The Champions League is, of course, a club competition. So just in case clarification was needed, in this article, we will be combining all of the wins by clubs in the top divisions of England, Spain, Italy, Germany and so on to see which nation comes out on top. At the time of writing we have a clear leader – but who is it?
A note before we divulge that information though. The Champions League began in 1992 but before that, its forerunner was known as the European Cup. That competition was first held in the 1955/56 season. For the purposes of this article, we are looking at all editions of this brilliant tournament between 1955/56 and 2021/22 inclusive. We will now refer to the competition solely as the Champions League (UCL) as we seek to ascertain which nation has been the most successful over the years.
We will look in more detail at exactly how the big hitters have accumulated their titles. However, the table below is a perfect – and speedy – reference, which hopefully provides all the information most people want.
Most Champions League Wins by Nation
|Wins for Club
Note that the German tally includes West Germany in the years before reunification and that no East German sides have won the UCL (or made the final). In addition, we should point out that whilst France are absent from this list, their clubs have actually made the Champions League final no fewer than seven times. However, Marseille’s sole win in 1993 means that France, with just one win, is merely one of four nations to boast that number of successes, along with Scotland, Romania and the former Yugoslavia.
Spain (… or Real Madrid) Rule the European Roost
The table above shows us that Spain are some way ahead of the rest when it comes to UCL success. But what it does not show is that of the 19 wins by Spanish clubs, 14 belong to Real Madrid. In other words, Real Madrid alone have won as many Champions League titles as all English clubs combined and more than those of Italy, Germany or anywhere else.
Barcelona account for Spain’s other five titles, although Atletico Madrid and Valencia have also made the final, losing five times there between them. Real have enjoyed two main eras of dominance, winning the first five editions of this competition and then adding a further five since 2014.
It is interesting to note that Spanish clubs (okay, Real Madrid and Barcelona) have been especially strong in recent years. For all the talk of the Premier League as the best in the world, its undeniably unparalleled wealth, and the supposed brilliance of recent Man City and Liverpool teams, over the past 15 completed seasons, the “Spain v England” UCL record reads 7-4 to Spain. And that era began with Man United’s 2008 victory.
England and Premier League Have Work to Do
English clubs may well catch those of Spain in the seasons to come, although 2022/23 has seen two clubs fall at the Round of 16. But they certainly have work to do and in terms of finals, they are actually third, behind teams from Italy (28 v 25).
That said, English clubs account for four of the 13 teams to have multiple competition successes to their name. They also have four clubs that have made it to the final once and lost, so when it comes to strength in depth it is probably fair to say they lead the way.
In addition, whilst Spanish clubs have won more titles in recent times, English sides have produced more finalists. Over the past 15 years teams from the Premier League have filled 11 of the 30 available spots, compared to 10 for Spain. Over the past five years that record reads 6 v 2, so perhaps a changing of the guard is underway.
Bronze for Italy but Glory days becoming increasingly distant
Italy are third but their last win came back in 2010 thanks to Jose Mourinho’s dour Inter side. They are the only nation with three teams in the most successful nine of all time, with Milan’s seven victories backed up by Inter (three) and Juventus (two).
The Italian stats are somewhat skewed by Juve’s terrible record in Champions League finals. They have made it to the big game nine times but lost seven, including in 2015 and 2017. Italy’s best eras were the 1960s, plus the 1980s and 1990s, but given the financial power of clubs outside Serie A, it is hard to see those glory days returning soon.
Bayern Need Help
German clubs have made the final on 18 occasions but whilst Spanish and English ones have won more showpiece games than they have lost, German teams have a losing record in the big games (as do Italians). Bayern are the only German team with more than one Champions League victory, boasting an impressive six, having made the final 11 times. Their other two titles are provided by Dortmund and Hamburg.
The Netherlands have undoubtedly punched above their weight in footballing terms given their tiny population and overall contribution to the game. In Champions League terms that means the four titles won by brilliant Ajax teams over the years, plus those added by PSV and Feyenoord, both of whom have 100% records in Champions League finals!
More Portuguese Wins Unlikely
Portugal’s four wins have been shared between two of their big three teams, though Benfica have made seven finals, whilst Porto have a perfect record from their two appearances in the showpiece clash. Benfica last made the big game in 1990 (and lost), whilst Jose Mourinho delivered Porto’s most recent success, very much against the odds, in 2004. Further success by Portuguese teams in the CL seems unlikely.