From the moment professional football began to be played competitively around Europe, there was a desire for a competition that would be able to ‘prove’ which was the best side on the continent. That competition would become the European Cup, eventually developing into the Champions League once it got a re-brand in the 1990s.
It is seen as the most important club event in world football, such is the extent to which it is held in high regard by the teams that enter it. Though the name is somewhat misleading, with teams other than the champions of each European nation allowed to enter it, it remains one of the most fascinating and exciting tournaments in the sport.
Whilst those that are obsessed with football might find it hard to believe, there are swathes of people out there who only take a passing interesting in the sport. They’ll watch a match if it’s on the TV and there’s nothing else that they want to watch, but they don’t really have a team and will simply enjoy it for the spectacle that it is.
They may not concentrate all that closely on the individual leagues that are in play throughout the course of a season, but you can bet that they’ll know exactly what is going on in the Champions League because it’s considered by many to be the pinnacle of football. For this reason more than any other the Champions League is massive for online bookmakers and on this page we will tell you how to get the best out of betting on it. We’ also look at the competition’s history, how teams qualify to play in it and anything else you might want to know.
Best Champions League Betting Sites
Below we recommend online bookmakers for betting on the Champions League. We have tried to give a range of options to suit various types of punters and how they bet. For details about how to bet on football see our football guide.
Best for odds prices and for welcome offers. Firstly if you are looking for a new site to bet with and you want to wager on football or the Champions League then no one beats BetVictor when it comes to their sign up specials, often giving up to 600% free. Check out the home page to see what offers are available this week.
Beyond the welcome freebies there are a lot of reasons to stay and bet on a regular basis with this bookie. They don’t run many existing customer offers but instead they have some of the best odds prices around, along with a host of enhanced lines. If you are someone that isn’t so bothered by flashy offers and instead prefers getting regular value then this could be the betting site for you.
BetVictor are also very professional and stylish, a proper bookie for proper punters. Their #PriceItUp bet builder feature is also the best around and excellent for building high odds wagers on a wider range of markets than with comparable bookies. As BV have great odds to begin with this means their multiples and accumulators are also the best value, and did you know these guys invented acca insurance?
Coral are the bookie for those that bet weekly on the football and other sports as well as the Champions League. The reason is they have the very best existing customer retention offers. These include free bet clubs, linked free bets and bonuses, money back offers, tons of enhanced lines and more promotions than you can shake a stick at. The more you bet the more value you get with Coral.
If there is a big event on in sport Coral will run a feature or offer for it and therefore at least having an account with them is a good idea so you can check out what they are doing each week. For new users they also run enhanced temporary specials, available on our home page.
It’s not all about offers either, Coral are a long standing massive bookie and despite now being owned by Entain, along with Ladbrokes, they have retained a huge amount of their original British charm. They have every major feature you would want, great news and stats, partial cash out and a fantastic bet builder.
Unibet have a little bit of everything when it comes to Champions League betting. They have solid odds, a lot of very good enhanced lines and very good depth of market pre-match and in-play. They are also stand out for offers, perhaps the best around this season for providing at least 2 or 3 good promotions each round.
Deals are also varied to suit different types of bettor, from free prediction games with cash prizes to jackpots and linked free bets. Unibet also provide new customer specials for people who want to sign up during a match week, when these temporary deals are available you will find them on our home page.
If what you mainly care about is honest value and the widest selection of markets then you will not do better than Bet365. The number of lines the provide for a typical Champions League match is unparalleled, especially in play.
This is supported by long term reliable promotions that can add consistent value along with occasional linked match-specific offers. Prices are always in the top bracket and this allows punters to know they are getting a good deal on the basic odds at all times, very useful if you are not someone that wants to have to check prices from lots of operators.
Bet365 also offer exceptional stats, news and betting features to make betting on the European Cup and all-encompassing experience but yet still professional and stylish in the process.
Why Champions League Betting Is So Popular
With each team playing six games in each group and normally eight groups to pick from, punters are presented with plenty of opportunities to have a flutter on the Champions League, yet the concentrated nature of the competition means that they’re betting on something that is much more likely to produce quality than the likes of the World Cup or European Championships.
That is part of the reason that bettors enjoy it so much, as is the fact that a team that wins the event can do so having played just thirteen games, thanks to the manner in which the tournament is structured. Yet those looking to place a bet on the outcome of an individual tie, let alone the overall competition, needs to remember that sides have to balance their European exploits with the rigours of their own domestic league.
It’s entirely possibly, for example, for an English side to have to play Manchester United and Chelsea either side of an away game against Real Madrid, or a German team to play Bayern Munich one weekend and Borussia Dortmund the next with a trip to Juventus sandwiched in between. The Champions League asks questions not just of the ability of the players but the size and quality of the squad that the manager has available to him.
Six Group Stage games are followed by two in the Last Sixteen, two more in the Quarter-Finals, two further matches in the Semi-Final and then the Final itself. The fact that two teams from the same country can’t be drawn against each other until the Quarter-Finals adds further intrigue and makes it increasingly difficult to predict which teams will progress. After all, even if they’re doing well in their own league there’s no telling what a long flight to Russia or an intimidating atmosphere in Turkey will do to their confidence.
That’s the main reason so many people enjoy placing a bet on the Champions League: even the so-called ‘weaker’ teams have a chance of causing their opposite number a problem. As a match approaches its kick-off people may be confident about the outcome, but there’s never a guarantee that it’s going to go the way that bettors think. Take Man City playing Lyon in the 2019-2020 season, for example. The money men were flying domestically, unable to catch their neighbours Liverpool at the top of the table but on their way to a second-place finish. The French side, meanwhile, were in the middle of a tricky period that would see them finish 7th in the generally non-competitive Ligue 1. After City beat Real Madrid in the last 16 everyone was confident that the Premier League side would progress to the Semi-Finals of the competition, only for the French side to win 3-1 and knock them out. It’s just one recent example of an unexpected result in the Champions League.
The combination of quality teams going head-to-head and the possibility of a shock is usually too much for most bettors to resist, so when you add in the fact that there is readily available data on how teams have done in the past as well as the ability to place In-Play bets on everything from who will win the next corner to the timing of the next goal you can see exactly why so many people love to have a flutter on the Champions League. There’s also the fact that the matches are played mid-week, meaning that it’s something for those that like to bet regularly to looking at in between matches in the various domestic leagues. Whilst the Europa League is often intriguing, it just doesn’t offer the prestige and sense of importance and occasion that UEFA’s more premium competition promises. The different rounds of the tournament also appeal, giving punters the chance to bet ante-post not only on the overall winners but the runners and riders at every stage.
The final thing to bear in mind when it comes to the reasons that people enjoy placing bets on the Champions League is that bookmakers know people will be wanting to do exactly that. As a consequence there are usually countless different offers available for punters to take advantage of and they are often very generous. Expect the likes of being able to get your money back if the game ends 0-0, free bets if your First Goal Scorer bet comes in and so on. When it comes to the Champions League, you’d be mad to place bets without getting an offer in return. Even something like a Free Bet Club will do the job.
Champions League and European Cup History
When it comes to the Champions League, its origins owes much to man’s desire to constantly know who is the best at anything and everything.
No sooner had a football been kicked in anger did the notion of a competition to determine which side from around Europe was the best at the sport emerge.
In 1897, for example, the Challenge Cup began and teams from around the Austro-Hungarian Empire were invited to play against each other. Not quite a Europe-wide tournament, granted, but thirty years later the Mitropa Cup followed suit and asked sides from Central Europe to compete in order to see which was the best one.
That in turn led to a Swiss side called Servette to start a tournament that took the name of the Coupe des Nations, which was intended to see the winning sides from leagues around Europe go head-to-head.
Wolverhampton Wanderers And The European Cup
There are many different English teams that are associated with the European Cup, from Liverpool to Aston Villa. Yet it’s a side that few would think of when it comes to the Champions League that are actually at least partially responsible for its original formation. It was the manager of the side, Stan Cullis, declaring that they were ‘Champions of the World’ that kick-started UEFA’s decision to create a competition to see exactly who that title should apply to.
Cullis said it tongue-in-cheek during the 1950s after his side had played a few friendlies against European teams and won them. UEFA’s decision was also encouraged by the French sports paper L’Équipe, which had heard about the success of the Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones and thought that Europe should have it’s own version.
The South American Championship of Champions had been played in 1948 and is known nowadays as the world’s first continent-wide tournament in the sport. It featured a round-robin format that was eventually won by Vasco da Gama after they made it through their games unbeaten.
When UEFA met in Paris in 1955 they chose to create a competition that would take its basis from the South American competition, whilst also owing at least a little bit to the Coupe des Nations the had taken place twenty-five years before, featured ten sides and was won by Hungarian Újpest FC. The new competition would take a name that reflected both of these events, being called as it was the Coupe des Clubs Champions Européens. In English that translates into European Champion Clubs’ Cup, hence it soon becoming known simply as the European Cup.
The Beginnings Of The New Tournament
As is so often the case with UEFA, once the decision to create a new tournament had been taken they didn’t hang around to put it into action. Consequently, the first match of the newly minted competition occurred on the fourth of September 1955 when Sporting CP and Partizan went up against each other. It ended in a 3-3 draw, indicating from the first moment that the tournament would be one filled with entertainment. There were fourteen other teams that took part in that first version of the European Cup, which were as follows:
- Milan from Italy
- AGF Aarhus from Denmark
- Anderlecht of Belgium
- Djurgården from Sweden
- Gwardia Warszawa of Poland
- Hibernian from Scotland
- PSV Eindhoven from the Netherlands
- Rapid Wien of Austria
- Real Madrid from Spain
- Rot-Weiss Essen of West Germany
- Saarbrücken from Saar
- Servette from Switzerland
- Stade de Reims from France
- Vörös Lobogó of Hungary
The teams were competing for the right to play in the final, which was being held at France’s Parc des Princes. In the end, Real Madrid and Stade de Reims advanced there and it was the French side that initially looked like they were going to win. As with that first match between Sporting CP and Partizan, it proved to be a thrilling game that was filled with goals, seeing Real come from behind to win 4-3. It was to prove to be something of an indication of what was to come, with the Spanish side winning the competition again the following year when the final was held in their home stadium, the Santiago Bernabéu.
In fact, Real Madrid would go on to win each of the first five European Cups. If the winner of the competition itself became quite boring early on, the games themselves never stopped being entertaining. Real’s fifth win is the perfect example of this, coming as it did at Hampden Park in Scotland where they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. That remains the highest scoring final in the tournament to this day.
In another example of how the competition would help to create rivalries and further entrench pre-existing ones, Los Blancos would not make it six wins out of six when their Spanish compatriots Barcelona knocked them out of the tournament in the first round the following season. Barcelona were unable to seize on the momentum that this win created, however, losing 3-2 to Portuguese side Benfica in the final, hosted at Wankdorf Stadium in Switzerland.
The Munich Air Disaster
At this point it’s important to take a quick moment to mention the Munich Air Disaster, which happened on the sixth of February in 1958. The European Cup has a disproportionate amount of tragedy associated with it and this is the first major incident to speak of. It occurred when a British Airways flight carrying Manchester United players and supporters as well as journalists crashed upon takeoff from the runway of Munich-Riem Airport in West Germany. The Red Devils had been in Yugoslavia for a European Cup Quarter-Final match against Red Star Belgrade and required a stopover as there wasn’t enough fuel to make it all the way back to England.
Twice the captains of the plane abandoned the takeoff because the left engine was doing something known as a ‘boost surge’. The pilots had been offered a stay-over in Munich but decided instead to try again, failing to realise that the falling snow had created slush on the runway that made the plane too slow to takeoff. There were forty-four passengers on board the aircraft and twenty of them died at the scene. The injured were taken to Munich’s Rechts der Isar Hospital, where three more passengers died. Eight of the dead were Manchester United players, with three members of staff also losing their lives. A tragic moment in the competition’s history that is marked on the date every year.
Real Madrid Early Dominance
Though Real didn’t win the competition in 1961, the trophy remained on the Iberian peninsula thanks to Benfica not only winning it but then going on to defend it the following year when they beat the five time champions 5-3. They nearly made it three wins out of three the following year but lost out to AC Milan. That was the first time that the trophy ended up heading somewhere other than Spain or Portugal. It was a sign of how the competition would be won by similar teams in its more formative years when Inter Milan won it the following year, also defeating Real Madrid in the final. They then beat another former winner of the trophy in 1965 when the final was held in their home stadium of the San Siro, defeating Benfica 1-0 to see the trophy remain in Milan three years running.
The nature of Real Madrid’s dominance meant that they weren’t to be held back forever, however. They went up against the defending champions Inter Milan in the Semi-Finals of the 1966 iteration of the tournament, whilst the Serbian side Partizan beat Manchester United 2-1 on aggregate in order to set up a thrilling final at Heysel Stadium in Brussels. Given that the two semi-finals had finished with an aggregate scoreline of 2-1, it was only right that the final ended in the same manner. As with Real Madrid’s first win, it was actually the opposition that took the lead when Velibor Vasović scored five minutes before the hour mark. Their confidence of winning the competition didn’t last long, however, thanks to Amancio’s goal fifteen minutes later. Fernando Rodriguez Serena then scored six minutes after that to see the trophy return to Madrid.
The Rise Of The British Clubs
It’s noteworthy that, despite Wolverhampton Wanderers staking a claim that they were the ‘Champions Of The World’ all this years before, the first eleven years worth of the Coupe des Clubs Champions Européens entirely lacked a British victory. All of that was to change in 1967, however, though most may be surprised about the team that finally saw the competition’s trophy return to the home of football. The final was due to take place in the Estádio Nacional in Lisbon, Portugal, with Scottish side Celtic making the final to play against two-time former champions Internazionale. The Italian side converted a penalty seven minutes in, but the Scots scoring twice to win the tournament and forever earn the nickname of the ‘Lisbon Lions’.
Just as AC Milan’s win cause Inter Milan to spring to life the following year, so too did Celtic’s victory light a fire under another British team in the form of Manchester United. Perhaps in part their journey to the final was inspired by the fact that it was to be held at Wembley Stadium, the spiritual home of English football. Regardless of what got them there, the Red Devils were up against former winners Benfica in a match that was close for the first ninety minutes. In extra-time, however, the English team pulled away and won the match 4-1 thanks to goals from Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes. The winning manager was Matt Busby, who will have felt that the win was a dedication to the United players who had lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster a decade earlier.
The Dutch And German Teams Get Involved
The constant swings of fortune of the competition continued in the years after Manchester United’s win, firstly seeing Dutch teams dominate for a period. It began in 1970 when Feyenoord used extra-time to put previous winners Celtic to the sword courtesy of a 2-1 win. Yet it was unquestionably the victories of their Eredivisie rivals Ajax that caused the biggest stir, with a team featuring Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens going on to win it three years running thanks to their famed ‘Total Football’. They firstly defeated Greek side Panathinaikos before earning victories against previous winners Internazionale and then Juventus.
Having watched the Dutch sitting pretty at the top of the European tree, German side Bayern Munich decided that it was their turn to get in on the action. A team featuring the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeneß required a replay to get past Atlético Madrid before firstly Leeds United and then Saint-Étienne were dispatched with by the talented German team. The victory over Leeds United remains a controversial one, however, with the match at Parc des Princes long questioned in terms of the validity of the result by those that felt the Germans cheated and used corruption to earn their 2-0 win.
Liverpool And The English Get In On The Act
Liverpool have won the European Cup more than any other side, earning their first win in the tournament by beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in Rome in 1977. They also became the first British club to win the trophy for a second time when they defended their honour the following year by beating Club Brugge at Wembley. They might well have made it three wins in a row if not for their defeat to Nottingham Forest in the First Round of the tournament in 1979. Forest, under the management of Brian Clough, went on to beat Malmö FF in the final before repeating the trick the following year against Hamburg. Remarkably, they remain the only club that has won its domestic league on fewer occasions than the European Cup.
The wins of Liverpool were just the start for the Merseyside club, who beat Real Madrid in Paris in 1981 before returning to the final three years later and defeating Roma in their own home, the Stadio Olimpico. The win came via penalties when the Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobelaar, did his famed ‘wobbly legs’ to put off the Roma penalty takers. Sandwiched in between those victories was a win for a team nobody nowadays would associate with a competition of such importance, Aston Villa. The Midlands side progressed to the final at the Feijenoord Stadion in Amsterdam where they faced formed champions Bayern Munich. Villa went on to win the match 1-0 and cement their place in the footballing history books. Liverpool returned to the final in 1985, but tragedy was to follow.
The Heysel Stadium Disaster
Liverpool were due to play Juventus at they Heysel Stadium in Brussels. The two teams were considered to be the best two club sides in Europe according to the UEFA Club Ranking System and they had already competed in the European Super Cup in 1984; a match that Juventus won 2-0. Though Heysel Stadium was Belgium’s national ground, it was in a state of disrepair by the time the final came around in 1985. Arsenal had played at the ground a few years before and reported that it was a ‘dump’, leading to both the Juventus President Giampiero Boniperti and the Liverpool CEO Peter Robinson asking UEFA to play the match somewhere else, with both the Camp Nou in Barcelona and Real Madrid’s Bernabéu available. UEFA refused and around sixty-thousand supporters crammed inside the decrepit stadium.
UEFA also made the mistake of making one of the sections of the end behind the goal a ‘neutral’ area. Liverpool supporters were in the two pens next to it and it ended up being populated mostly by Juventus supporters. About an hour before kick-off trouble began to brew between the two sets of fans, who were separated by an inadequate chain-link fence. Objects began to be thrown, resulting in the supporters in the Liverpool end charging at the Juventus fans, who backed away towards the wall at the far end. The wall collapsed, crushing the supporters attempting to flee, thirty-nine of whom died of asphyxiation. Remarkably, the authorities decided that the match should still be played, fearing repercussions if it were not. Juventus won it 1-0. In the aftermath of the game, twenty-six Liverpool fans were charged with manslaughter and fourteen were convicted. English clubs were banned from European competition until 1990, whilst Liverpool were banned for an extra year.
The Champions League
In the years that followed the Heysel Disaster, the competition was won by a series of new and varied teams. The likes of Romania’s Steaua București, Portuguese side Porto and the Dutch team PSV Eindhoven saw their names engraved on the trophy. Yet unquestionably the biggest change was to occur ahead of the 1992-1993 season when, in-line with the likes of the newly formed Premier League in England, the competition underwent a complete overhaul in terms of its image.
UEFA worked with TEAM Marketing AG in order to create a new TV rights and marketing situation for the competition. Its inaugural year as the new competition was a year of firsts, with Marseille becoming the first club to win the new Champions League at the same time as becoming the first European Cup winners from France.
In the years that followed the newly minted competition really began to find its feet, becoming one of the most watched football tournaments in the world. English sides, after so long out of European competition, didn’t really start to get back into it until around the turn of the millennium, with Manchester United winning the trophy in 1999 thanks to two stoppage time goals at the end of the match having trailed Bayern Munich since the sixth minute of the match. It’s where the phrase ‘football, bloody hell’ comes from, as Alex Ferguson uttered it in the wake of the full-time whistle.
Having watched Spanish sides dominate from 2000-2003, English teams then began to find themselves in the latter stages of the competition more often. Liverpool won in improbable style in 2005, returning two years later to lose to the same opposition in AC Milan, whilst Arsenal also lost to Barcelona in the intervening year.
How Teams Qualify For The Champions League
Qualification for the Champions League is slightly complex. The competition itself is open to thirty-two teams from the Group Stage onwards, meaning that UEFA had to find a way to whittle down the number of teams in Europe that could theoretically qualify. As a result. The idea came about of allowing a given number of teams from each country to get into the competition according to that country’s UEFA co-efficient.
That system was introduced in 1979 and uses statistics to figure out where the national team and country competition ranks in comparison to those other nations in Europe. Clubs earn two points for the coefficient if they win a match in either the Champions League or Europa League, earning one if they draw. Consequently the better clubs from a country do in European competition, the more likely that their country will have a strong coefficient.
The coefficient takes into account performances from the previous five seasons, meaning that a poor showing in one season won’t be overly detrimental to a country’s overall standing. Bonus points are awarded to country’s who have club sides that make it to the latter stages of the competition, meaning that if a side gets to the final then they’ll have helped their country’s coefficient significantly. The better a country’s coefficient is, the more teams they’ll be invited to put forward to the Champions League. This is an idea of how the number of clubs allowed to enter looked ahead of the 2021-2022 iteration of the tournament:
- Leagues Ranked 1-4: Top Four Teams Go Into Group Stages
- Leagues Ranked 5-6: Top Three Teams Go Into Group Stages
- Leagues Ranked 7-17: Champions Only Advance To Group Stages
- Europa League Winner: Go Into Group Stages Unless Already Qualified Via Domestic League
All league winners from Europe’s top leagues have a chance of making the Group Stage, but they’ll need to make it through the three Qualification Rounds first.
Champions League Format
Once the teams that will be taking part in the tournament have been decided, the next thing is to get the event itself started.
Here’s a look at how it works from the Group Stage through to the Final.
The Group Stage
The teams that have qualified for the competition proper are seeded according to various methods before being placed into different ‘Pots’. This is in order to try to ensure that the eight groups are as fair as possible. One team from each of the Pots will go into each of the groups, though it’s worth noting at this stage that they cannot be put into the same group as another club from the same country. This often leads to hugely convoluted and complicated draws. Once the draw is done, however, the eight groups, which are each assigned a letter, are settled and the competition itself can get underway.
The Group Stage works like a series of mini-leagues, with three points awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. The teams play in a round-robin format that sees each one play six games in total, once at home and once away against all the other sides in the group. The winning team and the second-placed side progress to the knockout stage, whilst the third-placed team goes into the Europa League and the team that comes last is knocked out of European competition for that year.
The Knockout Stages
Sixteen teams advance into the first round of the knockout, which is appropriately named the Last Sixteen. Teams that finished first in their group cannot be drawn against other sides that finished first and country protection still exists at this stage, making for yet another complex draw. There is often a sense that sides are best off finishing first in order to avoid the best teams, but decent sides often finish second and that can lead to some really tasty match-ups.
The ties during the knockout stages are played over two legs, once with each team at home and once away. If ties are undecided after ninety minutes in the second leg then the match progresses to extra-time and then penalties if needed. Prior to 2021-22 the away goals rule would come into play, resulting in the team that had scored the most away goals advancing. This was brought in in 1965 to motivate away teams to attack but in modern times had the opposite effect of stopping home teams attacking for fear of conceding. Home advantage is also now less significant due to higher quality pitches and VAR.
The country protection rule ceases to apply for the Quarter-Finals, meaning that the draw is entirely random. This stage in the competition works in the same way as the Last Sixteen, in the sense of the ties being played over two games and extra-time and penalties can all be used to decide the winner, if needed. Victorious teams progress to the Semi-Finals, where the same thing applies.
The winners of the two Semi-Finals will then progress to the Final, which is always held in a stadium that meets certain requirements laid out by UEFA. Though extra-time and penalties can apply in the Final if needs be. There have been occasions when one of the teams in the final is playing in their home ground, but it isn’t technically considered to be their ‘home’ for the game itself. The Final is a one-off match that will decide which team are the Champions of Europe.
Format Changes From 2024
It is not unsurprising to see UEFA want to expand the Champions League given the revenues it brings in for them. Therefore, under the pretence of making the competition more competitive for longer (which is really about adding more fixtures to make more money) the number of teams will increase form 32 to 36 from the 2024-2025 season onwards.
The group phase is replaced with a new league phase that all 36 teams will enter. Clubs will play eight games now over eight match weeks that will include four home games and four away games, but all against different opposition. You get three points for a win and one for draw, as with most leagues, and the top 8 go through to the last 16 with the knockout rounds continuing as before. The other eight spots will be defined by a two-leg play-off between teams that finish between 9th and 24th in the league, those in 9th-16th place being seeded.
The original 32 spots will be decided as before but the additional four will come from three different routes:
- A place for the team that finished third in their league in the country that is 5th on the UEFA rankings list
- An extra place for a domestic champion through the Champions Path, that will now make 4 places via this route
- Two places given to two countries who performed the best collectively across all UEFA competitions in the previous season
Originally the plan was to give two places to teams with the highest UEFA coefficient who did not qualify but this was changed following protestations that this will act as a protection for the already big teams. Similar plans will be brought in for the Europa League and Europa Conference League that will also both have 36 places.
Champions League Schedule
As you can imagine, the dates and timings for the Champions League can change depending on what is happening in the rest of the football calendar; events might start later in World Cup years, for example.
Typically speaking, however, this is when each of the rounds take place:
- Qualifying Rounds occur between June and August
- The Group Stage is played between September and December
- The Last Sixteen games occur from February until March
- The Quarter-Finals are usually in April
- The Semi-Finals tend to take place between April and May
- The Final is in late May or early June
The Biggest Teams Of The Champions League
When it comes to looking at the sides that have enjoyed the most success in the Champions League since its formation as the Coupe des Clubs Champions Européens in 1955, there is one name that stands out above all else: Real Madrid. Having won the first five iterations of the competition, the Spanish giants then went on to win it another nine times up to 2022.
To give you an indication of just how successful they are in the tournament, the next closest on the list of winners are AC Milan, having lifted the trophy seven times.
Next on the list come Liverpool and Bayern Munich with 6 titles each then Barcelona with five wins between 1955 and 2022. Ajax have four during that period, Manchester United and Internazionale three and Juventus, Benfica, Porto, Chelsea and Nottingham Forest won it twice each. There are then eleven sides that won it once during that time frame, including the aforementioned Aston Villa, Man City, Celtic and London club Chelsea.
- Real Madrid
- AC Milan
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester United
- Nottingham Forest
- Steaua București
- Borussia Dortmund
- Aston Villa
- PSV Eindhoven
- Red Star Belgrade
- Manchester City
In terms of nations, Spain provided nineteen winners between 1955 and 2023, England have fifteen, Italy twelve, Germany offered eight, Netherlands six and Portugal with four titles. France, Romania, Scotland and Yugoslavia all have one title each, although French teams have made it to the final 7 times, meaning they have lost 6, the worst ratio of any nation.
Belgium, Greece and Sweden each saw one club make the final during that period but lose, meaning that their names are associated with the European Cup in the loosest and most disappointing sense of the word. Above is a list of the winners of the Champions League between its origin and 2023.
Interesting Champions League Facts and Trivia
We know that Real Madrid have won the tournament more than any other side, but what of the other bits and bobs of trivia that might help you win a pub quiz one day? Here’s a look at some stuff that fits into that category, with all stats valid for the period of 1955-2023:
- Atlético Madrid reached the most finals without winning the tournament, doing so three times in 1974, 2014 and 2016. To make matters worse, they were beaten by their fierce rivals Real Madrid in both 2014 and 2016
- Liverpool. AC Milan, Ajax and Manchester United all have the honour of having won the tournament whilst remaining unbeaten not once but twice
- Nottingham Forest, Porto, Feyenoord, Aston Villa, PSV Eindhoven and Red Star Belgrade all have a success rate of 100% in terms of winning the finals that they reached. That’s slightly misleading, given that only Forest and Porto reached more than one final, but it’s interesting nevertheless
- Dinamo București hold the record for the biggest win at any stage of the competition, beating Crusaders 11-0
- Eight goals were scored in a drawn match three times over the years
- Between 2005 and 2006 Arsenal went nine hundred and ninety-five minutes without conceding a goal, which is the longest time of any club
- The biggest difference between two sides during the Group Stage was eighteen points, achieved by Real Madrid, Spartak Moscow and Barcelona at various times
- Bayern Munich achieved the most consecutive home wins with sixteen
- Cristiano Ronaldo appeared in more games than any other player, 183 times
- Cristiano Ronaldo has also scored more goals than anyone else in the same period, 140 goals
- James Milner holds the record jointly with Luis Figo for the most assists in a single campaign, nine assists
- Edgar Davids, Sergio Ramos and Zlatan Ibrahimović hold the dubious record of having been sent off more than any other players, four times each
- Carlo Ancelotti is the most successful manager, having won the tournament on four occasions. Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley have both won it three times apiece
- Alex Ferguson won more matches than any other manager, notching up one hundred and fourteen victories
- Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with AC Milan in 2005, which the Reds went on to win thanks to extra-time and penalties, is considered the best final to have been played. AC went 3-0 up in the first-half only to concede three goals in six minutes in the second period before losing out
- 2020 saw the competition contested as a single-leg knockout from the quarters onwards, all held in Lisbon behind closed doors due to the corona virus outbreak. Bayern Munich won the latest champions league ever picking up the crown on the 23rd August.
As with other tournaments that are considered to be amongst the most prestigious on the planet, such as the World Cup, the Champions League has a close relationship with corporate sponsors that has grown exponentially since it launched in its new form back in 1992. It is mainly multinational corporations that are involved in the majority of sponsorship deals. When the new Champions League was launched UEFA made a decision to allow a maximum of eight companies to be main sponsors, using LED advertising hoardings to sell their wares during the match.
Because of those UEFA rules, clubs are only allowed one sponsor on the shirts that they were during a match. Players are also forbidden from wearing particularly obtrusive underwear or unofficial undershirts, being fined if they do. The only exception to the rule regarding more than one sponsor comes in the form of not-for-profit organisations. Logos must be removed if the club is playing in a country where the product being advertised is forbidden. Teams playing in Muslim countries with an alcohol sponsor must either replace them with an alternative or play with plain shirts, for example.
Here’s a list of the main sponsors that were in place during the 2021-2024 cycle, to giver you an indication of the sort of companies that work with UEFA:
- Just Eat
- Expedia Group
- Sony Interactive Entertainment
There were also secondary sponsors such as Adidas, who sponsored the kits of the officials and the match balls, plus the Swiss watchmaker Hublot who sponsor the board held up the fourth official that announces substitutes and stoppage time etc.
The Future Of The Competition
The Champions League is a remarkably popular competition, so UEFA would be absolutely crazy to mess around with the format of it to much. Yet how does the future of the tournament look? After all, the World Cup is popular yet that didn’t stop from FIFA announcing plans to change the way it worked for the 2022 World Cup onwards.
Indeed, in 2016 UEFA sources suggested that it was thinking about mixing things up in order to see the Group Stage involve two Super Leagues rather than the eight mini-leagues in place at present. there was also a consideration to have more knockout rounds before the Group Stage even gets underway, with the main aim being to remove the possibility of the ‘lesser’ teams from smaller nations even making it as far as the Group Stage.
In the wake of both Liverpool and Real Madrid supporters struggling to get to Kiev for the final in 2018. The UEFA President, Aleksander Ceferin, admitted that future tournaments would be more ‘fan friendly’. He said that the likes of infrastructure, hotel capacity and ease of travel would be taken into account when picking host venues, which he claimed was demonstrated by Madrid and Istanbul being chosen as the host cities for 2019 and 2020 respectively.
What exactly the future holds remains to be seen but, despite Ceferin’s protestations, it’s likely that the ability of the organisation to make more money and the possibility of pleasing the corporate sponsors will take precedence over the convenience of the travelling supporters.
That was emphasised in 2021 when the final was contested between two English teams, Man City and Chelsea. The final was due to be held in Istanbul despite the fact it was two teams from the same country in the final. At the time Turkey was on the UK’s red list for travel in light of the corona virus pandemic situation meaning fans couldn’t travel. The logical thing was to move the final to Wembley, which was lobbied for. In the end the final was held in Porto, Portugal.
Why? Because the UK would not lift restrictions for corporate sponsors to travel to the UK. Therefore UEFA made all the Chelsea and Man City fans travel to Portugal instead simply to please the sponsors and VIPs. If you need evidence to show you UEFA is a corporate, greedy beast then this encapsulates that. To mention nothing of climate change and the carbon costs involved, which were around 50 times more compared to if the final was held at Wembley.