The end of the 2016-2017 Champions League season is a good opportunity to rank the clubs based on their performances in the competition since the most recent format change to the group & knockout stages. The top 11 clubs, which we focus on, include four English teams (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool & Manchester United), three Italian teams (AC Milan, Inter, Juventus), two Spanish clubs (Barcelona & Real Madrid), one from Germany (Bayern Munich) and one from Portugal (Porto).
The rankings are based on the last 14 seasons and the knockout stage performances of the clubs. Why since 2004? Because the Champions League changed the format in the 2003-2004 season – from two group stages to one group stage and then a round of 16, quarter finals and so on. The points are distributed this way: 1 points for being knocked out in the round of 16, 2 points for getting knocked out in the quarterfinals, 3 points for reaching the semifinals and losing, 4 points for losing in the final and 6 points for winning the competition that season. Two teams made the top 10 without winning the Champions League in the 2004-2017 stretch.
9-11. FC Porto (Portugal): 16 points
Porto are this high mainly due to their Champions League triumphant campaign of 2003-2004, led by Jose Mourinho to win the club’s second title in Europe’s premier club competition. Besides 2004, they’ve gotten to the knockout stage 8 more times, but never gotten past the quarterfinals.
9-11. Internazionale FC (Italy): 16 points
Again Mourinho, and again one season that shines brightly above the rest. Inter won the Champions League in 2010 (beating Bayern Munich in the final), the club’s first victorious campaign in the competition since the days of Helenio Herrera. Besides their 2010 run, they’ve never gotten past the UCL quarterfinals under the current format, and haven’t’ been in the competition since 2012.
9-11. Liverpool FC (England): 16 points
Liverpool haven’t been in the knockout stage since 2009, making the group stage only twice since. But their two run ins with AC Milan, one in 2005 that resulted in the miracle of Istanbul and the club’s 5th European Cup/UCL title, and the second in 2007 with a loss to the Rossoneri 2-1 in the final, helped them make it this high in the rankings. They also made the semifinal in 2008, losing to Chelsea.
8. Juventus FC (Italy): 17 points
The Bianconeri making it to 8th on the list is mostly thanks to their renaissance over the last 6 years, which has included the first privately owned stadium by a Serie A club and winning the league 6 years in a row. In that timespan, they’ve made the Champions League final twice (losing to Barcelona and Real Madrid in 2015 & 2017 respectively), one quarterfinal and one round of 16. In 2005 & 2006 they made the last 8 as well.
6-7. Arsenal FC (England): 22 points
The gunners are the second club on the list without winning the title. Their best run came in 2006, making the final for the first time in the club’s history, losing to Barcelona. Since then, they’ve gotten past the quarter final just once. Since 2011, they’ve made it to the round of 16 each time, but never went past it. Next season will be the first time for Arsenal without Champions League football since the 1999-2000 season.
6-7. AC Milan (Italy): 22 points
Milan’s two best runs since 2004 came in 2005, when they made the final only to lose against Liverpool despite a 3-0 halftime lead, and in 2007, when they got their revenge through a Filipo Inzaghi brace to beat Liverpool in the final 2-1. Since then, they’ve made the quarterfinal once (2012) and the round of 16 five times.
5. Manchester United (England): 24 points
The new Champions League format wasn’t that great for United, getting knocked out in the round of 16 in 2004 and 2005, followed by losing in the group stage in the 2005-2006 season. However, then came a terrific 5-year run, which included the semi final in 2007, winning the trophy in 2008 against Chelsea in penalty kicks, reaching the final in 2009 and losing to Barcelona, the quarter final in 2010 and another final in 2011, losing to Barcelona once more. Since then, they’ve been to the knockout stage of the competition just twice.
4. Chelsea FC (England): 31 points
Being a “new money” club always results in Chelsea being looked down upon. Regardless of their only recent history of success, they’ve been the best English club in the competition over the last 14 years, making the knockout stage in 12 out of the last 14 years. Their best came in 2012 when they beat Bayern Munich in the final to win the competition. They lost in the 2008 final to Manchester United, and reached the semifinal of the competition 5 more times.
3. Bayern Munich (Germany): 34 points
One of the more consistent sides in the competition since 2004, and the only German team in the top 11. Bayern Munich have been to the final 3 times since 2004, including winning it in 2013, beating Dortmund in the all-German final. But they’re always in the picture, making the last 16 in 13 of the last 14 years, including three consecutive semifinals in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
2. Real Madrid (Spain): 38 points
We can split Real Madrid’s 2004-2017 era into three phases. The first from 2004 to 2010, when they made the last 8 in 2004 and then losing in the round of 16 for six consecutive seasons. The second was the Jose Mourinho phase, from 2010 to 2013, leading the club to the semi final three consecutive times. And what came after? First, Carlo Ancelotti leading the club to its 10th Champions League/European Cup trophy, followed by the incredible Zinedine Zidane tenure, so far yielding two Champions League titles and one championship.
1. FC Barcelona (Spain): 44 points
The most successful club in the current format of the competition, Barcelona have won the title four times (out of 4 finals): Beating Arsenal in 2006, Manchester United in 2009 & 2011 as well as Juventus in 2015. Except for their UEFA Cup appearance in 2004, they’ve made the knockout stage in every season, and have been in the last 8 for the last 10 seasons.
The rest of the clubs:
Atletico Madrid: 14 points (final in 2014 & 2016)
Lyon: 14 points
Monaco: 10 points (final in 2004)
PSG: 9 points
Dortmund: 9 points (final in 2013)
Schalke: 8 points
Benfica: 7 points
PSV: 7 points
Roma: 7 points
Manchester City: 6 points
Leverkusen: 5 points
Villarreal: 5 points
Shakhtar: 4 points
Valencia: 4 points
Sevilla: 3 points
Zenit: 3 points
Galatasaray: 3 points
Olympiacos: 3 points
Celtic: 3 points
CSKA Moscow: 3 points
Marseille: 3 points
Deportivo: 3 points
Leicester City: 2 points
Napoli: 2 points
Wolfsburg: 2 points
Basel: 2 points
Malaga: 2 points
APOEL: 2 points
Tottenham: 2 points
Stuttgart: 2 points
Bordeaux: 2 points
Fenerbahce: 2 points
Werder Bremen: 2 points
Gent: 1 point
Dynamo Kyiv: 1 point
Copenhagen: 1 point
Fiorentina: 1 point
Panathinaikos: 1 point
Sporting CP: 1 point
Lille: 1 point
Rangers: 1 point
Ajax: 1 point
Celta: 1 point
Lokomotiv Moscow: 1 point
Sociedad: 1 point
Sparta Prague: 1 point