The 50 greatest European club sides

Number 1: Ajax 1965-73 team winning European Cup in 1971

Number 1: Ajax 1965-73 team winning European Cup in 1971

10. Torino 1945-49

Points: 1110

It’s not the tragedy of the Superga air disaster that brought this team such tributes. It was the scale of the triumphs. Torino won four successive titles in utterly emphatic manner, claiming still-unbroken scoring records. Their totals of 104 goals in 1946-47 and 125 in 1947-48 were astonishing even for the time.

One of the most memorable performances came in April 1946 when they were 6-0 up away to Roma after 19 minutes. Having eased off to win only 7-0, they were eventually applauded off the pitch by the home fans. It seemed only the beginning for a team that was going to win so much more. But, despite their premature demise, it is testament that all of their stats still stand up alongside the greatest of all time.

Trophies won: Serie A 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949
Managers: Luigi Ferrero, Mario Sperone, Egri Erbstein
Best XI: Bacigalupo, Ballarin, Maroso, Grezar, Rigamonti, Castigliano, Menti, Loik, Gabetto, Mazzola, Ossola

 

9. AC Milan 1991-95

Points: 1135

Never as sublime as Sacchi’s Milan but, on the whole, more successful. Fabio Capello’s team reached three consecutive Champions League finals, winning one of them as well as three consecutive scudettos.

Although Capello used many of the same personnel as his predecessor, he drastically changed their style. Initially, that shift was imperceptible as Milan beat Lazio 6-3, Fiorentina 8-2 and defending champions Sampdoria 5-1 on the way to the 1992 title. Capello altered the way Milan approached games. And an emphasis on defensive discipline was soon as clear as the area around Sebastiano Rossi’s box.

In the 1993-94 season, Milan only conceded 15 league goals and provided the European Cup’s best ever defensive record. That came on the back of a 58-game unbeaten run and – for all the accusations of negativity – culminated in one of football’s most spectacular attacking displays as they demolished Barcelona 4-0 in the triumphant 1994 Champions League final.

“We played an almost perfect game,” Paolo Maldini would explain. “We completely stifled opponents and gave them almost nothing.”

In truth though, that final was unique. That same season, Milan had only scored 36 goals in 34 games. And, in the European showpieces either side, they failed to score as they lost both to Marseille and Ajax 1-0. It is possible that Capello’s minimalism ultimately cost them at the very, very highest level.

Trophies won: Champions League 1994; Serie A 1992, 1993, 1994; Champions League runners-up 1993, 1995
Managers: Fabio Capello
Best XI: Rossi; Tassotti, Maldini, Baresi, Costacurta; Donadoni, Desailly, Albertini, Boban, Savicevic, Simone

 

8. Celtic 1965-74

Points: 1140

That Celtic’s nine consecutive titles came in the supposedly lower-status Scottish league need not extract from their legacy. Indeed, the fact they backed them up with frequent excursions to the European Cup’s latter stages should only add to the feat.

Most famously, Celtic echoed their utter dominance of Scotland with their swamping of Inter in the 1967 continental final. As the full-backs repeatedly outflanked the Inter defence, captain Armando Picchi apparently turned to goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti and – astonishingly – said “Just let it go. It’s pointless. Sooner or later they’ll get the winner.” Celtic’s siege had completely sapped their morale. As Tarcisio Burgnich later revealed “we did not want to prolong the agony”.

Many Scottish teams would have empathised. Through Stein’s staggering nine years, Celtic won a quadruple, another domestic treble, three other doubles and regularly scored over 100 league goals a season.

Their European record, perhaps, could have been equally emphatic. But Celtic lost in the 1972 and 1974 semi-finals and – ironically – let their guard down against Feyenoord in the 1970 final.

Their place in history was already assured, however, by the manner in which they vanquished Catenaccio for good.

Trophies won: European Cup 1967; Scottish league 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974; Scottish Cup 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974; Scottish league cup 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970; European Cup runners-up 1970
Managers: Jock Stein
Best XI: Simpson; Craig, Gemmell, McNeill, Clark; Murdoch, Auld; Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace, Chalmers

 

7. Inter Milan 1962-67

Points: 1145

Led by the ‘wizard’ Helenio Herrera, this Inter team clearly dabbled in black magic. In every sense. Aside from the aggressively negative football, there was also all manner of suspicion about bribery and more. Brian Glanville summed them up best in his history of the European Cup.

“Would Inter have won without the cheating and finagling which went on in the background? Such a question must forever tarnish their achievements. Nor was their style an endearing one. Yet their team bristled with fine players.”

And their trophy cabinet beamed with so much silverware. Over five years, Inter won three league titles, two consecutive European Cups and reached another semi-final and final. In a period when Catenaccio was king, their mastery of it was always going to make them Europe’s dominant team.

Once the tactic was rumbled, however, so were they.

Trophies won: European Cup 1964, 1965; Serie A 1963, 1965, 1966; European Cup runners-up 1967
Managers: Helenio Herrera
Best XI: Sarti; Burgnich, Facchetti, Picchi, Guarneri; Tagnin; Luis Suarez, Corso; Jair, Mazzola, Peiro

 

6. Benfica 1959-68

Points: 1165

To a certain extent, the predecessors of Brazil 1970. Both sides’ attacking brilliance bookended the tactical cynicism of the ’60s.

The great Bela Guttmann created them, sacking 20 players on his arrival but promoting a core of brilliant youth players who would dominate Europe for two years and Portugal for the rest of the decade.

Chief among them was Eusebio, who arrived for the second European Cup. In that final, they came from 2-0 and 3-2 down to eventually overwhelm Real Madrid. Indeed, the manner in which Alfredo Di Stefano sought out hat-trick scorer Eusebio to give him his shirt after the game was seen as a symbolic passing of the torch.

It perhaps should have been, as Benfica certainly had the attack – if not quite the defence – to rack up trophies in the manner Real did. After the 1962 final, however, Guttmann fell out with the directors over payment. He promptly departed and supposedly left the club with a “curse” that they would never win another European Cup. Whatever the truth of that, the lack of his ingenuity ensured they lost the three subsequent finals they reached, robbing them of an even greater reputation.

Trophies won: European Cup 1961, 1962; Portuguese league 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968; Portuguese Cup 1962, 1964; European Cup runners-up 1963, 1965, 1968
Managers: Bela Guttmann, Fernando Riera, Lajos Czeizler, Elek Schwartz, Fernando Cabrita
Best XI: Periera; Mario Joao, Germano, Angelo; Cavem, Cruz, Jose Augusto, Eusebio, Aguas, Coluna, Simoes

 

5. Bayern Munich 1971-76

Points: 1260

The team that created the Bayern myth. But not just in terms of relentless domination. Also the infamous concept of Bayern-Dusel – luck.

Because, despite offering Germany’s answer to Total Football, this team was never quite as convincing as their magnificent achievements inferred. To a greater degree than many of the other great teams, they were a curious mix of fearsomeness and fortune.

Admittedly, there was an awful lot of fearsomeness. For a start, despite the fact that their great rivals Borussia Monchengladbach were routinely considered the more entertaining team, Bayern always outscored them. Gerd Muller, meanwhile, outscored most teams in Europe on his own. It was throughout this period he set a record by scoring 55 goals in a season.

That also helped Bayern set a Bundesliga record for the most points per game. It came in the midst of three titles in a row, with that achievement overlapped by Europe’s gold-standard feat: three European Cups in a row.

But it was also in that golden era of 1973-76, that they most profited from fortune. First off, they were lucky that the Ajax team who had demolished them 4-0 in the 1972-73 season had broken up so dramatically. And, in the following season’s final, they were a minute way from defeat to Atletico Madrid until Georg Schwarzenbeck – a defender who scored about a goal a season – swept home an unlikely equaliser. Bayern did pummel Atletico in the replay (the European Cup’s only one), but signs of decline were there.

In the following season they only finished 10th in the Bundesliga before benefitting from a very controversial offside call in the final against Leeds. And in 1976 they repeatedly benefited from the width of the woodwork as Saint Etienne squandered a series of opportunities.

To give Bayern their due though, they rarely did the same.

Trophies won: European Cup 1974, 1975, 1976; German league 1972, 1973, 1974
Managers: Udo Lattek, Dettmar Cramer
Best XI: Maier; Hansen, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Breitner; Roth, Zobel, Hoeness, Rummenigge, Muller, Kapellmann

 

4. Barcelona 2008-11

Points: 1280

As often as this Barcelona transcended modern football, it is probably their performances against their closest and oldest rivals that have best defined them.

Most impressively, the 5-0 win over Real Madrid in November 2010 illustrated the true potential of a team sport. It was a carnival of technique, a kaleidoscope of cohesion.

In the same season’s Champions League semi-final first leg, then, Leo Messi emphasised the individual excellence that comprises the team with his coruscating solo run. And that was complemented in the second leg by Pedro’s precise finish to another dizzying passing move.

Such performances, of course, have lead to talk of the greatest team of all time.

Certainly, it is highly possible that Pep Guardiola’s stewardship represents the highest possible peak of club football. As reflected by their play on the pitch, the club is perfectly synchronised with the former captain i charge. He represents the top of a seamless pyramid; an institution that’s almost organic rather than organised.

La Masia produces prototype players that perfectly fit the team’s approach. But then Guardiola also enhanced that approach. He evolved their inherent passing philosophy with a vigorously implemented pressing game. In the rare periods of a match when Barcelona don’t have the ball, they work harder than any team to win it back. That stats show that no side in history has reclaimed the ball as often in the opposition half. And, obviously, no side in history has had such insane possession stats.

The end result, of course, is that the side play virtually every game on their own terms. And that has produced some extraordinary achievements. As well as winning Spain’s first ever treble, Guardiola’s Barcelona have won a three-in-a-row and two Champions Leagues in three short years. Along the way, they’ve also been Spain’s most emphatic league winners in terms of points per game and provided the division’s best ever defence.

And for those that say that was down to the poverty of the Spanish league, they’ve beaten every Champions League knock-out opponent except Chelsea by more than two goals.

But such dynamism came with extraordinary demands. For a start, the pressure on the obsessive Guardiola, which ultimately cut his reign short. Then there’s the fact that their unique philosophy makes it difficult for players to adapt. That has left them with a necessarily short squad and – occasionally – an overstretched one. Indeed, it was arguably that, above all, which cost them the 2010 Champions League – a trophy that would undoubtedly have put them top of this list.

Trophies won: Champions League 2009, 2011; Spanish league 2009, 2010, 2011; Spanish cup 2009
Managers: Pep Guardiola
Best XI: Valdes; Dani Alves, Abidal, Pique, Puyol; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Eto’o

 

3. Liverpool 1975-84

Points: 1300

Whatever about walking alone, in England this team stands alone. Bill Shankly had first made Liverpool regular winners before Bob Paisley made them relentless winners.

For all that victory defined this team though, it was arguably a defeat that created them. After losing both legs of a European Cup tie 2-1 to Red Star Belgrade, the boot room acknowledged the need for a more patient, professional approach.

“We realised it was no use winning the ball if you finished up on your backside,” Paisley would later reveal. “The top Europeans showed us how to break out of defence effectively. The pace of their movement was dictated by their first pass. We had to learn how to be patient like that and think about the next two or three moves when we had the ball.”

It was a patience that created the platform for the longest – if not quite the most intense – spell of success in the European Cup’s history. Over nine glory-drenched years, Liverpool won four European Cups and seven league titles. And all while Paisley and then Joe Fagan organically evolved and altered the team year on year.

Despite the emphasis in pass and move though, the team’s success was actually underpinned by maximum protection. Anfield produced what was statistically the best defence in English history.

That did, however, lead to an occasional staleness that saw them twice knocked out of the European Cup in the first round and finish fifth in the 1980-81 championship. But only those aberrations keep them off the top. Otherwise, a lesson in longevity.

Trophies won: European Cup 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984; English league 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984; League Cup 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984; Uefa Cup 1976
Managers: Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan
Best XI: Clemence; Neal, A Kennedy, Hansen, Hughes; R Kennedy, Souness, McDermott, Heighway; Keegan, Dalglish

 

2. Real Madrid 1953-60

Points: 1470

Bobby Charlton could only look to the supernatural. After the Busby Babes had been battered in the 1957 European Cup semi-final, he exasperated “these people are just not human. It’s not the game that I’ve been taught.”

It was the kind of game, however, that brought the competition’s greatest run of glory. Five successive European Cups culminated in the euphoria of the 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

The next day, Hugh McIlvanney wrote in The Scotsman that the crowd “had not simply been entertained. They had been moved by the experience of seeing a sport played to its ultimate standards… the fact [Real] were engaged in winning the European Cup for the fifth successive year seemed equally inevitable and incidental in the midst of the most magnificent sporting artistry Hapden Park has ever seen.”

It’s difficult to argue with McIlvanney’s words. And, certainly, actually witnessing such events lends them an esoteric and ephemeral quality that broader truths can never match. In that way, the final was arguably as fitting as the flourish they finished the haul of five with. Just like the very simple – and astounding – statistic that Real won the first five trophies, the sheer style of that 1960 final lent them a sheen they only occasionally possessed.

The record implies they were relentless, unconquerable winners. But reality argues otherwise.

Such was astounding impact that Alfredo Di Stefano’s arrival in 1953 brought an immediate burst of league titles. But thereafter followed the paradox that Real were often Europe’s best side without being Spain’s. From 1958-60, for example, they were frequently embarrassed by Herrera’s Barcelona. Real, however, won the Clasico that really mattered: the 1959-60 semi-finals. It proved enough to give that unmatched fifth trophy. But not enough to finish first here.

Trophies won: European Cup 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960; Spanish league 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958
Managers: Enrique Fernandez, Jose Villalonga, Luis Carniglia, Miguel Munoz
Best XI: Dominguez, Marquitos, Santamaria, Pachin, Munoz; Zarraga, Kopa, Rial, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento

 

1. Ajax 1965-73

Points: 1575

As a title, Total Football didn’t just fit the style but the success. For three exceptional years out of eight excellent ones, Ajax won virtually every trophy and every game. In doing so, they also went unbeaten through a European Cup, secured one of the highest points hauls in the history of any league and regularly scored over 100 goals a season. And all of this while a formidable Feyenoord team breathed down their necks.

But it wasn’t just the numbers. It was the nature of the performances that brought them.

After Rinus Michels had first rescued the club from relegation and then immediately delivered a title, the first signs that something special was happening came in the second round of the 1965-66 European Cup. A disregarded Dutch team dismissed Bill Shankly’s Liverpool 5-1. At that point, Michels’s new techniques and alterations seemed minor. But they lead to major conclusions and results.

The path to perfection wasn’t without pain though. The 4-1 defeat to Milan in the 1969 European Cup final illustrated that neither the football nor the philosophy were complete. But, in the following season, it finally clicked. Until Milan 1994 and the current Barcelona, there had probably never been three European Cup finals as utterly emphatic as Ajax’s between 1971 and 1973. Total Football left them in total control.

Most of all, though, there was the 1973 peak in which they thrashed the team that would follow them, Bayern Munich, 4-0. That win was shortly before Johan Cruyff and others left. And it emphasised that it wasn’t any opposition that could ended this all-conquering team’s era but individual wanderlust.

Trophies won: European Cup 1971, 1972, 1973; Dutch league 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973; Dutch Cup 1967, 1970, 1971, 1972; European Cup runner-up 1969
Managers: Rinus Michels, Stefan Kovacs
Best XI: Stuy; Suurbier, Hulshoff, Vasovic, Krol; Neeskens, Haan, Muhren; Rep, Cruyff, Keizer

 

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161 comments
nismoz
nismoz

Hi Thomas, I agree with you there. Football in the 50s n 60s were merely amateurs. First of all, alot of people are not aware of the rules in place in that era. 1) there was no substitutes allowed in a game of football until mid 60s. The first world cup which allowed substitutions in a football game was 1970 in mexico. The maximum number of substitutes allowed in a game of football in the mid 60s was 1, slowly it was changed to maximum of 2 substitutes in the late 60s. 2) Goal keepers up until 1970 still didnt use gloves to make saves. if anyone dont believe me, watch a few games of world cup in 1970 and you will start to notice the difference. 3) Football formations was suited to attacking plays, most of these legendary teams all had used 4 or 5 attackers and 2/3 defenders at the back. In most Champions League knock out games in the late 50s and 60s, it was very common to see score line like 8-10 goals over 2 legs. you can say defence were non-existent. The game intensity and man marking was very slouch, attackers are always afford 5-6 seconds on the ball, compare this to the Champions League of modern era eg) Man Utd v Juventus in 1999.. games are always played at neck breaking pace. So for alot of football fan out there still thinkin Pele was a god and he scored 1200+ goals, think again and ask urself the question how many of that 1200 was at professional competitions and what sorta defenders he faced? Yes he might of won 2 world cups (NOT 3 BECAUSE HE ONLY PLAYED 2 GROUP MATCHES IN 1962), but can we really judge a player as the best of all time because he played well in 2 world cups (16 teams tournaments and all teams self invited)??

cfc4ea
cfc4ea

you mentioned the current Barcelona Miguel, but Cruyff's Barcelona also derserves an honourable mention because of the pioneering concepts that has become the Barcelona trademark ,"tiki taka" as some would put it.  I understand that statistically Capello's Milan achieved more league success than under Arrigo Saachi but the Milan team of the late 80's  were much more successful than the one in the early- mid 90's, if you look comparitively at their most successful season(s).

 

I didnt look at the full list but where would the great Santos side of Pele be?

 

 

cfc4ea
cfc4ea

you mentioned the current Barcelona Miguel, but Cruyff's Barcelona also derserves an honourable mention because of the pioneering concepts that has become the Barcelona trademark ,"tiki taka" as some would put it.  I understand that statistically Capello's Milan achieved more league success than under Arrigo Saachi but the Milan team of the late 80's  were much more successful than the one in the early- mid 90's, if you look comparitively at their most successful season(s).

 

I didnt look at the full list but where would the great Santos side of Pele be?   (I mean they are better than Preston, right)

 

 

 

LennartHijn
LennartHijn

what do you think about the borussia dortmund team of the mid-90s? they won 2 german bundesliga titles and the champions league 97. they weren't a great team but nonetheless very successful and it would have been nice for a fan to see them place on the lower ranks at least. i would love to hear your opinion about them and see why they didnt make it on your list?

dicks69
dicks69

Your method of scoring is horribly flawed. You've accumulated the total achievements of some clubs over 8 or 9 years whilst others only have a window of 4 years. It seems like there is some inherent bias in your lists.

 

For example, Sacchi and Capello's Milan were consecutive and could easily be considered one dynasty from 1987-1995 (which is a time period similar to the top two's) which would achieve a points total of 2185. This total would catapult this Milan as undoubtedly the best dynasty.

 

Even though Milan only had two coaches over 7 years you have split that dynasty apart. Interestingly Ajax (1965-1973) went through two coaches as well and Madrid (1953-1960) went through FIVE coaches. So why not count Milan (1987-1995) as one dynasty?

 

Also, why not divide the total score by the number of seasons? This allow a much better comparison...

 

 

Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich

I don't know which team is the best but I do know that these teams Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid are probely the favourites but I support Bayern Munich because they play so good and I like the players.Bayern Munich is the best club for me and also,it doesn't always have to be Barcelona AND Man boo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! l DON'T SUPPORT BARCELONA AND MAN BOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

antonio65
antonio65

Barcelona is the all time football club in the world as at now..

adamrhbrown
adamrhbrown

Far too young - and not nearly Dutch enough - to have seen enough of Ajax's TF hippies, but from what I've heard, across all sources, they deserve their no. 1 status. Probably the most intelligent forward-thinking team of all time. Kinda sad that the modern market leaves the current lot having to play against no-marks like no. 11 these days! (Well alright, no. 11 without their world class players.)

Seriously though it's interesting that the least heralded of Fergie's three definitive Man Utd teams is the one with the best results. Brings me onto my main point. Although I appreciate the sacrifices you've already made in your spare time to bring us this site, I do still stand by my comments in my email that the site would work better as a 'Hall of Fame' rather than ranked lists. Judging sides based on how well they dominated their era results-wise may avoid 'who would win a match between...?' arguments, but stats are only one ingredient in the melting pot of greatness.

Plus it does assume that the overall level of competitiveness remains the same across all eras, which - while probably true at domestic level - may not necessarily be the case at the top, especially not with the ever-growing scope of communications media.

Mainly it just seems unfair to leave the Busby Babes off. A side who were also revolutionaries in their more understated English way. Real would most likely not have had five in a row were it not for Munich.

Mortan Vang
Mortan Vang

@MDelaneyST What do you mean "effectively meaningless"? There's only 20 points a difference between Barca and Liverpool, and I see you give 15 bonus points to the winner of the Club World Cup (where you have to beat two continental champions, including, most likely, the Copa Libertadores winner). Then it would be fair to give, say, 10 points for winning a domestic supercup (where you have to beat the domestic champion / cup winner) and probably the same for winning the Uefa Super Cup (where you have to beat the UCL or UEL winner).

You're right when saying, the major weighting should be domestic league and UCL. But even with minor weighting, I suppose Barca already now could benefit from winning those three minor titles and "advance" to the all-time 3rd place.

Mortan Vang
Mortan Vang

With the current Barca side winning the Spanish Supercopa against a formidable Real Madrid side over two legs, beating Europa League winners FC Porto in the Uefa Super Cup and Al Sadd and Copa Libertadores winners Santos comprehensively in the Club World Cup, who many points does the catalans actually have now. Has Barca surpassed Liverpool in 3rd place?

ThomasDingle
ThomasDingle

Comparing the quality of competition today vs 30-40+ years ago is just silly. Similar to how comparing players from 30-40 years ago to today's athletes is also silly. The simple fact is, if you put any of them on the field today they would fall on their faces.

A.
A.

Just one last quibble: don't you think there's a little too much weight given to back-to-back EC wins? They almost occurred more often than not in pre-CL times but has proven to be impossible to achieve so far in the CL era. Surely this means that it's much more difficult to do now, even with a great side, rather than the sides of yesteryear being spectacularly better.

A.
A.

Looking at the list, I find the determining of eras somewhat arbitrary. For example, what's the reasoning behind separating Barcelona of the last 8 seasons or so into two teams but not doing the same for Ajax 60s-70s, or Liverpool 70's-80's or Juve of that era?

nismoz
nismoz

 @LennartHijn Hi Lennart, I think the Borrusia Dortmund side in the mid 90s was actually a way better side than the FC Porto of 2003-05. For a mere fact, that team host some of the finest german players in the modern era. I can honestly say players like matthias sammer, jurgen kohler, andreas moller, thomas hasler would walk into any clubs in europe without any problem. They have achieved miracle in that 1997 CL final against Juventus (who were the strongest side in europe from 1995-2000), also won 2 german leagues and 2 german cup in succession.  In my mind, their CL triumph over the mighty marcello lippi juventus beats FC Porto any day of the week!

MiguelDelaney
MiguelDelaney

 @billy7 They didn't win most of those trophies though. That matters. See our "just missed out" section.

MiguelDelaney
MiguelDelaney

 @dicks69 This list was done almost a year ago. In that time, I've addressed your points a fair few times and it is slightly frustrating when you claim to have read the 'how it works' section but clearly taken in only what you want to see. As such, to "reply like an adult" would be to retread a lot of old ground and repeat a lot of what is elsewhere. But here goes.

a) the point about favouring longer dynasties: no we don't. We EXPLICITLY say that the key to this list is balancing between those teams that enjoyed short bursts of intense success (like a treble) with those who admirably lasted years. Both, after all, are the primary virtues. Therefore, does it not make sense that teams who achieved both - intense bursts and long-lasting success - are at the top? Your suggestion unfairly rewards teams who won everything in one season but nothing either side of it.

b) About Milan of the late 80s/90s. This has been brought up a few times. Again, our 'How it works' section makes it clear how we decided when there were was a 'cut-off' point for dynasties. Essentially, there were three criteria (manager/main figure; core of players; overall style). If two of these three remained constant from one season to the next, it was considered part of the same dynasty. If two of these changed, then that was considered a dividing line. With regard to that Milan, there is absolutely no doubt that Capello radically altered the style of the team. Indeed, so all-consuming and distinct was Sacchi's pressing approach that it would have been disingenuous to consider them part of the same dynasty. With regards to Real of the 50s, they had managers but that was about the only thing that changed. In fact, many of those men can barely be called managers. They were just about head coaches. Bernabeu and Di Stefano undeniably called the shots though. As regards the changes in their squad, these were more organic. There was no sudden change one summer.

 

That suit you?

MiguelDelaney
MiguelDelaney

 @dicks69 Please properly read the 'how it works' section before commenting on, well... how it works.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@adamrhbrown If it's a Hall of Fame it's a bit boring though. "Here are some teams". The formula is not perfect, because no formula ever can be. But we'd like to think this at least provides a basis for intelligent, informed discussion.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@Mortan Vang Also, that CWC refers to the Cup Winners Cup, not the Club World Cup.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@Mortan Vang Yes, but we look at how we calculate it. If Barca, for example, were to only get to the semi-finals of the Champions League this season and finish second in the league then it would take their overall performance average down (it's now at about 92% = 920 points. It would fall below 900 if that happened). That is why the World Club Cup is effectively meaningless. What's important, really, is them winning the Champions League again. That will probably take them above Liverpool.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@Mortan Vang Not yet. Those competitions are effectively meaningless. The major weighting goes to league and Champions League performance.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@ThomasDingle Which is why we're not trying to do that. We're trying to compare teams' and players' performances/records in their respective era... because they are comparable.

We're not saying one would beat the other. Although, one line I would take issue with: yes, if Garrincha took to the field as a 1950s player today, he would probably perform poorly.

But imagine if Garrincha grew up in today's game, got the same fitness regime, the same coaching. Well, given that he was the best of his own time, it stands to reason that his innate ability would give him a good chance of being the best in this time too.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. Look at the 'How it Works' section. All of this is explained. In order to determine a team's cycle, there were three factors. If two of them stayed constant from season to season, it was the same cycle. If two changed, different cycle.

The three factors were:

1) same manager

2) same main core of players

3) same philosophy/style

fix70
fix70

 @nismoz  @LennartHijn Did the 3 Stefans Reuters,Freud and Chapuisat feature in this side? I remember Lars Ricken scoring immediately after coming in.

vellhuan
vellhuan

 @MiguelDelaney  @dicks69 

I wonder why then you don't reconsider Madrid 53-64 as just the Di Stefano era instead of unnaturaly splitting it in two.

 

The thuth is how a team who has reached 7 EC finals (and won 5 in a row) and an extra semifinal in 9 years and 8 leagues in 11 years can be second to anyone?  

 

What changed from 53-60 to 60-64 is that they didn't win in 61 and 62, then you would be talking about the Madrid team of the 7 European Cups, the split you're doing isn't methodological but symbolic, it ends when the european cup streak finishes. But success streak was 11 years long. If you aspire to be "scientific" about it you should  follow your own criteria:

 

-The overall style of Madrid stayed the same all those years being always an attack oriented team.

 

-The core players were Di Stefano and Gento and Miguel Muñoz as captain first and coach later . From the starting XI that won the 53-54 league, only Di Stefano and Gento kept their status in 59-60, with Lesmes II and Zarraga being demoted to squad players. From the starting XI 58-59 to the starting XI in 63-64 4 players are the same Santamaria, Puskas, Gento, Di Stefano and Santiesteban and Casado as squad players.

Yourself confirm that the changes of the squad were organic.

 

-Real Madrid coaches as you already said were not managers but head coaches and in some case just figureheads. All his teamates say that he was the one giving instructions before the match and inside the pitch, he was the manager and he was a total footballer who played everywhere in the pitch. The most influential player for a team ever, empirically proved, Madrid wasn't even the best team in Spain before him, it had been 20 years since winning their second Liga! Remember he was the best player of all times up until that moment.

 

You have the option to consider Miguel Muñoz as a key change, then you would have to change the teams to 53-58 and 58-64, which is breaks anyway with the logic of the other two criterias.  

 

Now, my opinion is that beyond output, Guardiola's Barcelona is the best team ever, at least in the 20 years I've being watching football, futuristic style and the closest thing in football to art.

 

 

 

 

dicks69
dicks69

 

a) I can understand where you are coming from here as it is complicated to weigh impact and dominance when teams have different time frames to work in. I was suggesting that, after the longevity multiplier and such, that an average per season would be added as your system places way too much emphasis on the length of the side's life. I feel too much emphasis has been put on longevity as greatest team in history =/= most prominent team in history.

 

b) Capello became manager in 1991. Cappelo remained similar to Sacchi's style for at least a season, so lets say philosophy change in 1992. All the players stayed for a long time and any players changes were organic. The philosophy change from Sacchi's to Capello's was very pragmatic - the team was becoming older (so less workload), more technical and other sides had started to imitate Sacchi's tactics.

 

It seems strange you would only break Milan up when Madrid (1953-1960) and Liverpool (1975-1984) had much bigger changes. Its also quite funny that Milan retained an extremely similar team of players over 8 years whilst Liverpool and Madrid ended up with a completely different roster.

 

It seems extremely disingenuous, almost biased, to discredit such a team solely based on your gut feeling here. As you have said, I'm not the only one to point to the fact that Milan shouldn't be broken up. Out of interest - have you watched a lot of Milan from 1986-1994? What about Liverpool (1975-1984) or Madrid (1953-1960)?

 

I find it funny the top two sides are from when football leagues were still full of amateurs - it kind of belittles the professionals.

dicks69
dicks69

@MiguelDelaney

 Thats such a poor, immature response and you haven't even addressed any of these issues.

 

I've read the "how it works" section and you've created a system which heavily favours longer dynasties (not just with achievements but also with a coefficient for how long they went for!).

 

You've also unfairly broken up Cappello/Sacchi's Milan when they were extremely similar teams with the same core players. Madrid (1953) went through four managers, turned into a completely different squad and a formation change before it was Madrid (1960) but yet you count it as one dynasty? So changing a coach is more indicative of a dynasty change than what Madrid (1953-160) did?

 

Are you going to reply like an adult or can you not logically defend your point at all?

 

adamrhbrown
adamrhbrown

@MDelaneyST Point taken - especially as there's no big ceremony. Though my way of thinking was not "here's some teams" but more "here's a team plus a few juicy bits about them". Though it is obviously not easy to find a new angle on the stuff everyone already knows everything about.

It might just be that I have a largely female brain and so place less trust in rigid rankings than most other men (which is what you are doing in making such lists, admit it).

Perhaps sounds odd when so much of the game revolves around numbers and ordering. It's not that I don't care for league tables and final results (obviously I have more than a bit of male brain in me), but I fell in love with football for offering more than that. My beef is with making it the overwhelming focus of your analysis.

Mortan Vang
Mortan Vang

@MDelaneyST Sorry, my fault. But why isn't the Cup Winners Cup rated as highly as the Uefa Cup. I find it pretty hard to argue either of those two competitions to be superior/inferior to the other.

Teams playing in CWC at least won something to get there. The same cannot be said of teams in the Uefa Cup / Europa League.

Mortan Vang
Mortan Vang

@MDelaneyST I pretty much understand the whole philosophy of yours with this list of best club teams. But I'm not too sure about, how precisely you do the calculations.

Since I suppose, you've saved the calculations for every team in the list, could you please give a few examples, how exactly each team gets as many points as they do (e.g. The top 5 teams)?

Thanks in advance.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST@ThomasDingle

I think the second hypothetical is not worth considering when trying to figure which team or player WAS actually better. It would be akin to saying a tortoise could run like a hare if it became a rabbit.

I think the very best players of 40 years ago would still be top class today however most of the top teams of those times are way over rated in terms of the quality of their play, perhaps even all of them. Take Ajax of total football for example. Their play is very sloppy compared today's best team, Barcelona. Pumping long balls from the back that are easily repelled can be seen a dozen times at least in every match of theirs and their not even under the same amount of time pressure to play passes as everybody used to drop back when not in possession in those days.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

I don't see how the Liverpool can be included as one cycle based on that criteria. There were only two players present in both their first EC win in 77 and their last in 84 and they had different managers.

LennartHijn
LennartHijn

 @fix70  @nismoz  @LennartHijn 

 

yes, all those great players featured in this side. also a year after their champions league triumph they still managed to advance into the semifinals (lost to real). the more i think about it the more i feel they deserve to be in that list. hopefully they can repeat their feat this year ;)

MiguelDelaney
MiguelDelaney

 @dicks69 I think Adam catches the point about amateurs/professionals quite well. This, after all, is not about saying which team would be who - since that is impossible across eras - it's about who was most dominant across time. As far as I can see, that is the only fair, objective way to judge their quality against each other.

 

As regards Milan,yes a few people did bring it up. But the majority supported the decision to split the team. This also wasn't based on "gut feeling". It was based on careful analysis of each team and what we felt was the most honest approach. As we say,it's impossible to be completely accurate. But it is what we're striving for.

adamrhbrown
adamrhbrown

 @dicks69 I know Miguel will be all over your last remark, so I'll save him the trouble. This list is based on how dominant each team was in its own era, so maybe the conclusion is that it was easier to dominate back then. Then again, from the available footage, both of those teams still look very 'modern'.

 

Also, just because they didn't earn today's mega-wages doesn't mean they were amateurs. Professionalism has been around since the late 19th/early 20th century. In fact, Ajax's rise was largely down to the introduction of professionalism in Holland.

 

And I actually think there should be a bias in favour of those who maintained their dominance for longer. But there really is no fair way of compiling a list like this. I had suggested they change the format, but no dice. (Now, I'm no scholar, but does the original pantheon rank the gods like this, or is it just a general place of worship?)

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@adamrhbrown Once again, though, who'd come to a site that just presented teams with a few juicy bits? The ranking system is the launchpad for debate!

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A.@ThomasDingle And, the most important point, this list doesn't try to look at that... it only compares records over cycles!

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A.@ThomasDingle But that's an unfair comparison. Ajax were still the most evolved state of football at the time. They only had 80-100 years of history and lessons to draw on. Barca have 120 or so to go on. As well as the lessons of Ajax. They're obviously going to look sleeker and more polished.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

Not in 92 and 93, my friend. And plus, it's not always wise to take what players say, especially when they're still in the pockets of the President of the club and he had a falling out with the previous manager. I don't doubt that Capello changed Milan somewhat over the years, but the changes where very gradual in terms of playing style.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

I don't know what the solution for Liverpool is but I find it difficult to accept a best XI that was never actually seen! I do understand the dilemma though.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. Again, I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree. Every single player said it - most notably the most influential in Baresi and Maldini. They all argued that Sacchi's style was simply unsustainable. And they badly needec change in 1991. Sacchi was one of the most influentual figures in the tactical evolution of the game. But his style, at the time, was hugely idosyncratic. If you actually look at how the players move, where their general position was, there is a HUGE difference between Capello and Sacchi. For a start, Capello abandoned Sacchi's ideal that there should only ever be 25 yards between the defence and attack.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

Nothing drastic of the sort happened at Milan in 91. The team had finished second in the league and with the exact same squad, playing the exact same style, won the league the next season. Only difference was the coach.

Capello only changed the approach of the team in later years, when everybody started playing the "Sacchi way", and injuries and player movements made him more pragmatical. But if watch any game from his first two seasons, it's immediately obvious that on the pitch this was the same team as in the previous seasons.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. Where would you draw the line with Liverpool for example? 1983? But Fagan coached under Paisley and basically kept everything exactly the same? When was there a grand change of player? It's hugely hard to say when one cycle started and another ended. With Milan, there is a very distinct line in the summer of 1991.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. I don't think it's the same. But the point is that it's exceptionally difficult to actually draw a distinct line. Liverpool gradually and organically changed players. The Boot Room ensured it was all almost seamless. Milan had a very drastic change in 1991.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

That's fine but if you think the Liverpool of 75 is essentially the same team as the one in 84 but the Milan team of 91 is not essentially the same team as the one in 92, you must be kidding.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. I've done that recently. I've also researched a lot about this team. Capello abandoned Sacchi's principle of "universality". Instead, he began to lean much more on specialised positions.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

You need to watch a game of either team back-to-again, I think.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. Capello's different approach on the training pitch meant Milan had the capacity to sustain consecutive title challenges. That is a huge difference. All of the players spoke of the massive change between Sacchi and Capello.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. You mightn't be interested but they're absolutely essential to understanding these teams. The differences were absolutely huge, even if they were not immediately obvious. And Guardiola has revolutionised the pressing game. Taken to ridiculous new levels.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

I'm not really interested in the behind the scenes goings on. On the actual field of play, there were no major difference in playing style between Sacchi's Milan and Capello's. This is what's important.

The pressing was always there and was a core philosophy under Rijkaard. Players such as Deco and Iniesta made their names by this approach! The ball possession and pressing are common factors, only under Guardiola it is generally been done at an even higher level.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. We'll have to agree to disagree. Sacchi's training approaches were so idiosyncratic and demanding that many of the players said they were not sustainable. This goes a long way to explaining why Milan performed better in a cup competition and only won one league title. Capello drastically changed that, so then the team went and won a series of consecutive titles.

The opposite applies to Barca. Such is the way Guardiola introduced a relentless pressing game to their system, they were absolutely unrecognisable from Rijkaard's team - even if some of the players are the same. Guardiola had a MASSIVE difference. This relentlessly successful era is almost entirely down to his approach.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

Don't mistake the Capello of today for the Capello who first took over at Milan. For his first two seasons there was no change in approach except fine tuning and often improving what Sacchi had established with the same players, e.g. the high def. lines, pressing, creative usage of deadball situations etc. Thereafter, as injuries started to take their toll, and the dynamics of the post-Bosman started to tell, he started to become more cautious, which in itself wasn't unheard of in Sacchi's times either, as some of the stats from that era would attest to.

As to Barcelona, the foundations for the current style of play were very much laid down by Rijkaard. The pressing, formation, philosophy, tiki take are all the same. Many of the players are the same ones as well. They've just gotten better and better at it.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. No because if you actually look trhough Liverpool every season, there was generally only one or two changes to players per season. So it was very hard to ever draw a line. The team favoured organic evolution.

As for Milan, Sacchi's entire approach was hugely different from Capello so it would have been disingenuous to not split them. Likewise Barcelona. Guardiola represented a quantum leap from Rijkaard.

A.
A.

@MDelaneyST

You've only ticked one you're own criteria - same philosophy. The managers were different and there were only two players who stayed through out.

OTOH, some teams have been split when they more closely follow the criteria. There was no discernible change in philosophy between the Sacchi and Capello era (except perhaps a fine tuning in the early Capello times and then a more pragmatic approach after 93), and there were many more players in common between the 89 CL winning team and the 94 winning team than in the comparable era for Liverpool.

The same could be said of the current Barcelona beginning with Rijkaard.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@A. Liverpool are actually the strongest argument for this. The Boot Room philosophy ensured that there was a seamless transition from Paisley to Fagan with no discernable change in approach. Also, the core of the team stayed generally the same.

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