UEFA Champions League Competition
More than any other football competition, the UEFA Champions League competition is no doubt the highlight of any football club’s calendar. Football fans from across the UK and the world have been keen to see their teams represented in this glorious competition.
History of Champions League Football
Probably the highest point of European football, the UEFA Champions League competition is the dream competition for all the major football clubs in across Europe with all the clubs wanting to be part of the competition and players playing hard to register their names in the winning teams. However, very few of the players get the opportunity to lift the coveted trophy leave alone participating in it.
Previously known as the European Cup, UEFA Champions League competition started in the year 1955 with only 16 teams limited to take part in it. Since that year, the competition has surpassed the founder’s expectations and with the competition being rebranded to the Champions League Competition in 1991, it has become the largest and best-paying football competition across the world.
Looking back in the earlier days of the UEFA Champions League competition, one thing stands out for sure – the total tally of goals scored in the competition were mind-blowing. This was probably because the players back then received very little pressure in the earlier days of the competition, and consequently absurd Champion League scores of 7-3, 6-0 and 5-4 were seen as a norm – even in the Champions League final matches. What’s probably more familiar with most people is that, just as it is today, FC Real Madrid were topping the UEFA Champions League competition and fans made millions of money from the team.
Captained by the renowned forward, Alfredo Di Stefano, Real Madrid FC won a total of five European Cups between the years 1956 and 1960, and consequently set a record that still stands to date. Although Real Madrid has failed to repeat the same feat, they have continued to be the main candidates in the Champions League odds having won this coveted title a record ten times since 1991 with their most recent win coming in the 2015/2016 Champions League season.
Starting to Swing
With the European Cup competition starting to embellish in the mid-1960s, the cup started circulating in Europe a little more with the Portuguese giants, Benfica enjoying successive victories, followed by the two Milan giants, Inter Milan and AC Milan, lifting the cup in sequential seasons. After missing out narrowly on a few occasions, UK clubs started tasting the success of winning the CL trophy with Celtic’s Lisbon Lions beating Inter Milan in the entertaining 1967 Champions League final.
One year later, Bobby Charlton scored the two all-important goals to help Manchester United secured a 4-1 victory over Benfica at the Wembley stadium. This put Manchester United in the Champions League records book as the first team from England to lift the Champions League trophy. What’s interesting is the fact that this was the 2nd final that was played in this famous stadium, even though it wasn’t the last one as the stadium now vaunts a record of already hosting seven finals in total, with the most current one being the 2012/2013 Champions League final in which Bayern Munich won.
The Decades of Reigns
The 1970s period emerged to be one of the best decades for the Champions League punters are there were different teams that successfully defended the Champions League trophy. After Feyenoord had won their first Champions League final, their Dutch counterparts, Ajax achieved the feat of winning the Champions League trophy thrice in a row, with the legendary Johan Cruyff being their source of inspiration in their incredible run. Ajax’s fascinating feat was immediately replicated with Bayern Munich, under the leadership of Franz Beckenbauer. The club won the European Cup thrice in a row from 1974 up to 1976.
Soon after these finals, English teams took the domination with Leeds United becoming the 2nd English team to secure a spot in the European League competition finals. Even though they didn’t succeed to win the final match, they did motivate other English teams to six successive seasons which span from between the 1976/1977 season and the 1981/1982 season. During this time, Aston Villa FC won the Champions League Cup once, Nottingham Forest won the trophy twice, and Liverpool FC won it thrice. Unfortunately, the English Clubs didn’t have an opportunity of continuing their dominance in the competition after the events that happened at the Heysel Stadium during the 1985 Champions League Final.
The Beginning of a New Era
As the 1990s approached, European Football started taking a new path towards football, with the sports becoming popular worldwide. Consequently, UEFA decided to rebrand the European Cup competition’s name to UEFA Champions League and welcoming the new football era, which propelled the UEFA Champions League competition to include other teams besides the champions in the competition.
The change in name came in the year 1992 with the first Champions League winners being Marseille, who were the first and only team from Ligue 1 to win the much-coveted trophy up to now. On their way to victory, they beat AC Milan 1-0 in an enthralling match that took place in Munich. Interesting enough, this final was just the beginning in which the top Italian teams qualified for six consecutive Champions League finals, during which they managed to win two finals. AC Milan contested in three successive finals during which they won two beating FC Barcelona in the 1994 UEFA Champions League competition final and Ajax in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final. In the following three consecutive seasons, Juventus FC qualified for the final thrice but struggled to overcome the final impediment, winning only once in the 1996 Champions League final against Ajax through a penalty shoot-out.
Since the inception of the Champions League competition in the early 1990’s, the competition was really flourishing, a fact that prompted the UEFA body to expand it in 1997 and include all the teams that had finished second in their respective leagues. This made this competition more popular with worldwide views reaching billions, a factor that also saw the teams participating being increased to four teams from any given top league, in any given season. These changes did not only bring more excitement to the game, but it also made the competition more challenging, making it difficult for teams to repeat the feat that Real Madrid, Bayern and Ajax. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know that there has never been any team that has managed to defend the title successfully after AC Milan won the trophy twice in a row in the 1988/1989 and 1989/1990 seasons.
With the UEFA Champions League competition becoming more exciting and competitive, the demand for the football players to play in both the Champions League competition and win the domestic competition also increased. It was during the 1998/1999 season when Manchester United pulled a spectacular feat when they secured the historic treble. After winning the FA and the Premier League title, Manchester United headed to Spain hoping that they’d claim the first ever treble in the history of football in addition to becoming the first tea from England to win the CL trophy after 14 years. However, luck seems to have abandoned Manchester UTD as they headed into injury time as they trailed Bayern 1-0. However, in an interesting twist of events, they somehow managed to grab two late goals which helped them secure the famous win.
The Champions League Odds suggested that there was no team that was ever going to repeat Manchester United’s feat, but interesting enough, four different teams have also been able to accomplish the same feat. In 2009, when Pep Guardiola was managing his old team, FC Barcelona, they managed to repeat the same feat and interesting enough, they beat the same team that beat them in the final to win a treble. One year later, Inter Milan also wrote their name in the history books by beating Bayern Munich 2-0 in a dramatic final to win a treble. This was a bad day for Bayern Munich, but they fought their way back to become the fourth team to achieve the treble feat when they beat their arch rivals, Borussia Dortmund in the 2012/2013 Champions League final that was held at Wembley. Barcelona completed their second treble in the 2014/2015 season when their star-embossed forward line of Luis Suarez, Neymar Jr. and Lionel Messi helped the team to claim a 3-1 win over Juventus FC in the most recent CL final.
What Makes UEFA Champions League Competition So Popular?
As things stand, the Champions League competition seems to be advancing in strength, with the top European teams dominating the bookie’s odds and amalgamating their position at the top of European football, thanks to the huge sums of money that they receive for participating in the UEFA Champions League competition. Even though the names that we shall see in the Champions League final may appear to be familiar in the coming years, the Champions League competition remains to be an exciting competition that will always keep football fans from across the world glued to their television sets and able to place their bets with the best Champions League Odds.
In case you’re also interested in learning more about Premier League, we have an article for you!