The Champions of The Champions League

In an article that is sure to please Real Madrid fans, Sports Analysis will take a statistical look at the most successful club in the UEFA Champions League, starting with Marseille’s victory in the inaugural competition in 1992/93, and ignoring Madrid’s victories in the first five European Cups.

The methodology is similar, but not identical, to this fantastic piece on Sporting Intelligence that looks at the greatest tennis player since the beginning of the open era. The system awards points to every losing quarter-finalist, every losing semi-finalist, every losing finalist and the winners. The only slight difference came in the first two years of the Champions League when the teams initially played a knock out format, followed by a group stage with two groups of four, where the top team (in 1992/3) from each group progressed to the final. In 1993/94, the same happened until the group stage, when the top two teams from each group progressed to the semi-finals. In every other year, the final knock out stages always had, at least, a quarter-final stage.

Points System:

Quarter-final losers: 8 points

Semi-final losers: 16 points

Finalists: 32 points

Winners: 64 points

 Final League Table:

Qfinals Sfinals Finalists Winners Points
AC Milan 1 1 3 3 312
Barcelona 2 4 1 3 304
Man Utd 5 3 2 2 280
R Madrid 3 3 0 3 264
Juventus 2 1 3 1 192
B Munich 4 2 2 1 192
Liverpool 2 1 1 1 128
Ajax 1 1 1 1 120
Inter Milan 4 1 0 1 112
Chelsea 2 3 1 0 112
Porto 5 0 0 1 104
BDortmund 1 1 0 1 88
Arsenal 5 1 1 0 88
Valencia 2 0 2 0 80
Marsellies 0 0 0 1 64

* Teams with the same number of points were split on the basis of winning the tournament, or the most finalists etc (Juve/Bayern and Inter Milan/Chelsea)

* 64 points was the minimum qualification, excluding, perhaps harshly, Monaco and Lyon.

Here’s the full spreadsheet (as a PDF) including all the entries from all the above teams from the beginning of the champions league:

Champions League Spread


AC Milan – The Champions of the UEFA Champions League.

AC Milan had two separate periods of dominance. The Rossoneri reached the final of the first three Champions League’s, managing to win one title (Juventus are only other side to reach three consecutive finals between 1995/98). Then from the 2002/03 season they reached three finals in five years, beating Juventus and Liverpool along the way. In the intervening years, between the two periods of dominance, they failed to reach a single quarter-final.

  • Real Madrid won the most titles in the shortest period of time, triumphing three times in five seasons between 1997 and 2002. They also made it to the semi-finals in five out of six seasons during the same period. Barcelona are currently on exactly the same streak of at least five semi-finals in six seasons since 2005. Chelsea also managed a similar feat from 2003-9, but only reached the final once and are still yet to win the competition.

The following league table is a list of the top twenty clubs with the most points gained in the UEFA Champions League, since the introduction of the new format in season 1992–93. The clubs are primarily ranked by their points gained, on a basis of two points for a win, one for a draw and no point for a loss. The results from the qualifying rounds are not included.

The accuracy of this table must be called in to question, take a look at the number of times (4) it says Barcelona have won the title in this period. This is wrong, although an easy mistake bearing in mind they won the last ‘European Cup’, at Wembley, in 1991/2, which did include a league stage to decide the finalists. However, as the quote from the UEFA site below illustrates, the official ‘re-brand’ didn’t occur till the following year, making the above table wrong, in at least one area.

Basile Boli scored the winning goal as Olympique de Marseill won the first edition of the UEFA Champions League, but their final victory against AC Milan at Munich’s Olympiastadion was to be overshadowed by off-the-field affairs.

That does not take away from the consistency shown by Manchester United. The highest total points and wins, when you include the league stages (table last updated January 2012) and if they had turned just one of the two recent defeats against Barcelona in to a victory, they would be equal with AC Milan at the top of my table on 312 points.

The table below gives further credence to the level of consistency shown by Man Utd and Barcelona.

  • Using a three year time frame, and including the total points from each team from each country, Italy’s level of consistency was highest between 2002-5. They scored a total of 168 points.
  • Spain come a close second with a consistency total of 240 points between 2000-3, when Valencia reached two consecutive finals, Real Madrid won two titles and Barcelona reached two semi-finals.
  • England had the highest consistency total of 256 between 2006-09, when Liverpool reached their second final in three years, Man Utd beat Chelsea in the final and all four clubs made up, at least, two of the semi-finalists in each of the three years.

*Please don’t think Analyse Sport has caught the Sky Sports collective amnesia bug when it comes to football before the Premiership began, or its continuing refusal to comment on competitions they don’t cover, I just wondered and was intrigued,  that’s all, and thought I’d analyse it.

** Real Madrid are clearly the best side in the history of the competition, hence the opening line.

All the results/data I used for my table was taken from this wonderful football archive of European Cup results since 1955 by James M. Ross.

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One thought on “The Champions of The Champions League

  1. jumpingpolarbear says:

    Good post. Would have been different if the old “champions league” aslo counted though. But I guess the same teams would dominate.

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