Since the inauguration of the European Cup in 1955, we have seen 22 different teams win the competition, whilst a total of 42 teams have reached the final. Teams from as far and wide as Greece, Romania and Scotland have made it to the biggest game in club football, but what are some of the most surprising clubs who have reached a European Cup Final?
1. Stade de Reims
We start off with the oldest inclusion in the list. Stade de Reims played not one but two European Cup finals, losing to Real Madrid on both occasions. In 1956, a Reims team containing Raymond Kopa and Michel Hidalgo actually took the lead twice against Madrid, ultimately losing 4-3, in one of football history’s biggest what-ifs. Three years later, losing Kopa to Real Madrid but gaining Just Fontaine, they returned to the final but were comprehensively defeated two-nil by the Spanish side.
In second, we have a team that, despite struggling domestically this season, currently find themselves in the Europa Conference League quarterfinals. Fiorentina’s glory days came right when the European Cup was getting underway, with La Viola winning the league title in 1956 and 1969. In 1957, they became the first Italian team to reach the final, but lost 2-0 at the Bernabéu via goals from Alfredo Di Stéfano and Paco Gento.
3. Eintracht Frankfurt
The following year would see Real Madrid beat Milan in extra time, whilst 1959 would see them edge Reims 2-0. They would kick off the ’60s where they left off, playing Eintracht Frankfurt in Glasgow. Richard Kress opened the scoring early on for the Germans, but a hat-trick from Di Stéfano and a poker from Ferenc Puskás would see Los Blancos prevail 7-3 in the highest-scoring European final ever. Eintracht would not return to Europe’s elite competition until this season, after beating Barcelona in the Europa League Final.
4. Partizan Belgrade
Real Madrid’s dominance came to an end in the following years, as Benfica won two in a row before losing to Milan, whilst Inter would win back-to-back titles as well. In 1966, Partizan Belgrade became the first Eastern European team to reach the final, beating Nantes, Werder Bremen, Sparta Prague and Manchester United in the process. They took the lead within 55 minutes only to relinquish it 15 minutes later and concede another shortly after, as Real Madrid won 2-1. To add insult to injury, archrivals Red Star Belgrade would achieve history by winning the European Cup in 1990/91.
Celtic, Manchester United, Milan and Feyenoord would each stamp their claim as the finest team in Europe before the 1971 European Cup rolled around. With Puskás as their manager, Panathinaikos would defeat Jeunesse Esch, Slovan Bratislava, Everton 1–1 and Red Star Belgrade to become the first and only Greek team to reach the final. However, they were no match for Total Football, as Johan Cruyff’s Ajax side took home a 2-0 victory at Wembley.
Ajax would win two more cups before Bayern Munich secured back-to-back triumphs, with the Bavarians returning to the 1976 final in hot pursuit of a third consecutive title. They would face Saint-Ètienne, who boast the joint-most Ligue 1 titles (10) in France and who currently sit two points above Ligue 2’s relegation zone. Les Verts gave everything they could, but they were unable to stop Bayern as Franz ‘Bulle’ Roth’s goal made the difference in Glasgow.
7. Borussia Mönchengladbach
Whilst Bayern were dominating in Europe, Borussia Mönchengladbach were dominating in Germany. Gladbach’s golden era came in the 1970s, as a young squad with a fast, aggressive playing style went on to win five Bundesliga titles and two UEFA Cups, with Die Fohlen beating Austria Vienna, Torino, Club Brugge, and Dynamo Kyiv to reach the 1977 final. They would lose 3-1 to Liverpool, who followed up last year’s UEFA Cup with a sensational victory in Glasgow.
8. Club Brugge
Liverpool returned to the 1978 final, where they would face off against Club Brugge. Having previously lost to the Reds in the 1976 UEFA Cup Final, the Belgian side were out for revenge, thrashing KuPS 9-2 before narrowly advancing past Panathinaikos, Atlético Madrid and Juventus. They were able to keep Liverpool quiet for an hour, but Kenny Dalgish’s 64th-minute goal would see the Reds take home the victory in Wembley.
The final tournament of the ’70s provided a historic upset for all to enjoy, as Swedish giants Malmö faced off against Nottingham Forest. Led by an English manager in Bob Houghton, Malmö defeated Monaco, Dynamo Kyiv, Wisła Kraków and Austria Vienna before taking on Brian Clough’s Forest. In his first-ever European club game, Trevor Francis would justify Clough’s decision to make him Britain’s first £1 million footballer, scoring just before the break to secure a 1-0 victory in Munich.
10. Steaua Bucharest
The ’80s kicked off with a hat-trick of English victories as Forest, Liverpool and Aston Villa secured the trophy, whilst 1983 would see Hamburg beat Juventus. Liverpool beat Roma before losing to Juventus the following year in a match that was overshadowed by the Heysel Disaster and that would see English teams receive a five-year ban from European competition.
In 1986, Steaua Bucharest would beat Vejle Boldklub, Budapest Honvéd, Kuusysi and Anderlecht to reach the final. The first European final to finish goalless, Steaua goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam saved all of Barcelona’s penalties and later became known as “The Hero of Seville” as they became the first Eastern European club to win the competition.
Porto and PSV Eindhoven claimed the trophy in the next two years whilst 1989 would see Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan thrash Steaua 4-0 in the final. They would edge Benfica 1-0 the following year, with Red Star Belgrade beating Marseille on penalties in 1991.
In the final tournament before its rebranding as the UEFA Champions League, as well as the first tournament to have a group stage involving the eight second-round winners split into two groups, Sampdoria would make their way to the final thanks to a red-hot frontline of Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli. They put up a stiff fight and forced extra time, but a 112nd-minute goal from Ronald Koeman would see Samp’s hosts dashed at the last minute, as Barcelona won their first European Cup.
By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Getty Images / Hurlton / Franck Fife/ L’Equipe / AFP