There are teams that have always been favourites to win a title, but have always fallen short despite all their efforts. This is a list of such teams that were considered good enough to win the title, in their brightest moments, but fell miserably apart when the time came.
10. Atletico Madrid
It was a fantastic Atletico Madrid side that beat Galatasaray, Dinamo Bucaresti, Red Star Belgrade and Celtic on the way to the finals against Franz Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich. After holding off the mighty Germans to a 1-1 draw in the finals, Madrid failed to repeat the act in the replay, falling to Gerd Muller’s brace and a 4-nil loss.
09. Leeds United
Leeds United had to go through the qualifiers and even though they weren’t the favourites to win the title, they surprised everyone. After smashing past Ujpesti Dozsa, mighty Anderlecht and giants FC Barcelona, Leeds United met defending Champions Bayern Munich who, with Franz Roth and Gerd Muller, were two goals the better. The dream run had ended for a fantastic side, which deserved more than a consolation.
08. AS Roma
Roma were one of the title favourites after having beaten Gothenburg, CSKA Sofia, Benfica and Dundee United on the way to the finals against the might of Liverpool. After playing out a 1-1 draw during normal time, Roma finally fell when the match went into the penalties, with Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani missing their shots.
07. Partizan Belgrade
They went past Nantes, Werder Bremen, Sparta Prague and Manchester United with aplomb. However, despite taking the lead against Real Madrid in the finals, this fantastic Partizan side failed to make it through to the final whistle, conceding two goals in six minutes.
Monaco came out top of a group with Deportivo La Coruna, PSV Eindhoven and AEK Athens. They then went on to beat Lokomotiv Moscow, before overcoming a 4-2 deficit against mighty Real Madrid. They then beat Chelsea on the way to the finals against Jose Mourinho’s Porto, who beat them 3-nil.
Sampdoria began their campaign with a 7-1 drubbing of Rosenborg. They then beat Budapest Honved before entering a massive group with Anderlecht, Red Star Belgrade and Panathinaikos. After topping the group they played against Group B winners, Johan Cruyff’s dream team at FC Barcelona. An extra-time goal by Ronald Koeman, fired in from long range in his typical fashion, ended the Italians’ dream.
04. Bayer Leverkusen
They came second, behind FC Barcelona, in a group that also had Lyon and Fenerbahce. Then placed in a group with Arsenal, Deportivo La Coruna and Juventus; Leverkusen managed to top a group that they were favourites to finish bottom in. They went on to beat Liverpool in a fantastic 4-2 home leg win and then beat Manchester United on the away-goals rule, meeting Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid in the finals. After conceding two soft goals, Leverkusen pressed for the equalizer, only to be denied by a possessed, and young, Iker Casillas in the Real goal.
Their group had the likes of Valencia, Schalke and Rosenborg, one they easily topped. With the likes of Frank Lampard & John Terry in their ranks, there was no doubt that Olympiakos, Fenerbahce and Liverpool would be brushed aside. In the finals against Manchester United, Chelsea dominated 120 minutes of play before John Terry missed the last crucial penalty, which would have given them the win. Chelsea went on to lose in sudden death.
With Gaizka Mendieta and Pablo Aimar in sublime form, Valencia reached the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2000 and 2001. They faced the mighty Real Madrid in 2000, going down 3-nil after having topped a group with Bayern Munich, Rangers & PSV. A surprise package at the time, Valencia continued their run against Fiorentina, Bordeaux and Manchester United in the second group stage. They hammered 5 past Lazio and then 4 past Barcelona, meeting Real Madrid in the finals.
Outplayed, Valencia resumed their endeavour for the title in the following season. Having come in through the qualifying round, Valencia topped a group that had Lyon, Olympiakos and Heerenveen. They then topped the group in the second group stage as well, pushing aside Sturm Graz, Panathinaikos and Manchester United. They beat Arsenal in the quarterfinals before bringing Leeds United’s dream run to a halt. Meeting Bayern Munich in the finals, Valencia ended up losing in the penalties after the game ended 1-1 after extra time.
01. Stade Reims
It was a dream final, against Real Madrid in Paris. Stade Reims had beaten AGF Aarhus, Voros Lobogo and Hibernian, on the way to meeting the mighty Real Madrid in the finals. Despite taking a 2 goal lead within 10 minutes, Real Madrid fought back led by Alfredo di Stefano. Stade Reims ended up losing 4-3 against a Real Madrid side that had just too much class in it. It was the first European Cup tournament and Stade Reims were the second best team on the continent at the time.
Three years later, Real were back in the finals, against Stade Reims, for their fourth title in a row. Stade Reims started with a 10-3 win over Ards, followed by a 7-0 win over HPS. The beat Standard Liege in the quarter-finals before going on to beat Young Boys in the semis! In the finals, Stade Reims lost 2-nil to real, making it their second final loss in 4 years.