It is one of the more remarkable pieces of football trivia: only one club has won back-to-back titles in the UEFA Champions League era.
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When Real Madrid became the first club to complete back-to-back UEFA Champions League title wins in 2017, a curse dating back almost a quarter of a century was lifted. They repeated the feat 12 months later for good measure – so the monkey finally appeared to be off the holders' back.
But did we jump the gun in declaring the end of the curse? Was its lifting more temporary than permanent? Madrid exited the competition in the last 16 in 2018/19, a fate repeated by holders Liverpool the following season. Bayern's all-conquering side went one stage further this time round but now they too have fallen short.
How holders have fared*
Overall, the holders have just once failed to negotiate the first hurdle of their defence – Chelsea, group stage casualties in 2012/13 – with the rest dropping out in the knockout phase. Seven have succumbed in the last 16 (including the inaugural 1992/93 campaign), seven in the quarter-finals and seven in the semis. Six reigning champions have made it to the final, but only Real Madrid – twice – managed to avoid falling at the last.
|2004/05||Porto||round of 16|
|2005/06||Liverpool||round of 16|
|2006/07||Barcelona||round of 16|
|2007/08||AC Milan||round of 16|
|2018/19||Real Madrid||round of 16|
|2019/20||Liverpool||round of 16|
*Marseille were barred from entering in 1993/94
It was a very different story in the early days of the competition: Madrid won the first five editions! Seven other teams also successfully defended their title pre-1992/93: Benfica, Inter, Ajax (twice), Bayern (twice), Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and AC Milan.
European Cup era: 13/36
UEFA Champions League era: 2/28