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

 

Contents

Share your opinion

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?

A.
A.

What it really means when we say that such and such a team is the greatest ever, I'm still not sure about. Does it mean that that team would be beat any other historical team if the laws of time and space could be contravened to set up such a match? And if this is the case, is the Ajax of the Michels era really that team?

Espenjohnson
Espenjohnson

A fantastic read throughout. Just a bit scary that, with all the introduction of money into the whole Uefa system in the last 6 or so years, there won't be as broad group of actual teams that could be great in say 15 years or so. It will be the same teams that are dominating now, and have done for the last few years, Man UTD, Barca, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, that will dominate for a much longer period in the future than has done. Although there will undoubtadly be very good and quite exciting teams in the next few years, Napoli, Udinese, (Man City.....), Dortmund (although their potential seems to have stalled with the loss of Sahin, but Goetze looks fantastic). I don't think these teams, or teams with the European 'Aura' such as Liverpool, Ajax, or unfortunately the likes of AC Milan, Juventus will ever properly compete with the big 5 financial powerhouses of Europeans football, Man Utd, Barca, Real Madrid, Bayern, or Chelsea.

In short, I think that the huge amounts of money involved in European Football means that the chances of a team competing legitimately with them over a the next 15 or so years seems, in my own humble opinion, slim.

Just a thought.....

fix70
fix70

I would've put Scholes ahead of Hargreaves in United's 2006-09 side. Hargreaves hardly played, while Scholes who was mostly injured, was instrumental the few times he was fit and in the side. That's just my two cents

ecclefty21
ecclefty21

What about Pro Vercelli? If it weren't for Run of Play, I would not have discovered such an amazing history.

They won 7 Italian top flight titles in 15 years time, from 1908-1922. And they were ultimately unseated by Inter Milan, and have fallen into nothing.

This is the same team that Italy adopted an all white strip, in honor of how dominant Pro Vercelli were at the time. Then later, Italy fielded 9 players from Pro Vercelli.

Surely, this should receive mention.

MUFCLUHGFORUM
MUFCLUHGFORUM

2006 - 2011 4 Premier League titles 1 Champions League 2 times runner up of the Champions League 3 league cups 3 community shields 1 world club cup

Van Der Sar, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Fletcher, Park, O'Shea, Brown All first team players from 06-11 Surely that can be conisdered an "era" the only major departure was Ronaldo. A lot of players came and went and the exception of maybe Wes Brown all those players were involved heavily for 5 years

francis
francis

Although I agree wholeheartedly with your inclusion of the great Arsenal, Preston and Villa teams from the late 19th & early 20th centuries, I feel you have overlooked one of the other great teams from that era, Celtic 1904 - 1917.

Managed by the wonderful Willie Maley they won 10 league titles, 6 Scottish Cups (3 doubles) and, set a UK record unbeaten run of 62 games between November 1925 & April 1917, a record which I believe still stands.

All this before the greatest British striker of all time came along, Jimmy McGrory.

On the same vein as the question I asked in the greatest Managers thread as to how was the League Stein's Celtic team quantified, I would like to say if it was regarded as minor or average league (which it probably was) then I think your wrong. The Scottish League was more competitive in Europe then than most people realise and I think both Stein and Celtic should recieve more points and a bump up their respective lists

ulstergroundhopper
ulstergroundhopper

Everton 1985-87? Described by Terry Venables, then Barca manager as arguably the most complete English footballing side he had ever seen. The debate rages on but most who saw them in action find it hard to believe that they wouldn't have conquered Europe in 1986 in style. They missed out on the treble by virtue of having to play the FA cup final just two days after returning from a European final. The following year missed out on the double after being crippled by key injuries at the knuckle end of the season and were forced to field an inexperienced youngster in goal in place of Southall when he broke his ankle and then in 87 bounced back to win the title when many of the key players had been loured away to play in Europe. While the Liverpool of the same time were regarded as dour and ugly to watch. Everton played with a flair and free flowing style that reminded people of the Dutch a decade earlier. There were no stars, the players had come from relative obscurity and yet played with a smile on their faces. They formed the backbone of the England 1986 World cup team with a team that the manager unashamedly stated was built around Reid, Stevens, Steven and Lineker and after two disma performances it was the Evertonians who came alive in the third game to demolish Poland. Each of his Goodison teammates taking turns to create Lineker's three goals. Arguably the best English side never to be crowned European Champions [through no fault of their own] They were head and shoulders above the likes of Forest and Villa and perhaps bettered only by United's 99 vintage and Liverpool circa 77. True, Liverpool won the double in 86 at Evertons expense but the neutrals of the era all felt the better team lost.

Octavian
Octavian

What a great article mate! Congratulations! I can see that you put a lot of thought and sweat into it! So the only thing where i think that you really made an omission is the FC Bayern cycle 1971-1976, when it's more a cycle 1967-1976. Because as you said, the cycles were defined by 3 things :

1) a defining individual/manager/player

2) a core of players

3) a style/philosophy

1) the all defining personality of FC Bayern and German football of that time was Franz Beckenbauer, who was german footballer of the year 1966 and 1968 (way before the 1971 season), FIFA World Cup Young Player of the Tournament in England 1966 (way before the 1971 season as well) and who was voted in the FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament in 1966 and 1970 (also before the 1971 season).

2) the 'core' of bayern players who won the Champions Cup three peat (1974,1975,1976), had already been there in 1967 with Sepp Meier (at the club since 1962), Georg Schwarzenbeck who scored against Atletico in the 1974 Final (1966), Franz 'Bulle' Roth, who scored in the finals against Leeds and St.etienne, and who also scored the winner against Glasgow Rangers in the Cup Winners Cup Final in 1967 (1966), the greatest german striker of all time Gerd Muller (1964) and the aforementioned Franz Beckenbauer (1964). This was the Axis of Bayern and German football for almost 10 years. Now the only point which could be made here is that Paul Breitner and Uli Hoeness didn't play in 1967. That's true, because both of them arrived at FC Bayern in 1970. But they arrived at a team which already had an axis, a core of players. It's true that these two great players made FC Bayern a stronger team, but they were integrated in an existing axis. Which goes to my point is that Meier, Schwarzenbeck, Roth, Beckenbauer and Muller were all first-eleven players throughout their stay at FC Bayern, forming a continous axis or core throughout 1967-1976. And even more, after Paul Breitner left FC Bayern in 1974 to join Real Madrid, these players went on to win another 2 Champions Cups. This proves again, that these players were the 'true' core of the great FC Bayern side 1967-1976.

3) The Style or philosophy at FC Bayern had remained the same since Zlatko 'Cik' Cajkovski took over in 1963 - hard work, lots of running, never giving up, lots of running, efficiency, lots of running and fighting for 'your luck' (which is called Bayerndusel). None of the coaches that followed (Branko Zebec, Udo Lattek and Dettmar Cramer- including Cajkovski they coached FC Bayern 1963-1977) changed that (except for Klinsmann and van Gaal a lot later).

So it's quite obvious that there is a connection between all these points - a defining individual, a core of players and a style or philosophy, ranging from at least 1966 until 1976. Why is that important? Well Bayern won the Bundesliga (german title) in 1969, the DFB Pokal (german cup) in 1966, 1967, 1969 and 1971, the European Cup Winners Cup in 1967, which means that they won a double in 1969 (Bundesliga and DFB Pokal) and a Cup double in 1967 (European Cup Winners Cup and DFB Pokal)! Also FC Bayern were the Runners-up in Bundesliga for 2 consecutive seasons in 1970 and 1971 before going on to win it three times in a row in 1972,1973 and 1974.

So this would place FC Bayern at least in front of FC Barcelona and FC Liverpool on this list, because this FC Bayern side of 1967-1976 truly was amongst the most dominant in a time where they played against a few of the best teams of all time, including your number one spot!

IvanDujmić
IvanDujmić

A great post. I have a few questions. Why didn't you include Latin Cup in your counting system. Yes, it was short lived and winning team had to win only two games but it was a strongest competition in Europe since WW2 till European Cup was created. You included Fairs Cup, did you score it in a same way as UEFA Cup (no complaints if you did, just to make sure)? Just of of curiosity how many points would PSG from mid nineties, Parma from nineties have? And finally, while it is complicated to do a list with both European and South American teams, have you considered making a separate list for South America?

anweshanghosh
anweshanghosh

Q - why would you consider ajax era from 1965-73 and arsenal era from 2001-2005. if you include 2006, that would bring more points + increase the multiplication factor. So, wanted to know how you defined a teams era?

stpioc
stpioc

Fat Eck, there is one thing you have to realize, yes it's all about winning the actual competition, but that competition is not a level playing field, not by a long shot. It's basically a cartel, where most of the money goes to the big clubs in the big countries, which enables them to buy the best players from the big clubs in the smaller countries (working with a fraction of their budget) or smaller clubs in big countries. These big clubs in smaller countries then have to start all over. It's therefore extremely unlikely that a club like Ajax will ever win the Champions League ever again and if they do it will be with a team full of teenagers (like in 1995) who will all be bought in the following years, weakening their team and strengthening the opposition. It's terribly difficult to build routines if your best players leave every year, basically, you have to start all over each year. So I wouldn't have put Ajax on top on the basis of achievement in competition alone, but if you see which players left in the last 30 years and at what age, I think one could make a point that they would have been able to win quite a bit more if competition was on a level playing field and they could held a team together in the way the Real Madrid's or ManU's of this world can.

Fat Eck
Fat Eck

Sorry to be mean but, of course, you're asking for people to be mean - "let's have a heated debate!" - so, well done, I'll bite ... and I'll do so guilt-free: This site is like watching one of those bogus dental -/skin-/hair-care commercials which throws a few vaguely sciency-sounding but ultimately empty statements into a volley of percentages and white-coated "recommendations" to make a waste of time seem like a secret tunnel into a government-sponsored, NASA-tested initiative to end ageing. You're just using random stats in a random manner to come up with more subjective views about, erm, subjectivity! The "formula" is quite simple, it's already been devised for us - it's called "COMPETITIONS": The Champions League/European Cup is the pinnacle of the European club competitions so ...

Real Madrid have won 9 European cups, more than anyone else - best club in Europe. Milan have won 7 - second best club in Europe. Liverpool 5 - they're the 3rd best club in Europe. Barca, Ajax and Bayern are all stuck on 4 each - right, let's go to how many times they've been European Cup/Champions league runners-up as a decider for 4th, 5th and 6th. If it were still tied we'd go to semi-finals appearances and so on. THAT'S ALL WE NEED TO KNOW! Winning is the only style and winning the ultimate competition is the only true arbiter of greatness. The teams which win that make their club the best club in Europe for however many seasons they've won it.Okay, so you want to measure "great sides" against each other but as no club has ever fielded the same side in two succesive European Cup/Champions League finals then the "cycles" argument is also bogus. It is the club or country which effects any era of domination - the personnell is EVER changing so we can only pick one competition and say that the continual winning of that trophy represents anything close to a cycle. So it's Real Madrid 1955-60 versus Ajax 70-73 and Bayern 73-76. The current Barca "cycle" can only be closely compared to, say, Real Madrid's Galacticos side which won 3 Champions Leagues in one year less than it's taken the current Catalans.If we enter into the sphere of "relativity" then there's an argument for the Aberdeen team of the 1980s being far greater than Barcelona AND Real Madrid - winning 3 leagues in 5 years and a couple of European trophies in Scotland with a team other than Rangers or Celtic, in an era when there was even less money in the Scottish game than there is now, is far more miraculous than any G14 club winning a couple of European Cups. Furthermore who's to say the "Five Violins" Sporting Lisbon side which came to an end just as modern European competition was coming to fruition was not far greater than the Benfica side of the sixties?Association Football started with domestic cup competitions to discover who was the best practitioner of the sport. Teams weren't satisfied that one-off games proved who was "really" the best. So domestic leagues were invented and championship-winning teams began to imagine they were the best in the continent so, eventually, pan-continental competition came along. And by the 60s we had the World Club championship just to end the last remaining doubt. It's all taken care of. The best are the best. Everything else is just bitching and sour grapes.

higuain
higuain

No matter the arguments, it is ridiculous to place Celtic and even Liverpool in the same league with Barcelona and Real and Inter and AC Milan not to mention putting Liverpool ahead of Barca. Pleeease. It is commendable to be patriotic, but let us keep our perspective. English teams have simply not been that good against Continental opposition.

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

Hi guys, welcome to Livefyre! I'm Anne, community manager intern. You've got a great discussion started here; can't wait to see more!

DaveHampson
DaveHampson

in terms of style, I preferred the United's lower ranked teams leading up to '99 (but with Kanchelskis) and '68 rather than 2009... but could you give an opinion, MDelaney, as a scientific kinda fella, just how good the Busby Babes might have been? My Da is convinced they were about to be the very best that had ever been seen...

pprozac
pprozac

I think the Liverpool team of 1985/90 should be higher. So close to winning three domestic doubles in three years and four in five years - and they played the most equisite football. Tom Finney reckoned they were the best ever to play at that passing game at such pace.

Also the other Liverpool team should be split up into 1971-77, 1977- 81 and 1981- 84. Bob Pailsey certainly built two great teams.

OtbaG
OtbaG

Herbert Chapmans teams? We won the league three in a row with both Huddersfield and Arsenal

nimreitz
nimreitz

Just want to say that it's a bit of revisionist history to say Johnny Rep was in the Ajax best XI from those teams. It's easy to say because of what we remember from those two World Cup squads, but he didn't break into the Ajax first team until that final European Cup season. Sjaak Swart was the right winger and a HUGE part of club history as well; if I'm not mistaken he has the most appearances for the club.

LiOlLa94
LiOlLa94

great site, great read. I really hope to see an updated version of this site in a few years with one change. Barcelona on top with 'Liverpool 2011-?' coming fast behind

just one thing, no south american teams? I know nowadays the Champions league is the pinnacle of club football but surely pele's santos of 1961-65 have a good shout. 5 league titles in a row, 2 Copa Libertadores, and 2 Intercontinental cups (suggesting they were better than no. 6 Benfica) is not to be ignored. Independiente have a good shout aswell with 4 in a row from 72-75 but tbh i dont know much about them after their wikipedia page, it seems they dissapeared from domestic competition during that time.

maxihadda
maxihadda

Hmm, if Valencia won two league titles, reached 2 CL finals in a row, won the UEFA Cup and won a Spanish Cup in a 5 season span, why are they not even listed at all? Not even in the "Teams missed out and why" part

?

Kesio
Kesio

Thanks!! Wonderful list! And in my opinion, you maked the correct choices. When I had the age of 11 till 20, I saw every week à formidabel Ajax Amsterdam. They played à football revolution. Till this moment, cause Ajax is still THE norm for
effective and super attractive football. Just look at Barcelona this moment. The Philosophy of Ajax, ,or better, Johan Cruyff, played now by Barca.

Tja is for THE great stories and figures. Super

jirobevis
jirobevis

Awesome list!

Some great quotes and stories I'd never heard before, well done!

JoãoMiguel
JoãoMiguel

You should also give diferent points to teams who won the international competitions in diferent periods. In the 60s a club needed to defeat 4 opponents in 7 games to win the champions league, nowadays you have to go thru 13 matches against 7 teams to win the trophy... You´re criterion isn't uniform.

HUSSAIN77LFC
HUSSAIN77LFC

Liverpool's 1985-1990 team needs to be re-classed, as does the Milan side of the 1991-1995. The difference of the late 80's Liverpool side was the addition of Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge. Barnes and Beardsley added a lot more flair to the Liverpool team than the mid 80's side. Indeed, Dalglish saw the problems of the '85 side and added Barnes and Beardsley. Don't forget Ferguson tried to get these two players for Manchester United. Had he succeeded then United may well have started to dominate English football from '87 onwards. Therefore, I would re-class as follows. Liverpool 1985-1987 and Liverpool 1987 - 1991. However, the Liverpool 1987-91 would take the place of Liverpool 1985-1990.

The AC Milan side should be thus, 1987-1993 & 1994-1997. Also George Weah should have been included in the XI line up. The greatest African player still to date. Scorer of the best league goal and creator of the best assist I've ever seen in club football. George Weah was much more of player than Marco Simone. How can Simone be added to the side at the expense of Weah, who won a FIFA World Player title ?

EmmetGates
EmmetGates

Great read Miguel, totally appreciate the effort you went through in making such a list, and looking forward to reading your next lists'. I would like to comment on your piece about the Juve side of 94-98. I am a Juventus supporter myself, you say about Baggio being sold because of tactical issues, but my take on the episode was that he was sold because of the emergence of Alessandro Del Piero and that Baggio wouldn't take a pay cut, so he was sold to Milan.

But anyway, none the less a fantastic read! Brilliant job!

mifernandezrojas
mifernandezrojas

Very interesting! Reading the Nº 1 place I am wondering how much time will take Ajax to regain their place in European football elite. In muy opinion, they are much closer than we can imagine.

stpioc
stpioc

Slightly surprised not to see Real Madrid on top, Barcelona soon will be, no doubt. But the latter will be a testament to the architect of both Barca and the club that's actually at no1. What Cruyff did at Barca was

1) Import the style of play

2) Start a youth academy

3) Let all the youth teams play in exactly the same style.

Et voilà, success can be reproduced 40 years on..

vellhuan
vellhuan

I think you're kinda right with Milan in the sense of the change of playing style. I wonder what Milan players would have said anyway! I tend to think that players are more important than coaches. There's plenty of teams in this list that have different coaches. I don't think Del Bosque was the defining force of that team. In this case I think the rupture between sides is very artificial. Specially Real Madrid is a club that has never been defined by its coaches, and although Barcelona is more patient with coaches since Cruyff, I don't think any other clubs put as much pressure into their coaches to play into an attacking style. Madrid have reached points like firing Radomir Antic in the middle of the 92 league (being the leaders) because the team wasn't attacking enough. Even Capello played in a offensive playing style in 96-97 and in 2006-2007, was sacked for being too defensive even when he had won the league.

Also I don't see why the Barcelona team is a blatant case, when it has had Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Valdes and Puyol as core players all these years. Guardiola has just perfected Rijkaard previous work.

vellhuan
vellhuan

I wonder why Liverpool 75-84 is one side, when only Phil Neal from the starting XI 1977 EC remained in the starting XI 1984 EC and Madrid is wrongly classified as "99-2003", when it's really "97-2003" specially because the core of that team were Raul, Hierro, Roberto Carlos, Guti, Morientes, Redondo, Sanchis, Casillas... not Zidane and specially not Ronaldo, who were later additions to a team that already had won 2 EC and 2 Spanish Leagues, and that won an extra EC and an extra spanish league, amounting to 3 spanish leagues and 3 EC in 7 years (a title per year except in 98-99). That Liverpool side actually sets things off balance. I think Milan should be reclassified to "87-95" , Barcelona "2008-2011" to "2005-2011" and Real Madrid "56-60" reclassified to Madrid "56-64" as there are more players in common in those teams.

ParthKulkarni
ParthKulkarni

This is lovely. Kudos. Also, Italian Clubs have total rank of 213 for their 10 teams in it; which makes Serie A highly ranked amongst EPL & La Liga. Nice point to get back at EPL fans.

JiggaG
JiggaG

This is awesome. Spent all afternoon reading.

You say the Milan team won four consecutive scudetto's but I think it was three and four in five years.

erg79
erg79

What would the score be for going back to 2005/06 for the current Barcelona side? That's an extra league championship and Champions League double.

BenCDS
BenCDS

Hi Miguel,

A brilliant idea, superbly-executed. This is the stuff of a million fragmented thoughts on tube journeys, and to piece it all together deserves great credit.

I wouldn't dispute the inclusion of Mourinho's Porto side, but I would argue that Benni McCarthy is more deserving of a place than Carlos Alberto. Obviously Alberto got the winning goal in the final, but that was his only goal of the 2003/04 Champions League campaign. McCarthy got a brace against Partizan Belgrade & Manchester United, and also contributed another 20 goals to that treble-winning campaign...

Cheers

@cahiers_dusport

DavidGSligo
DavidGSligo

Duff in Mourinho's best 11? was he really that stuck for wingers in his time?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Damo likes a blog, and here's one which rates the 50 best European club teams of the modern era http://footballpantheon.com/2011/05/…club-sides/11/ It's got stats, maths and […]

  2. […] “Alex Ferguson was left in no doubt. ‘In my time as a manager I would say yes, this is the best team I’ve faced.’ But then, on Saturday night at Wembley, the Manchester United manager wasn’t exactly analysing the issue with the most detached viewpoint. His team had just been utterly dismantled by Barcelona. And as he gets closer to the end of his career, it was a performance that will probably leave as deep an impression as that of Real Madrid at Hampden Park near the start of it in 1960.” The Football Pantheon […]

  3. […] Hur bra är då Barcelona, numera ofta porträtterat som från en annan planet i europeiska medier? Frågan har förstås inget svar, men jämförelser kittlar och i Football Pantheons ambitiösa sammasntällning blir det ”bara” en fjärdeplats. […]

  4. […] easily the greatest side since the Milan of the late 80′s early 90′s.  They are arguably better.  There is no doubt however, that this Barça side has joined the pantheon of great clubs […]

  5. […] presenterade Football Pantheon en ambitiös ranking av bästa europeiska klubblag genom tiderna. Nu är det dags för världens fotbollslandslag. Som väntat hamnar Spanien […]

  6. […] engaged in is a fundamental cornerstone of a successful fan culture. Sometimes the arguments can be very persuasive and other times less so.  Even when the results are less convincing, the effort reveals a passion […]

  7. […] Oorspronkelijk geplaatst door Weebl Die pagina is door nen Hollander gemaakt zeker? Neen, een Spaanse Ier of zoiets, Miguel Delaney. "Freelance football writer for Independent, Blizzard, ESPN, Champions, Irish Examiner. Author of 'Stuttgart to Saipan: the Players' Stories' (Mentor)." Die spelerslijst is inderdaad meer subjectief, maar zijn best teams of all time lijstje vond ik anders wel goed uitgevoerd! The 50 greatest European club sides | The Football Pantheon […]

  8. […] giants of Bayern München, fresh off their second successive European Cup.  That Bayern side, often ranked among the greatest European club sides of all time, were heavy favorites against the upstarts from Ukraine.  But once again led by Blokhin, Dynamo […]

  9. […] giants of Bayern München, fresh off their second successive European Cup.  That Bayern side, often ranked among the greatest European club sides of all time, were heavy favorites against the upstarts from Ukraine.  But once again led by Blokhin, Dynamo […]

  10. […] Miguel Delaney (31 Mei 2011). “The 50 greatest European club sides”. footballpantheon.com. Diakses 29 Mei […]