A Brief History of the Champions League
|The Champions League is the biggest club competition in Europe, with some of the best teams on the continent competing against each other to get their hands on the prestigious trophy. The competition is well underway, and you’re able to place a bet on your favourite team on sites like these: https://www.betfair.com/exchange/plus/football/competition/228
Despite its popularity, there was a time where the Champions League didn’t exist despite how well supported the sport was even back then. Here’s how it all began.
The idea of a pan-European football tournament was nothing new. Clubs from the Austro-Hungarian Empire often competed against each other in the early 20th century, whilst other regions of the continent also hosted their own tournaments. However, there was no official continent-wide tournament.
Two French journalists, Jacques Ferran and Gabriel Hanot, had been campaigning for years about a continental club competition, similar to the one they had in South America. However, they eventually put their proposal forward to UEFA at some point between 1953 and 1955, shortly after Wolverhampton Wanderers proclaimed themselves as the “Champions of the World”.
Real Madrid Dominance
Although the current format of the competition involves 79 teams from 54 associations, the inaugural tournament was invite only and only featured 16 teams, including AC Milan, Sporting CP and Real Madrid.
The first few years of the competition saw Spanish side Real Madrid dominate, winning the first five tournaments in row. Their most impressive result was a 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 final.
Although the Spanish club dominated the 1950s, the following decade saw the trophy change hands multiple times, as Benfica, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Celtic and Manchester United experienced success in Europe for the first time in their history.
Netherlands, West Germany, and England
After the trophy was won by 6 different clubs from 5 countries, the next decade and a half saw the trophy stay in three different countries.
The rest of the decade saw English teams dominate, winning the next six tournaments in a row. Liverpool won the competition three times (1977, 1978 and 1981), Nottingham Forest twice (1979 and 1980), and Aston Villa once (1982). A Hamburg win in 1983 and a Liverpool win in 1984 would round out this period of dominance by the three countries.
Multiple Winners and Rebranding
The spell of dominance by the three nations came to an end in 1985 when Juventus edged out Liverpool 1-0. It was the first time in 16 years that the trophy didn’t return to either the Netherlands, West Germany or England.
Since that Juventus victory, the prestigious trophy hasn’t stayed in one place for too long. The following couple of decades saw the trophy moving from club to club as multiple clubs experienced the joys of becoming European champions for the first time in their history.
Surprisingly, AC Milan were the only club to secure back-to-back victories (1989 and 1990) since the period of English dominance ended. This eventually changed when Real Madrid managed to win successive Champions League titles from 2016-2018.
The 1992-93 season also saw the tournament renamed as the UEFA Champions League to take advantage of the changes in marketing and TV rights.
Since the emergence of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the 2008-09 season, Spanish teams have dominated the competition. Including the 2009 final, where Barcelona defeated Manchester United 2-0, Spanish sides have been involved in 7 out of 10 finals, winning all seven of them. The 2014 and 2016 finals even saw an inter-city final for the first time in the competition’s history when Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid played against each other (Real Madrid won both).
The past five seasons have seen the trophy return to Spain, either with Real Madrid or Barcelona. Barca managed to win their fifth Champions League trophy back in 2015, whilst Real Madrid won their 10th to 13th title in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
The form of both Spanish clubs this season suggests that the trophy might go somewhere else other than Spain, but anything can happen in the Champions League.
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