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How Many Teams Have Retained The Champions League?


How Many Teams Have Retained The Champions League?

The UEFA Champions League as we all currently know it first came to fruition back in 1993, with French club Marseille winning the inaugural iteration of the competition.

But, a Champions League-style competition has been in existence for decades and decades before what we know it as today, with the competition previously being known as the European Cup, or the European Champion Clubs’ Cup. Beginning all the way back in September of 1955 with just 16 teams competing, the competition back then was only open to the champion of each participating country, and was a straight knockout competition.

It carried on in a similar vein over the following years, albeit slowly increasing in terms of the number of teams eligible to participate. But then in the early 90’s, the competition went through a huge shake-up. It was renamed as the UEFA Champions League, and there was somewhat of a format change, seeing the competition’s teams play each other in a proper group stage format first before culminating in a knockout phase and final.

Currently, the famed trophy known affectionately as “Big Ears” has been won by a total of 23 different teams, with 13 of those 23 winning teams having won the title more than once, while a total of just 9 clubs have retained the trophy in consecutive seasons.

Sergio Ramos Real Madrid

Team stats betting

1Real Madrid
66.7%128Dortmund (A)
58.3%127Real Madrid (H)

Which Clubs Have Retained The Trophy?

Real Madrid, the competition's most successful club with an astounding 14 triumphs to their name to date, were the first team to retain the trophy in any format. Los Blancos won the first five editions of the European Cup, beating Stade de Reims twice, Fiorentina, AC Milan and Eintracht Frankfurt in five consecutive finals from 1956 to 1960.

Portuguese side Benfica were the next club to retain the European Cup, beating Barcelona and Real Madrid in 1961 and 1962 respectively for what remains their only ever successes in European football.

Italian outfit Inter Milan became the third team to retain the trophy, with the Nerazzurri going on to beat Real Madrid and Benfica 3-1 and 1-0 respectively in the finals of 1964 and 1965. There would then be a seven-year wait for the next team to successfully retain the trophy, with Dutch side Ajax doing so when they won a treble of European Cups in successive seasons from 1971 to 1973 following wins over Panathinaikos, Inter and Juventus in those finals.

German giants Bayern Munich would then follow suit by also winning three on the bounce, with wins over Atletico Madrid in 1974, Leeds in 1975 and Saint-Etienne in 1976. Liverpool would become the first English team to ever retain the European Cup following their success in the two years after Bayern Munich’s three-peat, with the Reds beating Borussia Monchengladbach in 1977 and Club Brugge in 1978. That feat was then copied by Nottingham Forest, who won the trophy in 1979 and 1980 following wins over Malmo and Hamburg respectively.

But, following so many teams retaining the trophy in such a short period of time, it would take a decade for another club to retain the trophy. Italian side AC Milan became the final team to retain it under the competition’s European Cup banner, after overcoming Steaua Bucuresti in 1989 and Benfica in 1990 respectively.

A total of eight teams have retained the European Cup since its inception, but since the competition's rebrand to the UEFA Champions League in the early 90s, just one team has managed to retain the trophy.

Real Madrid famously won a three-peat of Champions Leagues from 2016 to 2018 following successive wins in the final over Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Liverpool. But apart from Los Blancos, not a single other club side has managed to retain Europe's premier club trophy as the Champions League, and not at all since AC Milan did so under the European Cup banner in 1990.

Who Has Come Close To Retaining, But Fallen Short?

The Rossoneri won the trophy for the first time under the Champions League banner in 1994 after thrashing Barcelona 4-0 in that year’s final, and they made the final the following year. Ajax were their opponents, and it would be the Dutch side who would come out on top to deny the Italian side a second double in the competition.

Ajax managed to beat AC Milan 1-0 at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in 1995 following an 85th-minute goal by Patrick Kluivert, giving Louis van Gaal his first and only crown in the competition. However, they would suffer a penalty shootout loss to Juventus in 1996 after a 1-1 draw, as the likes of Edgar Davids and Sonny Silooy failed to convert in the shootout at the Stadio Olimpico.

Juventus were incredibly the third side in the Champions League-era to repeat this unfortunate feat, with the Old Lady holding the unenviable title of most defeats in the final of this competition (7). Juve have won the competition on two occasions, in 1985 and 1996, but failed when it was their opportunity to retain in 1997, when they faced Borussia Dortmund in that year's final.

The German side ultimately ran out as 3-1 winners, and Juventus would suffer the same fate the following year when they came up against Madrid in the 1998 final. Madrid triumphed 1-0 on the night to condemn Juve to a second consecutive Champions League final defeat, and at the time, fourth final defeat overall.

Manchester United are the only other side that have failed to retain the trophy despite making back-to-back finals, with the Red Devis suffering this fate at the end of the 2000s. United made the 2008 final and edged out fellow English side Chelsea on penalties. The following year in 2009, United once again made the final, and faced off against Barcelona. The Catalan side would run out 2-0 winners though, and condemn the then Premier League champions to a crushing defeat and deny them the chance to retain the famed trophy.

Now while Benfica, Liverpool and AC Milan have all managed to retain this trophy previously, they have also failed when presented with the opportunity to do so again for a second time. Liverpool had their only consecutive successes in this competition in 1977 and 1978 and had the chance to repeat the feat in 1985.

The Reds beat Roma in the final of 1984, and faced off against Juventus in 1985. However, it was the Old Lady who would triumph for what was their first success at the top table of European football. AC Milan had their first retention of the trophy in 1990, and had the chance to repeat the feat again just half a decade later.

Benfica, who we have already discussed as retaining in 1962 having won their first the year previously in 1961, did actually have the chance to win it three times on the bounce – because they also made the final in 1963. However, AC Milan ran out 2-1 winners in that final for their first win in the competition and what was a denial of a Benfica three-peat.

There would also be further heartbreak in the competition for Benfica that decade, with the Portuguese side going on to lose in finals against Inter in 1965 and Manchester United in 1968.

Header logoChampions League - Group G

Team logoMan City
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Team logoCrvena Zvezda
Last updated 25/05/2024

Could Manchester City Retain This Year?

As we all know, Manchester City finally won the trophy that their ownership had been craving for many a year last season when the Citizens managed to beat Inter 1-0 in the 2023 final of the competition.

That victory in Istanbul made City the 23rd different club to have ever won the competition, but could Pep Guardiola’s men add their name to the short list of clubs who have retained this trophy this campaign? It is not an easy feat to achieve. Remember, only nine teams have ever retained in the competition’s 69-year history, with only one side doing so in the 32 years since the competition’s rebrand in the early 90s.

But, if any side can do so now, it is this Manchester City side. The Citizens are a well-oiled machine, a destructive force of nature with several world-class players who are capable of leading City to the promised land for a second time. City went undefeated throughout the entire competition last year, conceding just 2 goals in the entire group stage and thrashing RB Leipzig 8-1 on aggregate in the round of 16.

Dominant wins over Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in the quarter and semi-finals respectively followed soon after, and they found a way past a stubborn Inter side in the final. Similarly, City have started well in the group-stage this season, and you would expect them to go deep into the competition once again considering their squad’s superiority over pretty much every other club side in Europe.

At the time of writing, City have currently been given 2/1 odds of winning the Champions League this season.