Most successful football clubs in Europe


In 2018 all the semi-finalists in the World Cup were from Europe.  This would suggest that the best players in the world play in European clubs.  This means evaluating the teams in Europe means focusing on where the best football is played in the world.

You would think the easiest way to judge the most successful clubs in Europe is by looking at the number of trophies they have won.  If this is the case, then Celtic is the most successful club by far, with 103 trophies – Juventus, by contrast, have 62 trophies.  The failure of this statistic becomes clear as many pundits would argue that Juventus is the most successful football club in history, by far.

This means that when judging the most successful clubs, you need to take account of context.

Are these trophies won from local leagues and cups or from the heights of European club football?  Those winning the European Champions League/ the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winner’s cup between the winners of the European competitions are obviously most successful.

The league that the club plays in is also a central consideration to the level of success of the club. If the club plays in the Premiership in England and Wales, the Serie A in Italy, the Bundesliga in Germany, Ligue 1 in France or the La Liga in Spain then they are amongst the best in the world, never mind Europe.

This means the best way to assess successful European clubs is to look at each of these leagues and the clubs who dominate.

Ligue 1 in France

Saint-Etienne has the most titles in France – with a total of 10.  However, Ligue 1 in France has become a little one-dimensional since Paris Saint-Germain flashed the cash in an aim to become one of the super clubs in Europe. They have Neymar, Cavani, Silva and more. This financial dominance means that PSG has won every title in France since 2012.  However, they have yet to win the Champions League.

Interestingly, Olympique de Marseille has 9 titles and a Champions League title.

Whether the French clubs can really claim to compete with the best is questionable.  PSG week on week do not experience the same levels of challenge as other clubs in more competitive leagues.  This is maybe why the top clubs are starting to consider a separate European super league, pulling the top clubs out of domestic football.

Serie A in Italy

There are some giants in the world of European Club football in Italy, making it potentially one of the best leagues in the world.  There is Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Roma, Napoli and more.  All these clubs have competed in the European Champions League.  Inter Milan has 3 European titles, and AC Milan has 7 – the second highest in history.

Are the Milan clubs the best in Italy and potentially the best in Europe? Most would say no.  Juventus as 34 Serie A titles and has dominated in the last 7 years, with teams struggling to come close to beating them in the league.  Napoli almost won last season – this is the best we can offer.

Juventus have upped their challenge for the most successful club in Europe by luring Cristiano Ronaldo to the team.  It will be interesting to see if he makes a difference to the fortunes of the club in the Champions League.

Bundesliga in Germany

Like with the French Ligue 1, the Bundesliga is dominated by the powerhouse of Bayern Munich.  Borussia Dortmund has made it to the highest echelons of play over the years, but this club cannot be compared to the top clubs in Europe as Bayern Munich can.  Bayern Munich has would 8 out 11 league titles since 2007.

As with PSG, it can be argued that Bayern Munich will struggle to become one of the best of the best without the domestic competition to challenge the heights they can reach.  Saying this: they have won the Champions League five times.

La Liga in Spain

Some say that La Liga is the best league in the world.  When you have matches between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, then you could easily see the pundits’ point.  These two clubs have indeed performed the best in the European Champions League. Real Madrid has 13 titles, and Barcelona has 5.

Barcelona won the league most recently and has 25 titles.  Real Madrid is always competitive and has an amazing 33 titles.

We should probably throw the name of Atletico Madrid into the mix – but they are largely overshadowed by the giants in this league.

The Premiership in England and Wales

The Premier League Is arguably the most competitive league in the world – certainly the most watched.  Although there are five major teams who dominate – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea – anyone has the chance to win the title – as Leicester proved not so long ago.  No team has won the league twice in a row since 2009.

Before this period of uncertainty, two teams have dominated the league: Manchester United and Liverpool.  Liverpool has won 18 times – but their golden period was in the 1980s, and they haven’t reached the same heights since.  Manchester United dominate in the early 00s – but have not been the same since Sir Alex Ferguson left – even under Mourinho they have struggled to click.

Current dominance in the league falls to Manchester City – who have experienced a rise to the top clubs thanks to a massive investment of funds in the top players – and arguably the best manager in Pep.  However, Chelsea is making it competitive – and as always – no one can really say who will win this league this year.

The most successful?

Do you judge the most successful team over history or in terms of current performance and potential? Manchester United and Liverpool could be considered giants over history – but their fortunes have waned.  Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona – and potential Manchester City – have a collection of players that could undoubtedly dominate in the future.

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