UEFA Champions League – searching for the trends

With the curtains down on the 2017-2018 season of UEFA Champions League and the eager wait for the FIFA World Cup 2018, there is a brief lull period where people will catch up their breath and prepare for long nights. So, I thought it will be good to try and find some trends of UEFA Champions League from it’s inception till date. This is more of looking at the finalists and then coming up with certain statements, which hopefully indicates the trends of those times

  • Looking at both winners and runners-up teams, only 3 clubs have a number more than 10 : Real Madrid (16), AC Milan (11) and Bayern Munich (10). Obviously this indicates their dominance – though in different time periods
    • The dominance of Real Madrid was either in the 1950’s or in the decade starting 2011. In the 1950’s the likes of Di Stefano and Puskas were rocking Real Madrid, while in the 2011 decade, the big contributions coming from Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Considering again the finalists (both winners and runners-up) and looking at the country of the clubs, Spain (29 times), Italy (28 times) and England (20 times) contributed the most in the finals. Rest of the countries (including Germany) do not even come to double digits
    • Spanish clubs are currently reigning supreme in this decade. They also had a good run during the 1950’s and 1980’s
    • Italy’s dominance was during the decade starting 1990, even though they had decent run in the 60’s, 80’s and the decade starting 2000
    • England’s legacy started in the 70’s, followed by some level of dominance in the decade starting 2000
  • Now if I look just at these 3 countries of Spain, Italy and England, the spread of the clubs who emerged as the champions indicate the polarisation of club football on most of the cases
    • Spanish clubs have been champions 18 times. But no prizes for guessing which clubs are in this 18 number ? Only Real Madrid (13 times) and Barcelona (5 times). No wonder people say that Spanish club football means only 2 clubs and does not go beyond the two
    • Italian clubs have been champions 12 times. Again the spread has been limited to just 3 clubs here – AC Milan (7 times), Inter Milan (3 times) and Juventus (2 times)
    • When it comes to English clubs, their spread is much better than what we see for Spain or Italy. Out of 12 times champions, we have 5 clubs in the list: Liverpool (5 times), Manchester United (3 times), Nottingham Forest (2 times) and then one each from Chelsea and guess who ? Aston Villa !!
    • In spite of Germany dominating world football for last 25 years, it is surprising that they have managed to win Champions League for just 7 times. Again, the success is quite on a monopoly with Bayern Munich winning 5 out of the 7, with Borussia Dortmund and Hamburg winning once each
  • Finally, if I look at each of the decades starting in the 1950’s and try to see if there was any true dominance by any club (who were the champions), what I can see is:
    • 1950‘s were just the Spanish club of Real Madrid as champions from the first edition of 1955-56 and winning five times consecutively till 1960
    • It was Italy (AC Milan and Inter Milan) who actually won 4 times out of 10 in the 1960‘s and was clearly dominating in that decade
    • 1970 decade was mainly dominated by English clubs (Liverpool and Nottingham Forest followed closely by Netherlands (remember Johan Cryuff and Ajax during those days ?) and Germany (golden days of Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller at Bayern Munich)
    • 1980 decade was again ruled by English clubs and Italian clubs (when Paolo Maldini, Donadoni were playing for AC Milan) who both 6 out of the 10 tournaments
    • The 1990 decade started the re-dominance of Spanish clubs and this trend continued for next few decades. While the Spanish clubs of Real Madrid and Barcelona won 3 times together in this decade, the rest 7 winners were well spread across different countries of Italy, Germany, England, France, Netherlands and erstwhile Yoguslavia
    • The decade starting 2000 was when Spain (3 times) and Italy (3 times) won the Champions league most of the time. By this time, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has arrived big time in club football
    • Perhaps the true dominance of modern day football is in the current decade starting 2010. Out of 8 championship held so far, Spain (Real Madrid and Barcelona) has won 6 times. No wonder, the contributions of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo has been crucial behind the success of the Spanish clubs

Now as we go in the future with more talents / money coming up, perhaps the main question to be asked is “will we see a more spread of top football across Europe, or will it be again Spanish or Italian clubs who will reign on top ?” For the betterment of football, I will definitely wish for more distribution of money and hence better teams across Europe – otherwise soon the interest for club football might start dipping with championship monopolised by just a few !

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