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Football's top club competition

Although it was launched one month after UEFA's first Congress, held in Vienna on 2 March 1955, the so-called "European Cup" was not a UEFA initiative.
Football's top club competition
Bayern took the trophy for the fifth time in 2013 ©Sportsfile

  Featured video

  • 2012/13: Bayern's Wembley triumph

    Ahead of their meeting in tonight's German Super Cup, watch highlights of FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund's clash in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final in London.
  • 1966/67: McNeill recalls Lisbon Lions

    This season's final is in Lisbon and the first player to have lifted the European Cup in the city, Billy McNeill, tells UEFA.com about the night in 1967 when Celtic FC became champions.
  • 2001/02: Zidane fires Madrid to glory

    Recall Real Madrid CF's memorable victory against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in 2002 - a final remembered for one of the UEFA Champions League's most iconic goals.
  • Historic Hampden final remembered

    Eintracht Frankfurt club historian Matthias Thoma looks back on the 1959/60 European Champion Clubs' Cup final and reveals the German club's pride at being involved in the game despite their 7-3 defeat to Real Madrid CF.
  • 1967/68: Man. United 4-1 Benfica

    Manchester United FC became European champions at Wembley in 1968, ten years on from the Munich air disaster. Goalkeeper Alex Stepney and defender David Sadler recall beating SL Benfica.
  • Cruyff on ‘impossible final to lose’

    Dutch legend Johan Cruyff looks back on the 1971/72 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final when AFC Ajax won the second of three successive titles against FC Internazionale Milano in Rotterdam.
  • Capello on Milan's 1994 glory

    Fabio Capello recalls his "most important success", when AC Milan poured scorn on their underdog status to dispatch FC Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 UEFA Champions League final.
  • Madrid heroes look back on 1957 glory

    Real Madrid CF legends Alfredo di Stéfano and Francisco Gento recall the club’s success in the 1957 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final at their own Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
  • Francis reflects on Forest triumph

    Scorer of a goal he describes as “the most important” of his career, Trevor Francis looks back on his winning strike for Nottingham Forest FC in the 1979 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final.
  • Duckadam on Steaua success

    The 1986 UEFA European Champion Clubs’ Cup final marked a first success for Romania as FC Steaua Bucureşti upset the might of FC Barcelona – a victory goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam looks back on fondly.
  • Hitzfeld’s Dortmund masterstroke

    Ottmar Hitzfeld looks back on Borussia Dortmund’s 1997 UEFA Champions League victory against Juventus and reveals how his words helped Lars Ricken “achieve the impossible”.
  • 1992/93: Marseille 1-0 Milan

    As the UEFA Champions League final returns to Munich, we look back at Olympique de Marseille's 1993 triumph in the city with captain Didier Deschamps and striker Rudi Völler.
  • 1997/98: Juventus 0-1 Real Madrid

    Hero of the 1998 UEFA Champions League final, Predrag Mijatović tells UEFA.com about a "beautiful night" in Amsterdam and how Real Madrid CF upset the odds against Juventus.
  • Lippi impresses Juventus class of '96

    Antonio Conte and Fabrizio Ravanelli tell UEFA.com how coach Marcello Lippi's motivational powers underpinned Juventus's 1996 UEFA Champions League triumph.
  • Kopa looks back on 1956 first final

    Part of the Stade de Reims team that lost the inaugural European Champion Clubs' Cup final to Real Madrid CF in 1956, Raymond Kopa reflects on a historic night in Paris.
 

 Photos

  • 1997/98 UEFA Champions League

    1997/98 UEFA Champions League

  • 2007/08 UEFA Champions League

    2007/08 UEFA Champions League

  • 2000/01 UEFA Champions League

    2000/01 UEFA Champions League

  • 1996/97 UEFA Champions League

    1996/97 UEFA Champions League

  • 2002/03 UEFA Champions League

    2002/03 UEFA Champions League

  • 2004/05 UEFA Champions League

    2004/05 UEFA Champions League

  • 2012/13 UEFA Champions League

    2012/13 UEFA Champions League

  • 1992/93 UEFA Champions League

    1992/93 UEFA Champions League

  • 2008/09 UEFA Champions League

    2008/09 UEFA Champions League

  • 2010/11 UEFA Champions League

    2010/11 UEFA Champions League

  • 2009/10 UEFA Champions League

    2009/10 UEFA Champions League

  • 2001/02 UEFA Champions League

    2001/02 UEFA Champions League

  • 2003/04 UEFA Champions League

    2003/04 UEFA Champions League

  • 2005/06 UEFA Champions League

    2005/06 UEFA Champions League

  • 2006/07 UEFA Champions League

    2006/07 UEFA Champions League

Football's top club competition

Although it was launched one month after UEFA's first Congress, held in Vienna on 2 March 1955, the so-called "European Cup" was not a UEFA initiative.

Football's premier club competition was launched one month after UEFA's first Congress, held in Vienna on 2 March 1955 yet, curiously, the so-called "European Cup" was not a UEFA initiative.

Whereas many of UEFA's founder members were more interested in establishing a national team competition, the French sports daily L'Equipe and their then-editor Gabriel Hanot, were championing the cause for a European-wide club competition. Hanot, together with colleague Jacques Ferran, designed a blueprint for a challenge tournament to be played on Wednesdays under floodlights.

©Getty Images

Madrid won the first five editions

The tournament initiated by L'Equipe did not stipulate that the participating teams had to be champions of their country, but they invited clubs who they considered had the most fan appeal. Representatives of 16 clubs were invited to meetings on 2 and 3 April 1955 and the L'Equipe rules were unanimously approved. The first European Champion Clubs' Cup fixture was played in Lisbon and Sporting Clube de Portugal were held to a 3-3 draw by FK Partizan. The Yugoslavian side won the return leg in Belgrade 5-2 to advance to the next round.

Real Madrid CF immediately made the tournament their own by winning the first five finals. Since then, other clubs have also enjoyed fruitful runs in the competition with AFC Ajax and FC Bayern München both completing three consecutive wins. However, no one club has been able to claim long-term domination. Ajax waited 22 years to add a fourth title to the hat-trick obtained in the early 1970s; Madrid's win in 1998 was their first in 32 years; and Bayern's penalty shoot-out success in Milan in 2001 ended a 26-year wait for their fourth success.

Liverpool FC's four victories between 1977 and 1984 deserve special mention as the English club won its four trophies with essentially different teams. The Reds' European pedigree shone brightly again in 2005 when they battled back from 3-0 down to defeat AC Milan on penalties in what was perhaps the competition’s most exciting and memorable final.

©Getty Images

Milan triumphed in 2003

Real Madrid, Milan and FC Barcelona have been the most successful sides in the UEFA Champions League, winning the competition three times. Madrid are also the most successful side overall with ten triumphs, followed by seven for Milan, five for Liverpool and Bayern, four for Ajax and Barcelona. Madrid also hold the record for final appearances, with 12. Milan's 2002/03 success came after a marathon 19 games from the third qualifying round of the competition all the way to their penalty shoot-out success against Juventus in the final.

The major turning point in the evolution of the competition came in the 1992/93 season when the UEFA Champions League, involving a group stage in addition to the traditional knockout elements, was officially inaugurated after a pilot round robin during the previous season. The popularity of the group phase means the competition has grown from eight to 32 teams with matches taking place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays across Europe.

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/history/background/index.html#footballs+club+competition

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