This year’s Barcelona is playing some of the most exciting soccer in the history of the game. To some, it might be the greatest club team ever assembled. But should we call it a dynasty? And where is this dynasty ranked among the other great European dynasties?
A dynasty, according to the Webster’s dictionary, is:
1- A succession of rulers of the same line of descent
2- A powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time.
In soccer, the word dynasty is used to describe a team that has won successive titles. And when we talk about the European club soccer, there is no higher standard than the UEFA Champions League and its predecessor the European Cup.
Therefore, European dynasties are an exclusive group of clubs that have a history of winning consecutive EC/UCL titles. And the ranking of these clubs is based on the frequency of their achievement.
A legend, on the other hand, is defined as:
1- A story coming down from the past
2- A popular myth of recent origin
3- A person or thing that inspires “legends”
In soccer, a legend is a person (player, manager or administrator) whose contribution had led to the creation of such myth-like stories about a certain team.
In this article, I will rank the European dynasties according to their lasting achievement (how many titles in a row) and I will give a tribute to their legends that shaped their destiny.
1- Real Madrid I (1956-1960, 1966)
Winning the first five ECs was and still is a remarkable achievement; many believe it will never be duplicated.
The first Galacticos that was created by the legendary Santiago Bernabeu started by a genius coup that snatched the other legend of that era, the Argentinean Alfredo Di Stefano, from the jaws of Barcelona in 1953.
In spite of the plethora of world stars in the Madrid club that included Puskas, Gento, and Kopa, among others, it was Di Stefano who was the true shining star above them all. He also helped them in reaching two more finals, in 1962 and 1964, before retiring. He wasn’t there for their win in 1966.
Real Madrid’s win over Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3, in 1960, is still regarded as the best game in the history of the EC/UCL. In that game, Di Stefano scored 3 goals and Puskas 4 goals.
2- Ajax (1971-1973)
3- Bayern Munich (1974-1976)
After Latin Europe had dominated the scene in the first decade, it was the Northern European turn to dominate the next two decades.
The rise of the Dutch and the German soccer in the early 70s coincided with the arrival of two mega stars; Johan Cruyff with Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer with Bayern Munich.
These legends have brought so much success to their clubs and countries, with each one having guided his club to a hat-trick of trophies; a fate has not been repeated since then.
I gave the edge to Ajax because they, with Cruyff, reached the final in 1969, when they lost to AC Milan, while the next final appearance of Bayern wasn’t until 1982.
4- Liverpool (1977-1978, 1981, 1984)
Liverpool leads a group of five clubs which won two consecutive titles but they were ranked higher by the virtue of winning other tiles with the same generation of players.
It’s hard to think of the Liverpool dynasty without thinking of the legendary Kenny Dalglish, but he wasn’t there from the beginning. It was Kevin Keegan, whom Kenny replaced in 1977, who brought the first trophy.
The only player who appeared in all 4 titles is Phil Neal, who even went to captain the team in the infamous 1985 final.
The tragedy of 1985 final has brought a premature end to this dynasty that continued to dominate the domestic scene for few more years and that brought some of the most exciting soccer, ever witnessed in the English game.
5- AC Milan (1989-1990, 1994)
The European ban on English clubs (1985-1990) had brought an end to the English domination of the EC. After that, the balance was restored and all the geographic corners of Europe had a share of the cup, even the Eastern Europeans.
The Milan team of the 89-90 era is one of the most exciting team of all time. It combined the mastery of the Italian defense led by Paolo Maldini with the artistry and the flare of the Dutch soccer represented by the trio Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard.
The Dutch trio would be gone by the time Milan lifted the trophy again in 1994, but the legendary Milan Defense with its superstar Maldini are still there.
They reached the final twice more in 1993 and 1995.
During his time with the club, Maldini won 5 cups and reached the final 3 additional times.
6- Benfica (1961-1962)
7- Inter Milan (1964-1965)
For Benfica, it was all about Eusebio; the most talented and exciting Portuguese player in history. He was born in Mozambique and moved to Benfica in 1960 and, as the legend goes, single-handedly brought Benfica to a dizzying heights, it has never achieved, before or after, playing some very entertaining soccer.
On the other, Inter Milan was the antithesis of Benfica. It conquered Europe playing some of the most rigidly defensive form of soccer, known as the catenaccio, and was promoted by Inter’s legendary Argentinean coach Helenio Herrera.
I gave the edge to Benfica because they reached the final three more times in that period (1963, 1965, 1968) while Inter reached one more final (1967)
8- Nottingham Forest (1979-1980)
Nottingham Forest is the most intriguing dynasty of all. It’s the only club that had won more European Cups (2) than domestic league (1).
It’s one of the few examples where the true legend of the team is not on the field. It was their manager Brian Clough who is considered by many as one of the greatest English managers in history.
In only four seasons, he took a virtually unknown club to the division 2 promotion (1977) and division 1 title (1978) and the European Cups (1979 and 1980).
9- Real Madrid II (1998, 2000, 2002)
Since the expansion of the UCL in 1997, to include more runner-ups, it became more difficult to repeat as a champion. Very few defending champions have managed to reach the final in the following year. As a matter of fact, since 1997, only Manchester United had done so after their win in 2008.
Although no successive wins, Real Madrid has won 3 titles in 5 seasons and this is by no means easy, in the current formate. Their legends collection included the Spaniards Raul, Morientes, Hierro and the Brazilian Roberto Carlos and in their final triumph, the legendaries Zidane and Figo.
Could Barcelona become the next dynasty? If they win this year’s title, it will be their 3rd in 6 years, and will be ranked 10th on the list. They won it in 2006 and 2009 and they have all the ingredients to do so; Messi, Iniesta and Xavi, to name just a few.
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