The Champions League has grown into one of the greatest sporting competitions in the world since its evolution from the European Cup in 1992/93.
During that period, we’ve seen 13 different clubs lift European club football’s most prestigious trophy. So we decided to take a look at which clubs have enjoyed the most success in the competition overall, using StatBunker data to outline the all-time ‘league table’.
How this works is that three points are given for a win, even in the knockout stages, to give an overall ranking of the 141 teams who have taken part in the competition proper – that is, from the group stage onwards – over the last 28 years.
Below, courtesy Four-Four-Two, we’ve outlined the top 10, but a few British clubs didn’t quite make the cut. If you’re interested, they ranked:
1. Real Madrid
Points: 538 (from 273 games), Goal difference: 276
If one club is synonymous with this trophy, it’s Real Madrid.
Their record in the Champions League is simply staggering; they’ve lifted the trophy seven times, in addition to their six European Cup triumphs.
Whether it’s Zinedine Zidane’s wonder-volley in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen or Gareth Bale’s spectacular bicycle kick to clinch the 2018 edition, men in white shirts have produced some of the most memorable moments in the competition’s history.
After Carlo Ancelotti clinched the much-anticipated Decima in 2014, Zidane oversaw three consecutive victories as coach between 2016 and 2018, a remarkable feat that underlined the Merengues’ utter dominance on Europe’s biggest stage.
Points: 530 (from 264 games), Goal difference: 270
A defeat to AC Milan in the 1993/94 final was as close as Barcelona came to Champions League glory in the ’90s, but at the turn of the millennium things soon swiftly changed.
The Catalan giants claimed their first prize with victory over Arsenal in 2005/06, before Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola inspired the club to two triumphs in three years between 2008 and 2011.
Another followed in 2014/15 on Luis Enrique’s watch, making the five-year gap since Barca’s last Champions League final appearance feel like something of a drought by their standards.
3. Bayern Munich
Points: 498 (from 258 games), Goal difference: 270
Bayern could’ve been forgiven for being shell-shocked by the manner of their 1999 heartbreak against Man United, but they responded by brushing themselves down and clinching their first Champions League title just two years later, beating Valencia on penalties in the final.
Their pain wasn’t over though, as they suffered final defeats to Inter and Chelsea in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
However, they eventually returned to European football’s summit with a 2013 victory against Dortmund at Wembley and have made deep runs in the competition ever since, winning it last year – despite fewer matches in the knockouts.
4. Manchester United
Points: 419 (from 229 games), Goal difference: 169
In 1999, United rose to the top of European and world football with a stunning stoppage-time comeback win over Bayern Munich that sealed their first victory of the Champions League era.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 93rd-minute winner remains one of the competition’s most iconic moments, but more glory was to come when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side beat Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 final.
They were denied further success after suffering defeats to Barcelona in the finals of 2009 and 2011 against Pep Guardiola’s superb Barcelona side, while the club is yet to return to the top after struggling to recover from the retirement of Fergie in 2013.
Points: 361 (from 205 games), Goal difference: 120
Juventus consider themselves somewhat cursed when it comes to the Champions League. Since winning the trophy in 1995/96, the Old Lady have reached the final five times – and lost each one.
Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid (twice), AC Milan and Barcelona have ended the Italians’ dreams of ending the barren run, over a period spanning 20 years.
Nevertheless, Juve boast one of the most impressive records in the competition and re-established themselves as a leading contender in recent years under Massimiliano Allegri.
Points: 302 (from 195 games), Goal difference: 41
Champions League stalwarts Porto have only missed eight campaigns since the competition began in 1992, reaching the semi-finals in 1993/94 and regularly gracing the knockout stages.
However, their crowning moment will always be the against-the-odds, Jose Mourinho-led triumph of 2004, when the Portuguese side were crowned European champions for the first time since 1987.
Porto knocked out Manchester United, Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna before thrashing Monaco 3-0 in the final, a result that catapulted the Special One into superstardom.
Points: 301 (from 170 games), Goal difference: 132
Chelsea clinched their first and only Champions League title in 2012, beating Bayern Munich on penalties at Munich’s Allianz Arena after a dramatic semi-final victory over Barcelona.
The triumph came after a somewhat painful relationship with the competition had blossomed since Roman Abramovich’s 2003 takeover.
Before their glorious night in Germany, the Blues had been knocked out in the semi-finals four times and suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 final. They lost in the semis again in 2014, but since then haven’t made it further than the last 16.
Points: 290 (from 177 games), Goal difference: 76
Arsenal are something of an anomaly here, being the only side in the top 10 who are yet to actually win the Champions League.
Much of that will be down to their excellent qualification record, as they reached the group stages for 19 consecutive years between 1998 and 2017.
The closest the Gunners came to glory was in 2005/06 when they were losing finalists to Barcelona, but more recently they have been remarkably consistent in their exits – Arsenal were knocked out at the last-16 stage for seven years in a row between 2010 and 2017.
9. AC Milan
Points: 271 (from 165 games), Goal difference: 96
They may have lost their way in recent years, having failed to qualify for the Champions League since 2013, but Milan have one of the richest histories of any club in the competition.
Fabio Capello’s side triumphed over Barcelona in the 1994 final, and they were victorious once again in 2003, beating fellow Serie A giants Juventus on penalties to clinch the title.
The Rossoneri haven’t lacked in sore moments, though, losing to Marseille in the first-ever Champions League final in 1993, falling to Ajax in the 1995 final and, most memorably, surrendering a 3-0 half time lead in Istanbul to lose to Liverpool in 2005. They did get their revenge though, beating the Reds when they met in the final once again two years later.
Points: 225 (from 129 games), Goal difference: 96
After falling in the 2018 final to Real Madrid, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool went one better last season to end a 14-year wait to be top dogs in Europe once again.
Klopp has transformed the Anfield side into leading contenders in the competition again, after a period of early exits and Europa League campaigns.
But nobody can doubt their prestige in this competition, having won it twice in the Champions League era, to add four European Cup triumphs. Plus, in the miracle of Istanbul, they provided the tournament with one of its most jaw-dropping moments.