The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious European football league and already has several decades of history. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about this popular competition.
A brief history of the UEFA Champions League
This championship was born from the initiative of the famous French newspaper L’equipe – the same that gave life to the Tour de France – in the 1955-56 season. At the time it was called the European Champion Clubs’ Cup and its goal was nothing more than to establish who was the best team on the continent.
According to the first version of the regulation, the UEFA Champions League would be made up of the main European associations and the greatest teams from each country.
Better known as the European Cup, this league was inspired by the South American Champions League and was supported by Santiago Bernabéu, president of Real Madrid. 18 teams accepted the initiative and FIFA gave the title official validity.
During the 1960s, the UEFA Champions League champion was Benfica of Portugal, who won against both Real Madrid and AC Milan.
By the end of that decade, teams from northern Europe began to come forward, including Ajax de Cruyff’s Manchester United, and some less “famous” teams like Dynamo of Kiev made history by beating the “greats”.
The 1980s saw the triumph of lesser-known teams, such as the Futebol Clube of Porto or the Philips Sport Vereniging of the Netherlands, but also AC Milan, which won the championship twice in the same decade.
Modern history of the UECL
Starting in 1992, the structure of the UEFA Champions League at the time changed its face and took on the name we know today. Secondly, more teams were included and the game system was also changed.
Later, in the 1996-97 season, the controversial Bosman Law came into effect, according to which players could play on a team without necessarily having to play on a foreign team.
In this way, the most important clubs began to buy players at exorbitant prices, influencing the level of play in general and that of the UEFA Champions League in particular.
Since 2009, the Champions League has been going through what is known as “the influence of the four major clubs”. Since then, teams from Spain, Italy, England and Germany have taken center stage and compete for the cup in every edition.
UEFA Champions League competition system
Initially, the UEFA Champions League consisted of 16 teams; the following year the number of clubs was increased to 22 and then to 85, although only 32 played in the finals.
From the 1999-2000 season, 32 teams have participated, with a first round of eight groups with four teams each. In fact, there cannot be two at the same time from the same nation. The matches are home and away and rank the top two of each group. In addition, the third from each group goes to the sixteenth final of the UEFA Europa League.
In the later stages the direct elimination is played, with two games, one at home and one away. The final is the only match played on neutral ground, which is chosen by UEFA before the start of the competition.
UEFA Champions League records
Some interesting facts from the UEFA Champions League regarding the winners are:
- Real Madrid have won more titles ever (13) and have participated in more editions (49) and more finals (19). In turn, it is the team that scored the most goals in the final, having beaten Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the 1959-60 season.
- Inter started their participation in the UEFA Champions League in the best possible way : during the 1963 edition they classified themselves as unbeaten champions, winning the final 3 to 1 against Real Madrid.
- The only final that was decided by penalties was between Bayern FC and Atletico Madrid in 1973-1974.
- Liverpool were the first team to win a penalty final against AS Roma.
Finally, when it comes to top scorers, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is the overall leader: he scored 127 goals in the UEFA Champions League. The second is Lionel Messi, with 112, and the third Raúl González, with 71.