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The longest unbeaten runs in European football

Published: Monday 27 April 2015, 18.05CET
GNK Dinamo Zagreb have gone a record 35 domestic games unbeaten, but as discovers, they are a good way off becoming Europe's most unbeatable league sides.
The longest unbeaten runs in European football
Steaua set an awesome record for unbeatability in the 1980s ©Bob Thomas/Getty Images features

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Published: Monday 27 April 2015, 18.05CET

The longest unbeaten runs in European football

GNK Dinamo Zagreb have gone a record 35 domestic games unbeaten, but as discovers, they are a good way off becoming Europe's most unbeatable league sides.

GNK Dinamo Zagreb set a new Croatian record at the weekend as they made it to 35 domestic games – league and cup – unbeaten, Marko Pjaca's goal securing a 1-0 league win at NK Zadar. "I didn't think much about the record – the most important thing was how my team played," said coach Zoran Mamić. However, as discovers, even a side on a run of nine successive domestic titles have a way to go to match the longest unbeaten league runs in European football.

106: FC Steaua Bucureşti (1986–89)
The Romanian side set this European record during their mid-1980s golden age under Emeric Jenei and later Anghel Iordănescu. Winners of the 1985/86 European Champion Clubs' Cup, semi-finalists in 1987/88 and runners-up in 1988/89, a Steaua team featuring the likes of Miodrag Belodedici, László Bölöni, Marius Lăcătuş, Victor Piţurcă and Gavril Balint were unrivalled at home. They lifted five straight titles until a resurgent FC Dinamo Bucureşti knocked them off their perch in 1989/90.

63: FC Sheriff (2006–08)
The Tiraspol-based side utterly dominated Moldovan football in winning ten straight championships between 2001 and 2010. However, they hit some kind of critical mass under Belarusian coach Leonid Kuchuk in 2006/07, becoming the first club to claim the national crown without losing a game. Arch-rivals FC Zimbru Chisinau finally ended this famous streak in March 2008, before Sheriff marched onto yet another title regardless.

62: Celtic FC (1915–17)
Under their first manager Willie Maley, Celtic established a United Kingdom record for an unbeaten sequence of 62 matches between November 1915 and April 1917, including two games in a day, played against Raith Rovers FC and Motherwell FC. Patsy Gallagher and Jimmy 'Napoleon' McMenemy were the stars of a team which also featured Alec 'The Icicle' McNair, who still holds the Scottish club's appearances record of 604.

©FC Levadia Tallinn

Levadia, midway through their phenomenal run

61: FC Levadia Tallinn (2008–09)
They were sponsored by a local metals firm and the rest of Estonia certainly felt Levadia's steel under boss Igor Prins, although JK Trans Narva finally ended their extraordinary sequence in November 2009, on the penultimate day of the season. "The fans will remember our impressive undefeated run, although I won't deny that we went such a long time unbeaten because of an absence of strong opposition," said Prins at the time.

60: R. Union Saint-Gilloise (193335)
Still known as Union 60 for their run of invincibility, which concluded with a February 1935 defeat by Daring Club de Bruxelles, the side from the Brussels suburbs collected three straight titles during their winning streak. To mark their achievements, the Pappaert Cup is handed out each season to the team that enjoys the longest unbeaten sequence. The trophy is named after Union's then captain Jules Pappaert, a key player in the squad alongside striker Vital Van Landeghem, Belgium's top scorer with 29 goals in 1934.

=59: FC Shirak (1993–95)
=59: FC Pyunik (2002–
Two clubs share Armenia's national record. "Shirak were a very good team in those days," recalled Andranik Adamyan, who coached them in their 1990s heyday. "We had our leaders, but all the players were ready to burst into action and show their strength. We had a good working atmosphere in the team and also that winning spirit. That's why we were unbeatable." Unlike Shirak, Pyunik were led by three different coaches during their successful run: Oscar López, Mihai Stoichiță and then Vardan Minasyan.

©Getty Images

Milan's fearsome class of 1993

=58: AC Milan (1991–93)
The Milan side that landed the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 under Arrigo Sacchi were labelled 'the Immortals'; the vintage that picked up three successive Italian titles under Fabio Capello between 1992 and 1994, as well as the 1993/94 UEFA Champions League, were 'the Invincibles'. Indeed, the Rossoneri won the 1991/92 Scudetto without losing a game at the heart of this marvellous run. "Capello did very well in continuing the job started by Sacchi and adding only small pieces to complete the perfect mosaic," said former Milan midfielder Roberto Donadoni.

=58: Olympiacos FC (1972–74)
Following investment from shipping magnate and club president Nikos Goulandris, defeats at PAOK FC in October 1972 and April 1974 book-ended an exceptional period under coach Lakis Petropoulos. The Piraeus outfit claimed three Greek championships in a row from 1972 to 1975, setting a record with 104 goals in the 1973/74 campaign. Yves Triantafyllos was their star marksman, scoring 58 goals in 80 matches in his three-year stay, while Giorgos Delikaris, Michalis Kritikopoulos and Romain Argyroudis comprised a stellar supporting cast.

=58: Skonto FC (1993–96)
At the start of a coaching career which would peak when he led Latvia to UEFA EURO 2004, Aleksandrs Starkovs gathered an all-conquering lineup at Skonto, with Vitālijs Astafjevs, Jurijs Ševļakovs, Mihails Zemļinskis and Vladimirs Babičevs the backbone of their club and national teams. "Every point we dropped was a painful blow for us because we were confident we would win every match," long-standing Skonto captain Zemļinskis recalled. "That winning spirit allowed us to win 14 titles in a row. We did not lose a single league match in 1994 and 1995."

56: SL Benfica (1976–78)
In 2012, Porto came within one game of matching Benfica's national record, set under Englishman John Mortimore. The former Chelsea FC defender boasted great players such as Fernando Chalana, Humberto Coelho, Toni, Nené, Manuel Bento, Shéu, João Alves and Minervino Pietra – now assistant to current Benfica boss Jorge Jesus. Mortimore's men went unbeaten from October 1976 until a 1-0 loss at Porto in late August 1978.

©AFP/Getty Images

James Rodríguez in his Porto prime in 2012

=55: FC Porto (2010–12)
Manager Jesualdo Ferreira kicked off this stirring run in March 2010 and André Villas-Boas kept it going, through a season when Porto also won the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League. However, Porto finally dropped the baton under Vítor Pereira with a 3-1 reverse at Gil Vicente FC. "We showed an apathy that doesn't befit a team that wants to be champions," said the coach, whose charges at least surpassed their club record of 53 games unbeaten under Sir Bobby Robson between 1994 and 1996.

=55: FC Shakhtar Donetsk (2000–02)
The Pitmen's gold rush began with a 2-1 victory against FC Nyva Ternopil in June 2000 and continued despite the resignation of coach Viktor Prokopenko. Italian boss Nevio Scala took over and brought the best out of big players like Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Andriy Vorobey, Julius Aghahowa, Isaac Okoronkwo, Brandão and Mariusz Lewandowski. He guided Shakhtar to their first-ever Ukrainian title in 2001/02, though the run ended six matches into the next campaign, with Scala leaving three games later.

Last updated: 27/04/15 22.18CET