Which Teams Have Retained The Champions League?

We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but could Manchester City retain the Champions League in 2023/24? They beat a decent Copenhagen side 3-1 in Denmark in the opening leg of their last 16 tie, so they are looking good at the time of writing. Especially when we consider that the Danes finished ahead of Galatasaray and Manchester United in Group A.

City should finish the job at the Etihad and progress to the last eight and will fear nobody. If Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne stay fit, and Phil Foden maintains his current superb form – he has 25 goal involvements in 36 games this term – they will take some stopping, that is for sure. But has a team ever retained the Champions League before?

In this article, we will focus on the Champions League era, which is to say after the 1992 rebrand. However, we will also take a brief look at sides that retained it when the competition was known as the European Cup, from 1955 until the early 1990s.

Clubs That Have Retained the Champions League

Marseille won the first edition of the Champions League in the 1992/93 season, beating Milan in the final. Prior to the rebrand, as we shall see, it was not uncommon for clubs to defend the most prestigious European trophy, but since 1992/93 it has proved far more difficult.

The great Milan side of the early 1990s, featuring the Dutch trio of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, made the first three finals of the rebranded competition but won just one of them. The other Italian giants, Juventus, then made the showpiece game in the following three seasons but could also win just one. Real Madrid won the UCL two out of three years (and also three out of five), whilst Valencia lost consecutive finals, and the idea of a Champions League “Champions curse” began to develop. Would a club ever manage to defend the CL?

Even Barcelona’s mighty side of the noughties and onwards were unable to win and then defend the trophy, despite the magnificence of Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and co. But when it comes to this competition, whether we call it the European Cup or the UEFA Champions League, there is one club we can rely on to create history…

Real Madrid Make CL History

Real Madrid Stadium

After the first season of the European Cup back in 1955/56, Real Madrid have always been the most successful side in terms of overall wins. However, although they were streets ahead of the competition with nine wins, their wait for a 10th success was long and, for fans accustomed to never-ending glory, at times painful.

They won their eighth title in 2000 and as alluded to above, added a ninth two years later. But more than a decade would pass before Los Blancos would move to double figures. But when they did, they rapidly moved to 11, then 12, then 13 and eventually to 14. Title 10, crowned “La Decima” in Spain, was won in 2014, against city rivals Atletico.

Madrid would be pained to see Barca lift the CL 12 months later, the Catalans beating Juve in the final after the Italians had mastered Real in the semis. However, that disappointment was relatively short-lived and just a few years later, Los Blancos would be celebrating more history in this competition.

Madrid Win Three in a Row

Three Real Madrid Logos in a RowUncontented with simply defending the UCL, the Spanish giants would win the competition three seasons in a row under the management of their brilliant former player, Zinedine Zidane. In 2015/16 they inflicted yet more misery on their long-suffering neighbours Atletico, beating Diego Simeone’s side 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

A year after that, despite some stuttering performances at times, they made history by becoming the first – and thus far the only – side to retain their Champions League crown. This time it was another team with some bad memories of this competition who were vanquished in the final. Zidane’s men, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way, inflicted a 4-1 defeat on Juventus, the seventh time the Italians had fallen at the final hurdle.

Having now become the first side to retain their CL crown, Zidane, Ronaldo and co were able to further cement their status as club legends by adding a third successive win. In 2017/18 it was Liverpool, themselves serial winners of this tournament, that were on the receiving end of Real’s ability to excel on this stage. Again, the Spaniards were not always at their best and relied on comebacks and late goals galore, but it is hard to say a side does not deserve to win when they have faced PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Liverpool in the knockout rounds.

Can Manchester City do it?

Manchester City LogoCity should probably have won more than one Champions League title and Pep and his squad are certainly hungry for more. They have probably been the best side in the world for five seasons now and will feel disappointed if they cannot add another CL trophy to their cabinet, be it this year or in the next few campaigns.

They are currently the favourites with the bookmakers for this year’s competition, available at odds of 2/1, much shorter than second-favourites Real (23/5). They certainly can do it… but will they? Time will tell.

Which Teams Retained the European Cup?

The first 10 editions of the European Cup were won by just three teams, each of whom retained their crown. As we can see, Real Madrid actually won the first five competitions!

  • Real Madrid – 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960
  • Benfica – 1961 and 1962
  • Inter Milan – 1964 and 1965

In addition to those successful defences, the 1970s were also a great era in terms of clubs defending their crown.

  • Ajax – 1971, 1972 and 1973
  • Bayern Munich – 1974, 1975 and 1976
  • Liverpool – 1977 and 1978
  • Nottingham Forest – 1979 and 1980

After this glut of successful defences, the final team to win back-to-back European Cups before the competition became the Champions League was AC Milan. The Rossonerri claimed their third title in 1989 and added a fourth in 1990, beating Steaua Bucharest 4-0 and Benfica 1-0 respectively.