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Champions League holders: Real Madrid still only back-to-back winners

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.

Real Madrid won three successive titles from 2016 to 2018
Real Madrid won three successive titles from 2016 to 2018 Getty Images

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.

1992/93Barcelonasecond round
1994/95AC Milanrunners-up
1999/00Man. Unitedquarter-finals
2003/04AC Milanquarter-finals
2004/05Portoround of 16
2005/06Liverpoolround of 16
2006/07Barcelonaround of 16
2007/08AC Milanround of 16
2008/09Man. Unitedrunners-up
2012/13Chelseagroup stage
2016/17Real Madridwinners
2017/18Real Madridwinners
2018/19Real Madridround of 16
2019/20Liverpoolround of 16

*Marseille were barred from entering in 1993/94

European Cup

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.

Successful defences

European Cup era: 13/36
UEFA Champions League era: 2/28