The UEFA Champions League returns this week, and football’s biggest stars are eager to get back to work. As is customary, the fight will come down to the wire, as European heavyweights make preparations for a tussle to determine who will take home the coveted trophy.
Chelsea won the most recent edition of the tournament in May. The Blues defied the odds, defeating clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Porto, and Real Madrid on their way to presenting themselves as Europe’s kings. With that victory, Thomas Tuchel’s men wrote a lovely chapter in the competition’s history. However, when compared to other iconic Champions League-winning teams in history, they fall short.
Without diminishing the Blues’ incredible achievement, it goes without saying that there have been more inspiring Champions League triumphs over the years. Here are five of the greatest UEFA Champions League teams of all time, from mesmerizers to odds-defiers to total dominators:
Manchester United 2007-2009 – 5
During the 2007-2008 season, Manchester United had a successful Champions League campaign. In attack, a young Cristiano Ronaldo made the difference, assisted by Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.
On their way to the final, the Red Devils dispatched opposition teams with zeal. They faced Premier League rivals Chelsea. The prospect of an all-English final in Europe’s elite tournament was highly anticipated, and the game did not disappoint.
After 120 minutes, both teams had a 1-1 tie, forcing the game into a shootout, which United won to win their third Champions League title.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men also ran riot the following season, reaching back-to-back finals. This time, however, they were defeated by Pep Guardiola’s fantastic Barcelona team.
Liverpool 2017-2019 – 4
Mohamed Salah was Liverpool’s driving force, scoring ten goals in 12 games to lead the Reds to the 2018 Champions League final. They defeated Porto, Manchester City, and Roma to set up an epic final-day showdown with Real Madrid.
Unfortunately, the Reds’ key player was injured midway through the first half of the final. That appears to have killed their morale, allowing the Spanish giants to cruise to a 3-1 victory.
Liverpool, on the other hand, were unstoppable the following season when they reached the same stage of the tournament under Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool faced Tottenham Hotspur in the final after knocking out Porto, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona in the knockout stages. They won the competition for the first time since 2005 with a 1-0 victory.
Ajax 1994-1996 – 3
During the 1994-95 season, Ajax made history in the Champions League. By winning that year, they became the youngest team to win the continental title, with all of their players under the age of 25, with the exception of Frank Rijkaard.
The team captivated football fans with their Total Football style of play. During the tournament, they faced defending champions AC Milan three times: twice in the group stage and once in the final.
They won all three games without allowing a single goal. After winning the coveted trophy that season, Ajax advanced to the tournament’s final the following season. However, they were defeated on penalties by Juventus 4-2.
Barcelona 2008-2011 – 2
Barcelona, led by Pep Guardiola, is widely regarded as the greatest football team in history. The team displayed an appealing style of football. During the 2008-09 Champions League season, they easily dominated their opponents and won in style.
They defeated Olympique Lyon, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea to advance to the final against Manchester United. Barcelona won their third European title with a 2-0 victory over the defending champions. That was enhanced by the fact that they won a whopping six trophies that season.
Despite losing to Inter Milan in the semi-finals in 2010, Guardiola’s men came back to dethrone Manchester United in 2011. They won the championship for the second time in three years, defeating the Red Devils 3-1 in the final.
Real Madrid 2015-2018 – 1
Real Madrid are widely regarded as the most successful Champions League team in history. When the Spanish giants made history in 2017, they demonstrated why they are so highly regarded in the tournament. That year, they became the first team in Champions League history to successfully defend their title.
Los Blancos easily outclassed opposition teams thanks to legendary superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, and Sergio Ramos. Zinedine Zidane’s men had won three games in a row by the end of the 2017-18 season.
The team disbanded at the end of the season, with manager Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo among the first to depart. Nonetheless, what they accomplished in the Champions League over those three years will live on in the rich annals of the competition’s history.