The iconic Champions League trophy is the pinnacle of European club football
The iconic Champions League trophy is the pinnacle of European club football

The Champions League is the holy grail for Europe's elite players and coaches.

The competition — known as the European Cup when it followed a knockout format — creates timeless memories for those fortunate enough to lift the trophy.

But which clubs have enjoyed the most success at the continent's top table?

Starting with the team to have tasted success more than any other, read on to discover how many times the most successful sides have got their hands on the cup with the big ears. 

13 - Real Madrid

Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane celebrates scoring his iconic volley in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen
Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane celebrates scoring his iconic volley in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen

First title: 1956

Last title: 2018

Fun fact: Real Madrid hold the record for most consecutive final wins with five (1956-60).

Los Blancos can undoubtedly claim the honour of being the most successful side in the history of the competition.

The Spanish club have provided some classic European moments, most notably Zinedine Zidane's volley, which secured a ninth title for the club.

Gareth Bale also scored a memorable goal in their 2018 triumph, unleashing a magnificent overhead kick that flew past Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius.

7 - AC Milan

AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko (right) celebrates scoring the winning penalty in the 2003 final
AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko (right) celebrates scoring the winning penalty in the 2003 final

First title: 1963

Last title: 2007

Fun Fact: Milan were the first Italian team to win a European Cup in 1963.

Perhaps Milan's most memorable Champions League triumph came in 2007, when they overcame the mental hurdle of defeating Liverpool in a repeat of the 2005 final.

Filippo Inzaghi scored a brace in Athens to complete a 2-1 victory with the likes of Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Paolo Maldini all starring. 

Earlier in the decade, Andriy Shevchenko put in a man-of-the-match performance in the 2003 all-Italian final against Juventus. The Ukranian scored the decisive penalty in the shootout at Old Trafford.

6 - Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandoski celebrates victory over Paris Saint-Germain in 2020
Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandoski celebrates victory over Paris Saint-Germain in 2020

First title: 1974

Last title: 2020

Fun fact: Bayern's 1974 triumph was the first and only time the final was decided by a replay. After a 1-1 draw in Brussels against Atletico Madrid, Franz Beckenbauer lifted the trophy two days' later thanks to a 4-0 win. 

Nothing is sweeter than beating your bitter rivals on the biggest stage and Bayern Munich did just that when they beat Borussia Dortmund in 2013, courtesy of a last-minute winner from Arjen Robben.

In 2001, Bayern defeated Valencia in a game full of penalties. The match finished 1-1 with both teams scoring from the spot but it was Bayern who came out on top in the penalty shootout to secure their fourth title.

More recently, 2020 saw Bayern claim their sixth crown, beating Paris Saint-Germain in the only final to be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

6 - Liverpool 

Steven Gerrard was instrumental in leading Liverpool's comeback in 2005
Steven Gerrard was instrumental in leading Liverpool's comeback in 2005

First title: 1977

Last title: 2019

Fun fact: Liverpool are England's most successful club in Europe, winning six of their nine finals.

Liverpool's comeback against Milan in the 2005 final was arguably the greatest conclusion in the history of the competition.

Eventually winning on penalties, Liverpool overcame a 3-0 half-time deficit, completing what is now regarded as the 'Miracle of Istanbul'.

More recently in 2019, Mo Salah and Divock Origi were decisive in front of goal as they overcame Tottenham in Madrid.

5 - Barcelona

Neymar, Dani Alves and Lionel Messi were all an integral part of Barcelona in their prime
Neymar, Dani Alves and Lionel Messi were all an integral part of Barcelona in their prime

First title: 1992

Last title: 2015

Fun fact: Barcelona's maiden victory in 1992 was the last edition of the European Cup before the competition was rebranded as the Champions League.

Lionel Messi has starred in a number of Barcelona's most iconic moments on the European stage.

In 2008, his looping header sealed a first title in 16 years as Pep Guardiola's side defeated defending champions Manchester United in Rome.

Three years later, the Red Devils were again on the wrong side of the scoreline against the Blaugrana, with Messi starring in a masterful 3-1 victory at Wembley. 

In 2015, the Argentine's deft nutmeg and chip against a helpless Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer set the Catalan side on their way to another final, where they went on to beat Juventus in Berlin.

4 - Ajax

The De Boer brothers hold the trophy aloft with Nwankwo Kanu to start the Ajax celebrations in 1995
The De Boer brothers hold the trophy aloft with Nwankwo Kanu to start the Ajax celebrations in 1995

First title: 1971

Last title: 1995

Fun fact: Patrick Kluivert became the youngest player to score in a Champions League final when he scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 win against Milan, aged just 18.

Although they have had little European success in recent years, Ajax remain an iconic team due in large part to the era of success during Johan Cruyff's time with the club.

The Dutch side's first three titles came consecutively between 1971 and 1973, with Cruyff scoring a brace in their 1972 triumph.

Louis van Gaal led them to their most recent victory, which came against Fabio Capello's Milan in 1995.

3 - Manchester United

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Chelsea's Florent Malouda battle it out in the 2008 final
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Chelsea's Florent Malouda battle it out in the 2008 final

First title: 1968

Last title: 2008

Fun fact: Manchester United became the first English club to win the Treble when they clinched the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999.

If Liverpool's 2005 win was the greatest comeback, Manchester United's 1999 victory stands alone as the final with the most late drama.

Finding themselves 1-0 down heading into stoppage time, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fired United to a remarkable last-gasp victory over Bayern Munich.

Nine years later, John Terry's slip in the penalty shootout in Moscow helped Sir Alex Ferguson to his second Champions League win as coach and the club's third overall.

3 - Inter Milan

Inter Milan's Diego Milito celebrates scoring in the 2010 final
Inter Milan's Diego Milito celebrates scoring in the 2010 final

First title: 1964

Last title: 2010

Fun fact: Led by Jose Mourinho in 2009-10, Inter Milan became the first Italian team to win Serie A, the Champions League and the Coppa Italia in the same season. 

Inter won back-to-back titles in the 1960s but went on to endure a long period of absence from Europe's summit.

Mourinho helped change that in 2020. His star-studded side, featuring the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito, fired the Italian club to a memorable 2-0 victory against Bayern Munich in Madrid.

That triumph was the last time an Italian team has been crowned champions of Europe.

Tags

Real MadridAC MilanBayern MunichLiverpoolBarcelonaAjaxInterManchester UnitedJuventusChelseaChampions League

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