The Champions League Final: History
The end of each European soccer season holds a special treat: the Champions League final. Soccer fans eagerly await the results. Today, let’s take a look at the history behind the final match of one of the most important leagues in the world.
The Champions League, with its unmistakable anthem and layout, calls the best soccer players in the world together to play in the same competition. Year after year, the best European teams face off and amaze soccer fans all over the world.
The beginnings of the Champions League
The Champions League began in 1955 as an initiative of the Union of European Football (UEFA). Though it was the “European Cup” in its beginnings, in 1992 it adopted its current format and name.
Alfredo Di Stéfano’s Real Madrid dominated the first years of the tournament, winning the first five editions. After, the Benfica, powered by Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, won the next two cups.
Other teams later made for fierce competition: hailing from Italy, Milan, and Inter; Celtic from Scotland, Manchester, and Liverpool from England, Bayern Munich from Germany and Feyenoord and Ajax from Holland.
Four facts about the Champions League final
Next, let’s take a look at some interest facts about the final match that glorifies the best European soccer team of the season.
1. The famous “Big Ears”
If there’s something that sets the Champions League apart from the rest, it’s the funky shape of its trophy. Dubbed “big ears” in many languages throughout the continent, the French newspaper, L’Equipe donated a trophy that had a more traditional form in the first years of the League. The UEFA gave it to Madrid in 1967 to keep for being the team that won the championship the most amount of times (six editions).
Since 1967, the winners of the League take home the big-eared cups that we know and recognize today. Swiss jeweler Jörg Stadelmann designed the cup; it weighs 17 pounds and measures 74 centimeters in height. Until 2008, teams that won the cup three times consecutively or five times in total got to keep their own forever. In such cases, a new cup was created for the next edition.
2. One final match
Another interesting fact about the final match is that it always takes place in a neutral stadium unless the location is predetermined for whatever reason before the event.
In any case, sealing the championship with just one final match creates a truly exciting atmosphere. It also eliminates the home-team advantage, which had also been the case for the South American Libertadores Cup until 2018.
3. The biggest winners
Thanks to the five editions that Di Stéfano helped seal, along with the addition of the last four cups from 2000-2010, Real Madrid is the team that’s won the most cups (13 titles).
After Real Madrid is A.C. Milan (7), then Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern Munich (5). Following the third tier are Ajax (4) and Inter Milan and Manchester United (3). Lastly, with 2 cups are Juventus, Benfica, Nottingham Forest, and Porto.
And to complete the official list of 22 winners are the teams with 1 cup: Celtic, Hamburg, FCSB, Olympique de Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Feyenoord, Aston Villa, PSV Eindhoven, and Red Star Belgrade.
4. Historic face-offs
There will always be finals that make history, but fans will especially cherish a handful of these for their intense excitement.
The first big one took place in 1999 between Manchester United and Bayern Munich in Barcelona at Camp Nou. The Germans were winning since minute-6 of the first half of the game but the tables turned. Sheringham and Solskjaer canceled out their opponents’ goals and brought the cup home to England.
Years later in 2005, fans got to witness perhaps the most impressive match in Champions League history. The match took place between A.C. Milan and Liverpool in Istanbul at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium.
A.C. Milan dominated the first half 3-0 with goals by Maldini (1) and Hernán Crespo (2). But all Liverpool Gerard, Smicer and Xabi Alonso needed were 15 minutes to equal the scoreboard. Liverpool won 3-2 in a dramatic set of shootouts, giving England a night to remember.
The Champions League is an essential part of history in the world of soccer. Not many other leagues can say they’re as iconic. As the final comes closer and closer, the anxiety starts to build. Who will be this year’s European soccer champions?It might interest you...
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- All-Time Records 1955-2019. UEFA Champions League. https://www.uefa.com/MultimediaFiles/Download/EuroExperience/competitions/Publications/02/28/56/90/2285690_DOWNLOAD.pdf
- UEFA Champions League Statistics Handbook 2018-2019. UEFA. https://www.uefa.com/MultimediaFiles/Download/EuroExperience/competitions/Publications/02/28/56/89/2285689_DOWNLOAD.pdf