Champions League: Your Guide to Complete Understanding
The UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions League is the world’s most popular and largest club soccer competition in the world. The European league is comprised of 32 teams that compete in five rounds, and the winner becomes the European football champion.
History of the Champions League
This championship has a long history that dates back to 1955, when it was established. It was first called the European Cup until the 1992/93 season, when it changed its name to the current UEFA Champions League.
Only 16 teams participated in the first-ever competition of the League. It had four knockout stages: the first round, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final match. Real Madrid of Spain became its first winner after defeating Reims 4-3.
Five years later, its participants doubled to 32. This addition also necessitated an extra round while retaining the initial format. Initially, it included only the teams that won their local and national leagues, plus the defending champions. However, after the League’s rebranding in 1992, it changed and allowed strong runners-up in their respective countries to participate. This change introduced a new group stage that substituted the first round of the competition.
Fascinating Historical Facts
Spain’s teams have made history in the League following its dominance in European football. First, Spain was the first country to have two of its teams competing in the finals. In 2000, Real Madrid met and beat Valencia.
Also, in the 2013/14 and 2015/16 contests, two Madrid clubs met in the finals, where Real Madrid beat their bitter rivals Atletico, winning the trophy and then retaining it in 2016.
Moreover, Real Madrid is the only team to have defended the title two times in a row (2016-2018) and the only team to win it more than 10 times, hitting a record-breaking 13 Champions League titles.
Spain’s teams have made history in the League following its dominance in European football. Spain was the first country to have two of its teams competing in the finals. In 2000, Real Madrid beat Valencia. Also, in the 2013/14 and 2015/16 contests, two Madrid clubs met in the finals, where Real Madrid beat their bitter rivals Atletico, winning the trophy and then retaining it in 2016.
Moreover, Real Madrid is the only team to have defended the title three times in a row (2016-2018) and the only team to win it more than ten times, hitting a record-breaking 14 Champions League titles.
England follows Spain at a distance as the second nation whose teams met in the finals. This happened in the 2018/19 tournament, where the Reds (Liverpool) whipped Tottenham 2-0. Overall, English clubs have won the trophy 14 times. Also, the competitiveness is still very fierce as the current UEFA Champions League winner, season 2022-23, is another English club, Manchester City. Finally, England is represented by six teams, while Spain has only two clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
A History of Winners
Here is the history of winners since the League’s establishment in 1956.
- Real Madrid: 14 titles (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2022)
- AC Milan: 7 titles (1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)
- Liverpool: 6 titles (1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, 2019)
- Bayern Munich: 6 titles (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013, 2020)
- Barcelona: 5 titles (1992, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2015)
- Ajax: 4 titles (1971, 1972, 1973, 1995);
- Inter Milan: 3 titles (1964, 1965, 2010)
- Manchester United: 3 titles (1968, 1999, 2008)
- Benfica: 2 titles (1961, 1962)
- Nottingham Forest: 2 titles (1979, 1980)
- Juventus: 2 titles (1985, 1996)
- FC Porto: 2 titles (1987, 2004)
- Chelsea: 2 titles (2012, 2021)
- Celtic: 1 title (1967);
- Feyenoord: 1 title (1970)
- Aston Villa: 1 title (1982)
- Hamburg: 1 title (1983)
- Steaua București: 1 title (1986)
- PSV Eindhoven: 1 title (1988)
- Red Star Belgrade: 1 title (1991)
- Marseille: 1 title (1993)
- Borussia Dortmund: 1 title (1997)
- Manchester City: (2023)
Format and rules
The format of the League has undergone gradual changes. After the introduction of the 32-team participation, participants are split into four groups where all teams play with each other twice, that is, at home and away. After that, each group winner plus its runner-up qualify for the round of 16, which is a knockout stage whose winners proceed to the quarter-finals of the championship.
The last 8 teams battle it out for the semi-final stage or the last 4. The last four teams face each other in the semi-finals, paving the way for the grand finale. All these stages, from the round of 16 to the semifinals, include two matches—home and away. In the current format, the final is played on a neutral ground. Initially, teams used to play home and away to determine the winner.
The format of the League has changed in the following manner:
Its third edition between 1994 and 1995 saw the expansion of the teams to 16, excluding qualification. Since then, the four groups comprising four teams went through three knockout phases.
In its 1997-1998 season, the League expanded to 24 teams minus qualification. It had a group stage comprising six groups of four teams each and followed a knockout phase of three stages.
In 1999/2000, the participants also increased to 32 teams minus qualification. Then, teams were divided into eight groups of four teams each. They went through the initial group stage, the second, and the knockout stage.
In the 2014/2015 season, the League removed the second group stage and introduced the Round of 16 in the knockout stage.
Trophies and awards
The League also features monetary and non-monetary awards and prizes. The most coveted of them are awarded to the best:
- Goalkeeper of the year;
- Defender of the year;
- Midfielder of the year;
- Forward of the year;
- Coach(es) of the year;
- Goal of the season.
The championship also gives monetary prizes to all participants progressing further than others:
- Group participation: €15 million;
- The round of 16: €9.5 million;
- The quarter-finals: €10.5 million;
- The semi-finals: €12 million;
- Teams in the finals: €15 million;
- Winning the final: €4 million.
Moreover, all wins in the championship make the team €2.7 million, while all draws are rewarded with €900,000. Therefore, a team that wins all its matches during the competition will pocket the resounding €82.2 million in awards.