Ten European champions who will never reach those heights again because of closed shop

John Nicholson
Ajax forward Johan Cruyff, Porto manager Jose Mourinho and Nottingham Forest player Larry Lloyd
Get ready to hear a lot about the 1970s

Real Madrid and Dortmund have been European champions before and will always be somewhere around that conversation. This lot once were but won’t again.

As the Champions League features the same teams every season, the elite hardens into the same old sides. And everyone pretends it’s sustainable or even desirable. But it wasn’t always like this.

Here are 10 clubs that have been European champions and never will again.


Steaua București (1985/86)
The most successful club from Romania. That counts for little now. They won the European Cup before it was the Champions League. They beat Barcelona on penalties, Helmuth Duckadam saving all four of their kicks, after a 0-0 draw. Along the way they beat Hungary’s Honved who once had a good reputation as one of Europe’s famous old clubs and where Ferenc Puskás played. They also beat Danish side Vejle, the only Danish club to develop a European Footballer of the Year winner in Allan Simonsen in 1977.

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PSV Eindhoven (1987/88)
They were victorious over Benfica back when it was that most unpredictable and therefore most unwanted thing: a complete knockout tournament. They were 6-5 winners on pens after drawing 0-0. They beat Galatasaray, Rapid Wien, Bordeaux and Real Madrid. They were managed by Guus Hiddink and had Ronald Koeman in the first team, with Ruud Gullit recently on the books.


Red Star Belgrade (1990/91)
English clubs were still banned from Europe. They won 5-3 on penalties against a possibly corrupt Marseille, again after a 0-0. They beat Rangers along the way and were the last East European club to win the big European trophy – the first and only Yugoslavian team to do so.


Celtic (1966/67)
They were a European powerhouse at the time and won every competition they entered
. They were the first club to win the European Treble and remain the only club to win the Scottish Quadruple. Along the way they beat FK Vojvodina from Serbia in the quarter-final and Zurich 5-0. This was the ‘Lisbon Lions’, all born within 30 miles of Glasgow. They beat Inter Milan 2-1 in the final.


Ajax (1970-73)
The reason why they still feel like a big European club. They won three titles consecutively led by Johan Cruyff with manager Rinus Michels. They beat Celtic in the quarter-final and Panathinaikos in the final in 1970, Inter in 1971 and Juventus in 1972. They were an astonishing, revolutionary side who swept all before them for three years. They were like nothing else in that they played Total Football. It was new. In 1972 they beat CSKA 6-1 and absolutely shredded them in one of the great European performances. It’s always dangerous to compare eras but Ajax would be a great modern side and Cruyff was an absolute dancer without equal.


Nottingham Forest (1978-80)
For a couple of years, Forest were one of the best clubs in Europe, after getting promoted from the second division, twice winning the European Cup, the First Division (also finishing as runners-up) two League Cups and even the Anglo-Scottish league. They famously beat Liverpool 2-0 on the way to their first trophy. They were free-scoring, racking up 19 goals in 1978-79 tournament.


Hamburg (1982/83)
Beat Juventus by the odd goal in a golden period when they went unbeaten for a whole year. Felix Magath played for them. Ernst Happel was the manager. They broke the English clubs’ six-year dominance and also won the Bundesliga. It was a golden period for the club.


Porto (2003/04)
Came second to Real Madrid in the group stage and were very much the underdogs. Beat Manchester United (scoring in the last minute to draw 1-1 and win 3-2 on aggregate), Lyon, Deportivo La Coruña and then Monaco 3 – 0 in the final. So shocking was their victory that it made a star of their manager, some fella called Jose Mourinho. They had beaten Celtic in the previous year’s UEFA Cup final. It was the last time an unfancied club that wasn’t a big side would win it, as I’m sure Jose knows only too well.


Benfica (1960-62)
At the dawn of the 1960s they won it twice, beating Barcelona 3-2, then Real Madrid 5-3 with Puskas scoring a hat-trick for Real. The second time, they beat the Spurs Double winners in the semi-final 4-3 on aggregate. In 1960 Spurs were victorious over Górnik Zabrze 8-1, 10-5 on aggregate. From 1961 the team included the legend that was Eusebio and were a huge European force at the time.


Feyenoord (1969/70)
Beat Milan in the quarter-final and were victorious over Celtic, 2-1 after-extra time, who in turn had beaten Leeds in the semi-final. They had beaten Icelandic club and copy-paste enthusiasts Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur 16-2 on aggregate. They were the first Dutch club to win the trophy and this was a title-winning golden period for the club.

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