TEN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE-WINNING CLUBS THAT WON'T BE JOINING THE SUPER LEAGUE

TEN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE-WINNING CLUBS THAT WON'T BE JOINING THE SUPER LEAGUE

With yesterday's bombshell announcement that some of Europe’s wealthiest clubs would be breaking off to form a bastardised, alien version of football with no jeopardy and filled only with the monotonous drone of the rich getting richer, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the sides deemed not worthy to sit among Europe’s elite.

That is, if you consider the three European Cups/Champions Leagues that Arsenal, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Juventus have won between them to be elite...

We can only hope that with the voluntary absence of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-German, the already shaky foundations of the apparent super league will soon collapse. If only there was a competition that pitted the clubs who have performed best in their respective leagues against each other to determine the true greatest team on the continent. 

 

Benfica - 1961, 1962

 

 

After five years of Real Madrid domination, Benfica, under the tutelage of iconic Hungarian manager Bella Guttmann, and with Eusebio up front, won back to back European titles. Defeating first Barcelona then Real Madrid in the respective finals. While 1962 was, to date, their last triumph they have appeared in a further five European Cup finals without success. Their total of seven finals appearances is as many as Spurs, Arsenal, Atleti and Chelsea combined. 

(Benfica’s 7 finals appearances is as many as Spurs, Arsenal, Atletico and Chelsea combined)

 

Celtic - 1967

 

 

The 1966/67 Celtic side are undoubtedly one of the finest in British history. They won every competition they entered scoring a staggering 196 goals along the way. On the 25th May 1967 they became the first British side to lift the European Cup, when a side entirely born within 20 miles of Celtic Park, travelled to Lisbon and defeated Inter Milan of Fachetti and Mazzola. Three years later Celtic would be back in the final again, this time falling short to Dutch side Feyenoord at the San Siro. 

(The 1966/67 Celtic side are undoubtedly one of the finest in British history. They won every competition they entered scoring a staggering 196 goals along the way.)

 

Ajax - 1971, 1972, 1973, 1995

 

 

Ajax’s tale has been defined by three great generations. The early 70’s saw Cruyff, Neeskens, Haan and Krol lift three consecutive European Cups. A little over 20 years later it would be the turn of Kluivert, Davids, Seedorf and many more outrageously talented players who went undefeated in their domestic league and bested Milan to lift the 1995 Champions League trophy. Finally, and once again with a roughly 20 year gap, it would be the turn of De Ligt, De Jong, Van De Beek and Ziyech who came within a whisker of the Champions League final after comfortably dismantling the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus on route to the semi finals. While Ajax have never had the financial muscle to compete regularly and keep their greatest players they have proven time and time again that when it comes to producing talent, no one does it better.

(Cruyff, Neeskens, Davids, Seedorf, De Ligt, De Jong. Ajax have won Europe’s premier club competition four times, and have produced many of the games greats along the way).

 

Bayern - 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013, 2020

 

 

After establishing their status as European heavyweights with three consecutive European Cups in the mid seventies, Bayern are now joint second all time in European finals appearances. This, coupled with the fact that they are the current Champions League holders should be definitive proof that the new construct would be in no way a battle between Europe’s finest sides. While Bayern may have lost out to fellow absconders PSG in this year's edition, there can be little doubt that they will be roaring back in the near future to take back their perch at the very top of the European game.

(The absence of Bayern should, quite simply, be definitive proof that the new construct would be in no way a battle between Europe’s finest sides).

 

Nottingham Forest - 1979 & 1980

 

 

In many ways the story of Nottingham Forest’s back to back European Cup wins are the greatest story the competition has ever seen. The side had been in England's second division just two years prior to their 1979 triumph and to prove their victory was no fluke they went and repeated the feat the next year, becoming the 7th club to win the competition consecutively. While they may no longer be a global force, Nottingham Forest’s story only serves to remind us that in some semblance of a fair and just system and with the right coaching, players and management, any team is worthy of being Europe’s best.

(Nottingham Forest’s story only serves to remind us that in some semblance of a fair and just system and with the right coaching, players and management, any team is worthy of being Europe’s best.)

 

Porto - 1987, 2004

 

 

While Porto’s 2004 triumph under young upstart Jose Mourinho, in full touchline charging, knee sliding glory, may be Porto’s most iconic campaign in Europe, it was in fact their second taste of European glory. Back in 1987 they overcame Lothat Matthaus’ Bayern Munich after two late goals from Madjer and Juary. Their two triumphs sit them level with compatriots Benfica as well as Nottingham Forest and Juventus. 

(Porto’s two European triumphs sit them level with compatriots Benfica as well as Nottingham Forest and apparent heavyweights Juventus.)

 

PSV - 1988

 

 

Led by the management of Guus Hiddink and with a young Ronald Koeman at the back, the PSV side of 1988 were a phenomenally well drilled machine. Not only did they win the European Cup following a tense final against Benfica but the side also won the Dutch league and Cup as well as sending five players to that summer's European Championship’s where they would help inspire the Netherlands on to glory. 

(Led by the management of Guus Hiddink and with a young Ronald Koeman at the back, the PSV side of 1988 were a phenomenally well drilled machine.)

 

Red Star Belgrade - 1991

 

 

Perhaps the most evocative side on this list, the Red Star team of 1991 contained some of the most talented players ever seen in European competition. The side, born out of a decade of economic hardships in their homeland and ever increasing tensions was a mix of ethnic Serbs, Croats and Bosnians who came together when their homeland was falling apart. The 1991 European Cup would see them beat Bayern Munich in the semi-final before defeating Marseille on penalties after a tense final. Pančev, Mihajlović, Savićević, Prosinečki all went on to establish themselves as some of the finest European players of their generation following the collapse of Yugoslavia not long after the side lifted the trophy.

(Perhaps the most evocative side on this list, the Red Star team of 1991 contained some of the most talented players ever seen in European competition.)

 

Marseille - 1993

 

 

Powered by the exuberant spending of owner Bernard Tapie, the Marseille side of the early 90’s was one of the greatest conveyor belts of talent Europe has ever seen. By the time they faced off against Capello’s great Milan side in the 93 final they boasted such stars as Deschamps, Abedi Pele, Voller, Boksic, Desailly and Boli. It would be the latter’s 43rd minute header that would ultimately seal the tie and win Marseille the very first edition of the newly rebranded, Champions League.

(Powered by the exuberant spending of owner Bernard Tapie, the Marseille side of the early 90’s was one of the greatest conveyor belts of talent Europe has ever seen.)

 

Borussia Dortmund - 1997

 

 

While Dortmund had enjoyed some success in the 1960’s it would not be until the 1990’s that they would emerge again as a major force in German football. This period of resurgence would be capped in 1997 with the sides first ever appearance in a Champions League final. They would be facing off against the competition's serial bottlers, Juventus, and once again the side from Turin did what they do best. ZIdane was marked out of the game by Paul Lambert and 20 year old local boy Lars Ricken scored one of the all time great Champions League final goals just 16 seconds after coming onto the pitch to make it 3-1 to Dortmund. It’s hardly surprising that it was Juventus president Agnelli who had been pushing most strongly for a format without relegation, because, well, they are absolutely terrible on the big stage.

(Dortmund’s 97 C/L win is one of the funnest the game has seen. Paul Lambert marked Zidane out of the game and Ricken scored that lob.)

 

Words by Andy Gallagher

 

 

 

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