The Champions League is back in full swing.
Football fans around the world were prickled with goosebumps as the iconic UEFA anthem roared throughout stadiums across the continent – and there was plenty of entertainment to enjoy with it.
Champions League winners
However, before we get too ahead of ourselves with the 2021/22 campaign, we wanted to look back on the previous teams who have crowned themselves European champions since the 1992 reboot.
Besides, many of the greatest teams in the history of the beautiful game have won the Champions League over the last 29 years and deciding the champion of the champions is incredibly tough.
But when has that ever stopped us at GIVEMESPORT? Yes, that’s right, we’re taking every single side to have won the Champions League since 1992 and ranked them from worst to best.
Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham – Tactical Analysis (Football Terrace)
Using the trusty medium of Tiermaker, we have sorted through the continent-conquering sides and placed them within categories ranking from ‘Better forgotten’ all the way up to ‘Simply legendary’.
Our decisions are based on statistics, contemporary accounts and personal opinion in terms of just how dominant, entertaining and impressive each team proved to be on their way to European glory.
And of course, please bear in mind that all these sides won the Champions League, so even those that place within the lower tiers are still better than almost every outfit in the competition’s history.
Champions League winners ranked
Got it? Right then, ok, let’s get cracking with the main event and check out who we consider to be the greatest ever Champions League-winning side down below:
A Champions League triumph tainted by a bribery scandal that saw Marseille stripped of their Ligue 1 title, relegated to the second tier and banned from defending their historic European crown. Yikes.
AC Milan (1993/94)
Manchester United (1998/99)
Milan’s 1993/94 reputation is bloated by their crazy 4-0 win over Barcelona in the final, but lest we forget this is the side that notched just six group-stage goals and 36 strikes on their way to Serie A glory.
As for United, while their treble achievement as a whole is worthy of ‘simply legendary’ without a single question asked, things get less impressive when you take the Champions League in isolation.
The Red Devils are statistically one of the competition’s worst ever winners with the lowest win rate and defensive record of any team on the list as well as just five wins across the entire tournament.
Does that make them bad? Of course it doesn’t, but does it mean that their Champions League campaign is overhyped amidst the treble-winning nostalgia? It would appear so.
Rode their luck
FC Porto (2003/04)
Look, we don’t mean this is as a criticism because you make your own luck and fortune favours the brave, but there’s no denying that these three weren’t necessarily the most convincing winners.
Besides, we’re talking about a Liverpool side that finished fifth in the Premier League, nearly dropped out in the group stages and benefited from some very dodgy finishing by Andriy Shevchenko.
Chelsea couldn’t even make the top four domestically either, similarly struggled to make the knockout rounds and were frankly beaten from pillar to post by Bayern Munich in the final.
As for Porto, you only need to look at their last-minute Old Trafford equaliser, the fact that Deportivo outshone them in the semi-finals and drawing AS Monaco in the final to see that things fell nicely for them.
Middle of the road
Borussia Dortmund (1996/97)
AC Milan (2002/03)
Inter Milan (2009/10)
Real Madrid (1997/98)
Maybe this is a little harsh on Dortmund because their team included stars like Lars Ricken, Paulo Sousa, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Matthias Sammer who elevate them so close to ‘brilliant’ territory.
Meanwhile, AC Milan’s 2003 winners made for a real bore with just five group-game strikes and four goals in a spell of five knockout matches as they waded towards the tournament’s first goalless final.
And while the Mourinho purists might want to see his Inter Milan side higher up the list, we’d be hard-pressed to argue that they dominated and dazzled compared to other Champions League winners.
Then, finally, Real Madrid‘s first Champions League triumph has to go down as their least convincing, even if there’s no shame in ousting a Juventus side led by Zinedine Zidane in the climax.
AC Milan (2006/07)
Real Madrid (2001/02 & 1999/00)
Bayern Munich (2000/01)
Real Madrid (2013/14)
Barcelona (2005/06 & 2014/15)
Manchester United (2007/08)
This is comfortably the most popular category on the list because, funnily enough, most teams that win the Champions League are more than deserving of being called ‘brilliant’ at the very least.
Chelsea are a perfect example of this category as the current holders because they had a few road bumps along the way, but were pretty omnipotent by the time that Thomas Tuchel was in charge.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real winners are arguably the finest attacking side to win the Champions League, but we’ve got to counterbalance their free-scoring with the fact they came so close to losing the final.
Barcelona’s 2006 and 2015 triumphs were full of dynamic and attacking football from Ronaldinho, Luis Suarez, Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi, but weren’t quite as complete as a few Blaugrana sides to come…
And the same goes for the other winners in this category because we just happen to think that a handful of Champions League conquerers managed to do things even better.
Bayern Munich (2012/13, 2019/20)
Real Madrid (2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18)
Let’s get Zinedine Zidane’s armada of Real winners out the way because becoming the first team to retain the Champions League title, never mind twice, deserves a place amongst the highest tiers.
And both Bayern teams of the last decade were a cut above the rest during their respective seasons, smashing Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the former and trouncing them 8-2 in the latter.
Meanwhile, Liverpool were an unstoppable locomotive as they overpowered Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern and Tottenham Hotspur as well as producing a comeback for the ages against Barca.
And the Ajax side that brought you Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars, Edwin van der Sar and the De Boer brothers rounds off the tier as arguably the competition’s most entertaining winners of all time.
Barcelona (2008/09 & 2010/11)
Throw away the stats book now because anyone who watched these two Pep Guardiola sides will know from the eye test alone that the Champions League has never seen more dominant winners.
From thrashing Bayern Munich 4-0 to winning 2-0 at the Bernabeu and defeating Manchester United twice in the final, Barcelona arguably proved themselves as the greatest club team in football history.
Besides, it speaks volumes that Sir Alex Ferguson called Guardiola’s side the greatest team that he had ever faced after their mesmeric Champions League final performance under the Wembley arch.
Which winner is the best
I’ve annoyed every United fan and their dog, haven’t it?
Ok, so when you’re trying to sort through so many legendary Champions League-winning teams, it’s only inevitable that you’re doing to stir up drama, controversy and debate along the way.
But remember that your humble GMS writer’s opinion is no more or less legitimate than yours, so be sure to let us know how your Champions League ranking compares on our various social channels.