In recent seasons the “q-word” has been mentioned more and more, in large part because of the incredible dominance and brilliant performances of Man City and Liverpool. In 2022/23 Man United are still chasing four pieces of silverware as we head into spring. Theirs would not be a “true” quadruple, as they did not play in the Champions League, instead only qualifying for the second-tier Europa League. And the chances of them winning all four of the competitions they will be playing in is slim, given are only third favourites as far as the Premier League is concerned. Even so, for now at least, a quadruple (of sorts) is on the cards, United having bagged the EFL Cup already.
But what do we even mean by “the quadruple”? Well, most football fans would see it as winning the Champions League (or in the case of non-European sides their continental equivalent), the top-flight domestic title, and their two highest-level domestic cups.
In 2021/22 Liverpool came incredibly close to achieving that feat. They won the EFL Cup and FA Cup and probably deserved to win the Champions League final (but lost to Real Madrid). In addition, they only missed out on the league thanks to City coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in the last 15 minutes of the last game of the season.
Has an English Side Ever Won the Quadruple?
No English team has ever managed to land the big four. Man United arguably went closest when they won the treble in 1999. That year they won the main three competitions they entered, only missing out on the League Cup. Liverpool also came incredibly close as mentioned, whilst in recent years Man City have maintained a push for the quadruple deep into the season before falling short.
City did win all three domestic competitions (plus the Community Shield) in 2018/19 but they only made the quarter final of the Champions League. In 2020/21 they again won the PL and the League Cup, for what we might call a minor double, but lost in the CL final and the FA Cup semis. Other teams have gone close in a range of ways but ultimately no English side has managed to win all four big pieces of silverware in the same season.
Celtic’s Lisbon Lions Stand Alone
In European terms, the only side to have ever done the clean sweep is the famous Celtic side of the 1960s. Known as the Lisbon Lions due to their European Cup win in Lisbon, Jock Stein’s amazing team swept all before them in 1966/67. They beat Inter Milan 2-1 in the final having pipped Rangers by three points in the Scottish top-flight title, losing just twice all season and scoring 111 goals in their 34 games.
Their first piece of silverware that year came as early as October, Glasgow rivals Rangers again the side they beat. That 1-0 triumph in the Scottish League Cup gave them a nice early season boost and they then went on to beat Aberdeen 2-0 in the Scottish Cup final in April.
Ajax won the treble in 1971/72, a feat also achieved by fellow Dutch side PSV, Man United, Barcelona (twice), Inter, and Bayern Munich (twice). But no side in Europe can match Celtic and we suspect that record may well remain for some time yet.
Is it Harder to Win a Quadruple Now?
The Champions League involves far more teams than its predecessor the European Cup used to and this means there are more potential winners. In addition, the huge financial importance of the modern CL means that teams tend to prioritise it, and the league, more than they used to.
Especially in earlier rounds, many of the top sides field a much-changed side in the League Cup and even the FA Cup, meaning they are less likely to win both. In addition, if we move away from England, Scotland and a small number of other nations (including France), we see that a quadruple is simply impossible. This is because many of Europe’s footballing nations only have one domestic cup, rather than two.
Have Any Other Clubs Won the Quadruple?
Many sides around the world have managed to land four pieces of silverware in the same season. However, many of these include some form of “super cup” so we would exclude these. A super cup in this sense is a competition that features a one-off final with no other rounds, teams qualifying for this by winning a separate competition. The Community Shield and the European Super Cup are two examples of such silverware.
Other minor competitions are also discounted because they simply don’t carry the same importance as others. We would clearly rank a treble of the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup above a team that won five competitions where one was the Club World Cup, one was the League Cup, another was the FA Cup and two were pre-season sponsored “cups” that were really nothing more than glorified friendlies.
Rangers, for example, have won four or more competitions several times but that includes the likes of the Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup and the Glasgow Cup. In New Zealand, Auckland City have done likewise, as have East Bengal in India (winning a hat-trick of domestic cups and another local tournament).
So in short, we would say that no side has won what could legitimately be called a quadruple to rival that of Celtic’s. We may be doing a disservice to the achievements of some of the globe’s lesser teams, and their local/domestic competitions. However, certainly no other team has won the Champions League or the South American equivalent (the Copa Libertadores), as well as three major domestic honours in the same campaign. All hail the Lions of Lisbon, quadruple kings of the beautiful game!