Whilst it might be the absolute pinnacle of European football, the Champions League is prone to some scarcely believable shocks at times. Plenty of sides have flattered to deceive their domestic leagues around the continent, but somehow been able to find the form, luck and confidence needed to get their hands on the trophy every club side wants to win.
Here is our list on some of the absolute worst sides to have won the Champions League.
Chelsea — 2012
A truly remarkable run, filled with unforgettable moments and culminating in one of the best finals the competition has ever seen, Chelsea’s crowning as European champions was also one of the least deserved titles we have ever seen.
Not only was this a side in the middle of a five-year Premier League title drought, they were a team that wouldn’t even finish 2012 anywhere near a Champions League position in the table. Following the controversial sacking of manager Andre Villas-Boas in March and the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea’s league form didn’t pick up too much and they slumped to a 6th place finish, their lowest finish since 1995–1996.
It was a remarkable achievement conquering Europe with a side consisting of Jose Bosingwa, Ryan Bertrand and Raul Meireles, it certainly isn’t the kind of side that you would list amongst the greats. Further to this, in Chelsea’s next year as defending champions, the Blues would be knocked out in the group stage.
Liverpool — 2005
Whilst Liverpool might have the luxury of choosing what competition they win these days, this certainly wasn’t the case in 2005.
Rafael Benitez’s side had struggled in the league throughout the 2004/05 campaign, never reaching higher than 5th in the table and finishing the season outside of the Champions League places. Milan Baros was their top league scorer on 9, with Steven Gerrard’s 13 goals in all competitions representing a pretty modest return in front of goal.
Undeniably one of the greatest matches any of us have ever seen, there is no denying that Liverpool should have been a team way out of their depth against Ancelotti’s A.C. Milan in Istanbul.
Liverpool would follow this European triumph by failing to kick on in the league, be tamely knocked out as European Champions against Benfica in the last 16 of the next year’s tournament and would only make one more Champions League final between 2005 and 2018.
Real Madrid — 2018
If the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo proved one thing to the football world, it was how over-reliant on the Portuguese man Real Madrid were. Whilst they might have become the very first team to win three Champions Leagues in a row, Zinedine Zidane’s side were an increasingly aged and declining power, saving their moments of brilliance for the big stages on the continent.
Whilst they might have conquered Europe, the 2017–18 season saw Real Madrid drop from La Liga champions with 93 points, to third place with just 76 points. A league campaign really brings out the true cohesion, skill and mental strength of a side and Madrid were found wanting time and time again.
Unlike previous wins, Madrid’s triumph in 2017/18 was hugely reliant on individual stand out performances rather than a collective team effort. Ronaldo’s bicycle kick against Juventus, Bale’s equally impressive bicycle kick against Liverpool in the final are the two most memorable, but similar moments could be found all along this run.
A.C. Milan — 2007
In 2007, A.C. Milan had one of the most legendary and star-studded sides the footballing world had ever seen. They had won the Champions League in 2003, lost a dramatic final in 2005 and reclaimed the trophy in 2007, all with largely the same crop of experienced professionals.
In a way, that is what made this team so poor in the grand scheme of things.
Not only were the over-reliant on the brilliance of Maldini, Nesta, Cafu and co. in defence, but Milan’s aged midfield would have to be bailed out multiple times by the individual skill of Kaka, who was easily the world’s best at that time.
A.C. Milan might have won the Champions League that season, but their league record was absolutely abysmal for the most part. Their aged core struggled to close out games, slumping to 12 draws, 7 losses, just 57 goals scored and 61 points in a league that didn’t even contain Juventus.