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Football's top club competition

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

  Featured video

  • Barcelona’s 2011 Wembley masterclass

    Watch superb goals by Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa in a mesmerising display from Barcelona as they became kings of Europe for the fourth time with a 3-1 win against Manchester United.
  • Watch Zidane’s ‘once in a lifetime’ volley from 2002

    Watch Real Madrid head coach Zinédine Zidane’s amazing volley in the 2001 UEFA Champions League final and hear what the man himself remembers about that goal.
  • Watch Bayern’s 2013 Wembley glory

    See the goals from the all-German showpiece as Arjen Robben’s late strike sealed a dramatic victory for Bayern against Dortmund.
  • Highlights: Watch Roma beat Real Madrid in 2008

    As Roma prepare to meet Real Madrid in the round of 16, see how they knocked out their opponents at the same stage of the competition eight seasons ago.
  • Highlights: Watch Inter’s 2010 triumph

    See how a double from Diego Milito helped José Mourinho’s Internazionale overcome Bayern 2-0 in Madrid for their first success in the competition for 45 years.
  • 1966/67: McNeill recalls Lisbon Lions

    Billy McNeill tells UEFA.com about the night in 1967 when Celtic became champions of Europe against Internazionale.
  • 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 against Malmö FF.
  • 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.
 

 Photos

  • 2013/14 UEFA Champions League

    2013/14 UEFA Champions League

  • 1969/70 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1969/70 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 1975/76 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1975/76 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 1988/89 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1988/89 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 1991/92 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1991/92 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 2000/01 UEFA Champions League

    2000/01 UEFA Champions League

  • 1968/69 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1968/69 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 1967/68 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1967/68 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 1966/67 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1966/67 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 1965/66 European Champion Clubs' Cup

    1965/66 European Champion Clubs' Cup

  • 2014/15 UEFA Champions League

    2014/15 UEFA Champions League

  • 2008/09 UEFA Champions League

    2008/09 UEFA Champions League

  • 2009/10 UEFA Champions League

    2009/10 UEFA Champions League

  • 2001/02 UEFA Champions League

    2001/02 UEFA Champions League

  • 2002/03 UEFA Champions League

    2002/03 UEFA Champions League

Football's top club competition

Although it was launched soon after UEFA's first Congress, held in Vienna on 2 March 1955, the European Champion Clubs' Cup was not a UEFA initiative.

Football's premier club competition, the European Champion Clubs' Cup was launched soon after UEFA's first Congress, held in Vienna on 2 March 1955, yet the competition 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 its then-editor Gabriel Hanot were championing the cause for a Europe-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 sides were invited to meetings on 2 and 3 April 1955, and the L'Equipe rules were unanimously approved.

UEFA – which had been founded in June 1954 – reacted by contacting the world body FIFA, and the latter's Executive Committee, meeting in London on 8 May 1955, authorised the new club competition under the condition that it was organised by UEFA and that the national associations concerned gave their consent to their clubs taking part. UEFA's Executive Committee accepted the conditions laid down by FIFA and agreed to run the competition at its meeting on 21 June 1955. 

The first European Champion Clubs' Cup fixture was played in Lisbon as 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 victories. 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 triumph in 1998 was their first in 32 years; and Bayern's penalty shoot-out success in Milan in 2001 ended a 26-year quest for their fourth crown.

Liverpool FC's four victories between 1977 and 1984 deserve a mention as the English club landed the prize with essentially different teams. The Reds' European pedigree also shone in 2005 when they battled back from 3-0 down to pip AC Milan on penalties in one of the competition's most exciting finals.

©Getty Images

Milan triumphed in 2003

Real Madrid, Milan and FC Barcelona have been the most successful sides in the UEFA Champions League era, the Spanish pair lifting the trophy four times apiece and the Rossoneri three. Madrid are also the most successful club overall with ten triumphs, followed by seven for Milan, five for Barcelona, Bayern and Liverpool, then four for Ajax. Moreover, Madrid hold the record for final appearances with 13. Milan's 2002/03 triumph came after a marathon 19 games from third qualifying round all the way to penalty shoot-out success over Juventus in the final.

The major turning point in the tournament's evolution had come 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 campaign. The popularity of the group phase means the competition has grown from eight to 32 teams with matches held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays across Europe.

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