History of the UEFA Champions League

By Korir Isaac / Published October 22, 2021 | 4:17 pm




KEY POINTS

Ever since its inception, the Champions League has established itself as the most prestigious club tournament in football across the globe.


UEFA Champions League

The history of the Champions League, otherwise known as the UEFA Champions League, dates back to the year 1992-1993. This was when it was introduced and played for the first time as a new version of the European Cup.

Ever since its inception, the Champions League has established itself as the most prestigious club tournament in football across the globe.

The introduction of the mini-league group made it even more popular. This novel concept was similar to that of the FIFA World Cup which has an early phase of group play before a knockout phase.

Over the years, this competition has expanded to include more clubs. Initially, it only had 8 clubs. Today, it has a total of 32, qualification stages excluded.

If a club wins the Champions League trophy five times or three times in a row, it can keep the official trophy permanently.

Every time a club achieved this feat, a new trophy was forged for the next season. Today, only 5 clubs own a version of the: Real Madrid, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Milan, and Liverpool.

The official trophy, since 2008, has remained with UEFA and the clubs are awarded a replica. The trophy is today almost as adored as the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

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Winners and Runners-Up

All the finals in the history of the Champions League.

SeasonWinnerRunner-up
2020-2021ChelseaManchester City
2019-2020Bayern MunichPSG
2018-2019LiverpoolTottenham
2017-2018Real MadridLiverpool
2016-2017Real MadridJuventus
2015-2016Real MadridAtlético Madrid
2014-2015BarcelonaJuventus
2013-2014Real MadridAtlético Madrid
2012-2013Bayern MunichBorussia Dortmund
2011-2012ChelseaBayern Munich
2010-2011BarcelonaManchester United
2009-2010InternazionaleBayern Munich
2008-2009BarcelonaManchester United
2007-2008Manchester UnitedChelsea
2006-2007MilanLiverpool
2005-2006BarcelonaArsenal
2004-2005LiverpoolMilan
2003-2004PortoMonaco
2002-2003Real MadridJuventus
2001-2002Real MadridBayer Leverkusen
2000-2001Bayern MunichValencia
1999-2000Real MadridValencia
1998-1999Manchester UnitedBayern Munich
1997-1998Real MadridJuventus
1996-1997Borussia DortmundJuventus
1995-1996JuventusAjax
1994-1995AjaxMilan
1993-1994MilanBarcelona
1992-1993MarseilleMilan

Source: footballhistory.org

History

If the European Cup, is not counted, then the Champions League began in 1992. Nonetheless, the presentation of statistics often accumulates both Leagues.

It is worth noting that the group that plays in Champions League is what distinguishes it from its predecessor. However, this is only because the group stage was only introduced in 1991, and reshaping was formalized by the name change.

While developing the competition, a hybrid-form of group play and round-robin evolved.

So far, the tournaments have mostly been dominated by European clubs, save for the few surprise victories over the years.

One that is considered the biggest surprise is Porto’s victory in 2004. Nantes in 1995-96 also had the potential to win. If Dynamo Kyiv’s clash with Bayern Munich in 1998-99 had resulted in their win, it would also be seen as a sensation.

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Leeds also reached the semis two years later, but they were unable to make it past Valencia that time.

Villa Real was one goal down on aggregation against Arsenal in 2006 in the semis. This could’ve been another beautiful surprise.

Statistics

These clubs have won the most titles in the Champions League, the predecessor European Cup excluded.

Table 2. Most won titles by clubs.
ClubTitles1st title
Real Madrid71997-98
Barcelona42005-06
Milan31993-94
Bayern Munich42000-01
Manchester United21998-99
Liverpool22004-05
Chelsea22011-12
Marseille11992-93
Ajax11994-95
Juventus11995-96
Borussia Dortmund11997-98
Porto12003-04
Inter12009-10

Source: footballhistory.org

Teams that are the most times runner-ups include Juventus (3), Milan (3), Bayern Munich (3), and Atlético Madrid (3). Manchester United, Valencia and Liverpool have also lost the final more than once.

If Champions League and European Cup titles are combined, Real Madrid is still the best performing club with 13 titles (6 and 7 in European Cup and Champions League respectively).

Over the history of the Champions League, Spanish clubs have been the most successful, as shown by the table below:

Table 3. Most won titles by country.
ClubTitles
Spain11
England6
Italy5
Germany4

Source: footballhistory.org

Moreover, clubs from France, the Netherlands, and Portugal have also won one title each.

Format and Participating Teams

The very first edition of the Champions League in 1992-93 was made up of 8 teams after a qualification phase.

These 8 clubs were playing in two groups followed by a final between the group winners.

The first season consisted of 36 participating clubs in total in the qualification stage. The numbers have increased since then.

By 1994-95, in the third edition of the Champions League (1994-1995), the tournament had expanded to 16 teams (excluding the qualification).

The format consisted of a group phase with 4 groups followed by 3 knockout stages.
In 1997-1998, the teams expanded to 24 and a group phase of 6 was designed followed by a knockout phase of 3 stages.

The teams further expanded to reach 32 in the 1999-2000 season. Here is when the teams were divided into 8 groups and the first group stage was followed by a second, and finally a knockout stage.

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the second group stage was abandoned in season 2014-2015. Instead, another stage (Round of 16) in the knockout phase was played.

When the Games Are Played

The group stage is played from September to December, whilst the knock-out stage starts in February. The knock-out ties are played in a two-legged format, except for the final.

The final is typically held in the last two weeks of May, or in the early days of June, which has happened in three consecutive odd-numbered years since 2015.

In the 2019–20 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was suspended for five months.

UEFA Champions League timeline

1955 – European Cup, the predecessor of the Champions League, is established.
1992 – The competition is established.
1994 – The competition is expanded to involve 16 clubs.
1996 – The first time Champions League settled on a penalty shootout (Juventus vs. Ajax).
1997 – The competition is expanded to involve 24 clubs.
1999 – The competition is expanded to involve 32 clubs.
2000 – Two clubs from the same country are for the first competing in a final (Real Madrid vs Valencia).
2017 – Real Madrid becomes the first club to win the tournament two years in a row (2016-2017).
2018 – Real Madrid becomes the first club to win the tournament three years in a row (2016-2018).





About Korir Isaac

A creative, tenacious, and passionate journalist with impeccable ethics and a nose for anticipated and spontaneous news. He may not say it, but he sure can make one hell of a story.

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