The UEFA Champion League to the European Club competition equivalent to the COPA Libertadores was started in the 1955 with the first winner is Real Madrid. The competition was inspired from the Copa Libertadores that was started in 1948.This competition was proposed by Gabriel Hanot to UEFA. Gabriel Hanot is the editor of L,Equippe the editor of the French sports newspaper. Gabriel Hanot had proposed the idea after he had covered the COPA Livertadores games where Vasco Da Gama the Brazilian club team had won the competition His views was supported by his fellow journalist Jacques Ferran whom had said ” how could Europe, which wanted to be ahead of the rest of the world, not be able to accomplish a competition of the same kind of the South American one? We needed to follow that example “.
The proposal was reviewed by UEFA and approved by UEFA after Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer arranged a friendly against foreign opposition such as Racing Club of Argentina, Spartak Moscow of Russia and Honved of Hungary in 1953.Most of the Hungary international team at that time was from Honved club. They had beaten all of the team which led to Wolverhampton manager Stan Cullis to declare themselves as “Champion of the World”. This had led Jacques Ferran to say ” Before we declare that Wolverhampton are invincible, let them go to Moscow and Budapest. And there are other internationally renowned clubs: Milan and Real Madrid to name but two. A club world championship, or at least a European one – larger, more meaningful and more prestigious than the *Mitropa Cup and more original than a competition for national teams – should be launched”. UEFA had raised the the proposal in congress meeting in 1955 and had approved the to launch a new European Club competition in April of that year. With this Gabriel Hanot and Jacques Ferran had been credited as the founding father of this competition and it is in the UEFA record books. Later in 1993, the competition had been branded as UEFA Champion League with more team had been added. Currently they is 32 team competing in this competition. We will look at the different aspect of this competition and how they had been evolved since their humble beginning. Qualification to the Competition. In the beginning only the champion of the respective country will be able to compete in this tournament. If the defending champion is also the domestic champion then only the runner up will be allowed. Then in 1997-1998 season of this competition UEFA had allowed the runner up of the domestic league to qualify for the competition to increase the number of participating team. The in 1999-2000 season the team participant had been increased to current 32 team as UEFA had increased the allocation for the team. From this season the top 3 team depending on UEFA coefficient ranking will have 4 team that is the winners, runner up , the 3rd and 4th place team. The next 3 team will have only 3 team. Currently the team from England, Spain and German is in top 3 so they have 4 team. From the 2014-2015 season onward the team that had won the UEFA Europa League will also qualify for the UEFA Champion League . Due to this a team can now have a maximum of 5 representative in the competition. Format. The old tournament only allowed the domestic champion and it is a knockout phase from the beginning. The format had been changed in 1992 where the last 8 team will be competing in group stage and the winner of the group will play in the final until in 1994-1995 season where there is 4 group stage in the beginning itself with the group winners and the runner up will through to quarter final that will be a knock out stages. In the 1997-1998 season another changes was made due to increase of the team in competition as UEFA had allowed the runner up of the domestic league to participate. Now instead of 4 group they is 6 group with winners and best 2 runner up will thorough to knockout stages. Due to expansion of the competition to 32 team the format again had been changed in 1999-2000 where they is 8 group with winner and runner up will through 2nd round group stages and the again the winner and runner up will through knockout stages. The final changes had been made in 2003-04 season as the second round group stage had been scrapped and the group winners and runner up will playing the knockout stages starting from the second round onward. At the moment this the current format of the competition. The Trophy. The old European Cup trophy had been presented by the L’Equippe sports magazine. This is the trophy that was used from 1955 until 1966. The current trophy was named as “Big Ear” and it was commissioned to UEFA by Jörg Stadelmann a jeweler from Bern,Switzerland. This is the current trophy. The team that had won the competition 5 times or 3 consecutive times will kept trophy permanently. The first winner of the new trophy is Celtic in 1967. The old trophy had been kept by Real Madrid after their fifth win in 1960. Real Madrid become the last club to won the old European Trophy after their won it in 1966 as they will kept the trophy permanently as they are the only team whom had meet both the criteria. After Real Madrid the are 4 more team that kept the Big Ear trophy permanently with them and that is Ajax Amsterdam FC after their 3rd consecutive win in 1973, Bayern Munich also after their 3rd consecutive win in 1976 , AC Milan after their 5th win in 1994 and Liverpool after their 5th win in 2005. In 2009, UEFA had decided that they will keep the trophy permanently and the team had meet either criteria will be given a full sized replica with their name on it. This team also will be given a multiple title badge engraved in their jersey. For now only Barcelona, AC Milan, Liverpool , Real Madrid, Bayern Munich , and Ajax Amsterdam had multiple title badge as they had fulfilled one of the criteria to kept the trophy.
The Winners. Real Madrid is the team that won the competition the most. They won won it 11 times starting in 1956,1957,1958,1959,1960,1966,1998,2000,2002,2014 and 2016. The next team on the list is AC Milan has they had won the competition 7 times in 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994,2003 and in 2007. They are 3 team that had won the competition 5 times and that is Liverpool in 1977,1978,1981,1984 and 2005 , Bayern Munich 1974,1975,1976, 2001 and in 2013, and the last team is Barcelona in 1992,2006,2009,2011,and in 2015. Ajax Amsterdam is next team on the list that won the competition 4 times starting in 1971,1972,1973 and in 1995. Manchester United and Intermilan is the team that had won the competition 3 times as Manchester United had won in 1968,1999 and 2008 where Intermilan had won in 1964,1965 and in 2010. Nottingham Forest, FC Porto,Juventus and Benfica had won the competition 2 times as Nottingham Forest had won in 1979 and 1980 where Benfica had won 1961 and 1962, Juventus had won it in 1984 and 1995 and FC Porto had won in 1987 and 2004. The next team had only won the competition only 1 times and there are Celtic(1967), Feyenord (1970), Aston Villa(1982), Hamburg(1983),Steaua Bucharest(1986),PSV Eindhoven (1988), Red Star Belgrada(1991), Marseille(1993), Aston Villa(1982), Borrusia Dortmun(1997) and Chelsea(2012). Real Madrid also the only team had lifted the trophy 5 consecutive times, followed by Ajax Amsterdam and Bayern Munich whom had lifted them 3 consecutive times and Liverpool , Benfica, Intermilan and AC Milan had lifted the trophy 2 consecutive times. AC Milan is the last team to lift the trophy 2 consecutive times . After AC Milan only 3 team had successfully reached final in the following season after they had won the trophy and they are Ajax Amsterdam in 1996,Juventus in 1997, AC Milan in 1995 and Manchester United in 2009 to become the first time in Champion League era to win the trophy twice consecutively but failed as they lost in the final. The winner of the tournament will also meet the winner of the Copa Libertadores. In the beginning untill 1979 the tournament will played in home and away in Europe and in South America , starting from 1980 played in Japan as one off game and starting from 2005 it had been named as Club World Cup as the team from other continental champion is allowed in the competition.
Ease to Win. In the old format only the winners of the domestic league is allowed to participate and it is knockout stage from the beginning but with less games. When Real Madrid won the tournament the first times they only had played 7 games. 3 knockout stages and the final. When Real Madrid won the La Decima in 2014 current format they need to play 13 games consist of 6 group stages games and 6 knockout stage games and the final itself. It had been doubled in the current format. In the old format the team will not be seeded unlike the current format. When Nottingham Forest won the competition in 1979 they knocked out Liverpool in 2nd round where in the current format this may not happen as the team will be seeded and this will avoid the best to meet each other in the early stages. On the old format, to qualify for the tournament in hard but to win it you only play less games where in the current format to qualify is easier as you do not need to be the doemstic champion but to win you need to play more games. In comparison is made the current format harder to win as the the team will meet the best team in Europe starting form the quarter final itself and playing more games.
The UEFA Champion League had been branded, re branded, format changes, increase of the team participation, may changes the format again in the future, and many more but it is still a spectacle of football as we can see many of the top team and best player competes in the tournament to determine who is the best team in Europe. It had changed a lot since the proposal made by Gabriel Hanot and Jacques Ferran . The founding father of the UEFA European Club competition inspired by COPA Libertadores had make a great suggestion at that time and UEFA had approved it and they had given to us the best club football competition in the world right now.
*first international major European football cups for club sides also called as Central European Cup that started in 1927