 1-0 in the final. Forest were never to reach this far again. It was great while it lasted.

Liverpool were back in the final and they were up against five-time champions, Real Madrid. But Bob Paisley is a genius. He had successfully gotten past the test of Bayern Munich in the previous round, Real Madrid was just another walk in the park. A late Ray Kennedy goal sealed the victory for the reds, giving them their 3rd European Cup trophy and levelling Ajax and Bayern Munich at the time.

Aston Villa took a stab at the European Cup the following year. A memorable year for Villains when they beat Bayern Munich in the final. The victory is in part due to Ron Saunders, who resigned just before the Quarter Finals. But credit to Tony Barton who guided them to the cup.

Liverpool were back at it again, but this time under Joe Fagan. The final was against AS Roma and was to be played in Rome. Not something most teams would like. But Liverpool had the strength and determination to prevail in a penalty shootout. Liverpool reached the final the following year as well, however, this time they were beaten by another Italian team, Juventus. That made Giovanni Trapattoni one of the very few men to have won the title as both a player and manager.

The Prelude to Europe’s Elite (1985-1992)

In the 7 years before the European Cup became the Champions League, there were many first-time winners. Steaua Bucaresti, FC Porto, PSV, Red Star and FC Barcelona. The trophy was won the other two times by AC Milan when they went back to back in 89 and 90 under Sacchi.

The 1986 final saw Terry Venables' Barcelona get upset by Steaua Bucaresti. The match was remembered for the Steaua Bucaresti keeper Helmuth Duckadam’s heroics.

In the 1987 final Bayern Munich faced FC Porto. After taking the lead, Bayern looked like the were headed for another European Cup. However, two quick goals by Porto in the 77th and 80th minute swung the tie in their favour. The game ended 2-1 and FC Porto won the trophy for the first time in the club’s history.

When PSV won 1988 final, it made them the 4th consecutive club to win the tournament for the first time, following Juventus, Steaua Bucharest and FC Porto. They beat Benfica in the final. Remember the curse, yes it still lives on. Benfica came so close to breaking that curse, but after a 0-0 in normal and extra-time. They were defeated 6-5 in the penalty shootout. Heartbreak.

Steaua Bucaresti managed to reach the final again in 1989. But they were comfortably beaten by a mesmerising AC Milan team boasting names like Baresi, Maldini, Rijkaard, Ancelotti, Gullit and Van Basten. 4-0 on the night, I am certain the Bucaresti players, staff and fans would like to forget this one ever happened.

AC Milan repeated their feat the following year, beating none other than poor Benfica. This game was a much tighter affair, but AC Milan emerged 1-0 victors. This victory is also a landmark victory in the competition. It represents the last time a team was able to defend the title. Since this AC Milan victory, no club has gotten back to back wins.

The 1991 final between Red Star and Marseille was the first time in a while the European Cup was contested by two teams who had never reached the final. The last time was when Nottingham Forest faced Malmo in 1979. Red Star had a team full of young players who were being sought after by the big European clubs. It was them who emerged victorious on the night, winning the game after a penalty shootout.

FC Barcelona’s first taste of European cup victory would come in 1992 final where they beat Sampdoria 1-0 thanks to a goal by Ronald Koeman in extra time. That was Koeman’s second victory following the win with PSV in 1988. It also added Johan Cruyff to the list of people who won the trophy as a player and manager.

The Champions League Era (1992-Present)

UEFA decided to rebrand the tournament in 1992 and so the Champions League was born. The first final was between Marseille and AC Milan. Marseille who were unlucky two years ago in their penalty shootout loss to Red Star, changed their fortunes this time around by beating AC Milan 1-0 to secure the cup.

AC Milan reached the final the following year, this time they were facing a very strong Barcelona team who were favourites to win the tournament. What people saw in the final, however, was a legend. FC Barcelona were humbled 4-0 by Capello’s Milan. Pre-game Capello’s biggest fear was Michael Laudrup, however, Cruyff controversially left him out. To Capello’s joy and Barcelona’s dismay.

 

Led by Frank Riijkaard and Marco Van Basten, the AC Milan side reached three consecutive Champions League finals

AC Milan reached the final for the third year in a row. This time they faced Ajax, managed by Louis Van Gaal and with AC Milan legend, Frank Rijkaard. Ajax would emerge victoriously and give Rijkaard his third Champions league trophy.

Ajax faced an Italian team again in the final the next year. But they were not able to repeat their feat and were downed by Lippi’s Juventus. Juventus then reached the final in the following two years but thanks to two German managers they were unable to win the trophy again.

Instead, Borussia Dortmund under Ottmar Hitzfeld triumphed in a spectacular game in Munich and emerged 3-1 winners on the night. The following year Jupp Heynckes took Real Madrid all the way and beat Lippi’s Juventus 1-0 in Amsterdam. Juventus have not won since their 1996 triumph. 4 finals, all lost. The Old Lady is crying.

In 1999, Ottmar Hitzfeld could have made it 3 wins in a row for a German manager. But his dream was crushed by Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. All was going well for Bayern Munich and Ottmar until, in stoppage time, goals from Sheringham and Solskjaer ended any dreams they had of being champions. Remember, it had been 23 years since Bayern Munich’s 3-peat – the last time any team achieved this feat was Bayern.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side defeated Bayern Munich in a famous come-from-behind 2-1 win in the finals

Real Madrid would win the Champions League again in 2000, giving them their 8th European Cup. The finals saw them beat fellow Spanish team Valencia. Valencia reached the final again in 2001, but this time Ottmar Hitzfeld and Bayern came out on top. They even beat the last two champions Manchester United and Real Madrid in the quarters and semis respectively. All the goals in the final were penalties. 1-1 after extra time, both penalties and 5-4 in the penalty shootout saw Bayern win the cup for the first time in 25 years.

Not many people will forget the 2002 Champions League final. For the simple fact that the goal Zidane scored, the winning goal was one of the greatest goals in the history of football competitions. Bayer Leverkusen could come out of the game with their head held high, but it is a bitter disappointment when you lose a final. The win put Real Madrid on 9 trophies.

The team that seemed the most likely to catch Real Madrid’s total tally was AC Milan. They won the tournament for a 6th time in 2003, beating rivals Juventus in the final. Another final loss for Juventus and Lippi. The man could not catch a break until 2006. The win for AC Milan added Carlo Ancelotti’s name to the list of people who won the tournament as both player and manager.

The following year was the year of Jose Mourinho. FC Porto vs AS Monaco. The battle of the underdogs and the battle of the young managers, Mourinho vs Deschamps. Mourinho had just won the UEFA cup the season before, therefore he had some nous when it came to managing in a final. The result reflected exactly this, Porto won the game comfortably in the end and so the special one was born.

The 2005 Champions League final is arguably the best in the competition's history. Liverpool vs AC Milan. Istanbul. AC Milan were clear favourites heading into the match and when the score was 3-0 at half-time, well, most people thought that was that. But not Liverpool, not Steven Gerrard or Rafa Benitez and surely not Jerzey Dudek. It will be a night that Andriy Shevchenko will want to forget and it is a feat that no team will likely repeat. Coming from 3-0 down at half-time to win the game on penalties is remarkable.

2006 was the first and only time Arsene Wenger managed to reach a Champions League final. His opponents were FC Barcelona led by Frank Rijkaard. Arsenal took the lead in the first half, but second half goals from Eto’o and Belletti sealed a victory for the Catalans. The victory also put Frank Rijkaard on the list of people who won the trophy as a player and manager.

The 2007 Champions League final was a repeat of the one-two years previous. AC Milan vs Liverpool. However, this time AC Milan got their revenge. AC Milan got their first goal on the stroke of half-time as Inzaghi deflected it into the net with his hand. AC Milan got a late goal and Liverpool an even later consolation to see the game end at 2-1. Relief for AC Milan and a taste of revenge.

In 2007, Liverpool beat Chelsea in the semis to make the final. The following year, Chelsea returned the favour, beating Liverpool in extra-time in the second leg to reach 2008 final. There they would face Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. This game is famous for the moment John Terry slipped as he took his penalty. Although it was not the deciding kick, the image has been forever immortalised.

The following year was the beginning of Pep Guardiola. It began, of course, with a treble. In 2009 final, Barcelona played defending champions Manchester United. However, United were unable to repeat what they did the previous year and came out 2-0 losers on the night.

Pep Guardiola won his first treble in 2009 with a side which included Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and David Villa

Mourinho was back to spoil Pep’s party, though. This time at Inter Milan. Inter, who hadn’t won the tournament since 1965, were thrilled when the special one got them their prize. He even beat defending champions Barcelona in the semi-finals before beating Bayern in the final to earn his second champions league trophy.

Pep was resilient and so were his Barcelona team. In 2011 when they reached the final again, they must have been happy to see that the team they would be facing in the final had lost to them two years previously. Manchester United. Just like in 2009, Barcelona came out comfortable winners in the end.

The next year was something of a shock. The final was to be played in Munich and Bayern Munich had reached the final. Another home game for them it would seem. But in comes Didier Drogba and Chelsea to spoil their night. Chelsea were going through a tumultuous season having sacked their manager earlier in the year. But their focus was like none other. After upsetting Barcelona in the semis, Chelsea would go on to upset Bayern Munich in the final and win the tie on penalties.

Bayern bounced back, though, they reached the final again the following year, and this time they made sure they didn’t suffer. Their opponents, domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund. For a while, it seemed Dortmund may be able to get something out of the game, however, after 75 minutes the Dortmund players crashed and eventually Bayern scored a late winner to seal the cup.

Since the Bayern victory, the Champions League has been dominated by Spanish teams. 5 out of the next 6 finalists were all Spanish. Real Madrid managed to win their La Decima and then two years later win their La Undecima. Both times they beat city neighbours Atletico in the final. Poor Simeone. The other winner, if you had not guessed it by now, was Barcelona. Barcelona played Juventus in the final and well, Juventus in a final, we all know how that goes.

Stat Summary

Winner

#

Runner Up

#

Real Madrid

11

Juventus

6

AC Milan

7

Bayern

5

Barcelona

5

Benfica

5

Bayern

5

AC Milan

4

Liverpool

5

Barcelona

3

Ajax

4

Real Madrid

3

Inter Milan

3

At Madrid

3

Man Utd

3

Ajax

2

Benfica

2

Inter Milan

2

Forest

2

Liverpool

2

Juventus

2

Man Utd

2

Porto

2

Reims

2

Aston Villa

1

Valencia

2

Celtic

1

Arsenal

1

Chelsea

1

BMG

1

Dortmund

1

Brugge

1

Feyenoord

1

Celtic

1

Hamburg

1

Chelsea

1

Marseille

1

Dortmund

1

PSV

1

Eintracht

1

Red Star

1

Fiorentina

1

Steaua Bucaresti

1

FK Partizan

1

 

 

Hamburg

1

 

 

Leeds

1

 

 

Leverkusen

1

 

 

Malmo

1

 

 

Marseille

1

 

 

Monaco

1

 

 

Panathanaikos

1

 

 

Roma

1

 

 

Sampdoria

1

 

 

St Etienne

1

 

 

Steaua Bucaresti

1

 

Winning Manager

#

B Paisley

3

C Ancelotti

3

A Ferguson

2

A Sacchi

2

B Clough

2

B Guttmann

2

D Cramer

2

E Happel

2

H Herrera

2

J Guardiola

2

J Heynckes

2

J Mourinho

2

J Villalonga

2

L Carniglia

2

M Munoz

2

N Rocco

2

O Hitzfeld

2

S Kovacs

2

V D Bosque

2

A Jorge

1

E Jenei

1

F Capello

1

F Rijkaard

1

G Hiddink

1

G Trapattoni

1

J Cruyff

1

J Fagan

1

J Stein

1

L Enrique

1

L Petrovic

1

L V Gaal

1

M Busby

1

M Lippi

1

R Benitez

1

R D Matteo

1

R Goethals

1

R Michels

1

T Barton

1

U Lattek

1

Z Zidane

1

 

Finalist

Wins

#

Win %

Real Madrid

11

13

85%

AC Milan

7

11

64%

Bayern

5

10

50%

Barcelona

5

8

63%

Juventus

2

8

25%

Liverpool

5

7

71%

Benfica

2

7

29%

Ajax

4

6

67%

Inter Milan

3

5

60%

Man Utd

3

5

60%

Forest

2

2

100%

Porto

2

2

100%

Celtic

1

2

50%

Chelsea

1

2

50%

Dortmund

1

2

50%

Hamburg

1

2

50%

Marseille

1

2

50%

Steaua Bucaresti

1

2

50%

At Madrid

0

2

0%

Reims

0

2

0%

Valencia

0

2

0%

Aston Villa

1

1

100%

Feyenoord

1

1

100%

PSV

1

1

100%

Red Star

1

1

100%

Arsenal

0

1

0%

BMG

0

1

0%

Brugge

0

1

0%

Eintracht

0

1

0%

Fiorentina

0

1

0%

FK Partizan

0

1

0%

Leeds

0

1

0%

Leverkusen

0

1

0%

Malmo

0

1

0%

Monaco

0

1

0%

Panathanaikos

0

1

0%

Roma

0

1

0%

Sampdoria

0

1

0%

St Etienne

0

1

0%

Published: Tue Apr 11, 2017 03:20 PM IST

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