The Most Successful Clubs in European Football

most historically successful champions league teams, graphed over time

Real Madrid is by far the most successful club in European football. In fact, at no point since 1956 has any other club been even close to their achievements. However, it is a close race for the second position. Bayern Munich, AC Milan, and FC Barcelona all have a case to make. A rubric was developed to determine which club has been the most historically successful. The points rubric awards progressively more points the further a team went in the European Cup / UEFA Champions League. 


16 pts – European champions
8 pts – Reached final
4 pts – Reached semi-finals
2 pts – Reached quarter-finals
1 pt – Reached Round of 16

Note: Some years had different playoff structures, so the equivalent level was used in those years


1. Real Madrid – 334 pts.

Real Madrid have won the European championship 14 times, including five consecutive times between 1956 and 1960. More recently, the Spanish club also won three consecutive times from 2016 to 2018. In addition, the team has been runners-up on three occasions. The team has featured many Balon d’Or winners, including Ronaldo, Christiano Ronaldo, and Alfredo Di Stéfano.

2. Bayern Munich – 202 pts.

Bayern Munich have won the European championship 6 times and were runners-up 5 other times. Its most recent championship was in 2020. The German club was not that successful until the start of the 1970’s when it won three consecutive times between 1974 and 1976. Since then, it quickly became the most dominant club in Germany.

3. AC Milan – 173pts.

Milan have won the European championship seven times, more than any other club except Real Madrid. The Italian club also was participated in the European final on four other occasions. The team was especially successful in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. However, the team’s success has plateaued recently. It has not made it to the championship match in over a decade now.

4. FC Barcelona – 160 pts.

Barcelona have won the European championship 5 times and were runners-up 3 other times. The team only started to have a huge amount of success in European football in the 1990s. Four of their championships have been won since 2006, with Lionel Messi playing a large part in their achievements. Due to the club’s recent financial problems, keeping pace with their success from 2000 to 2020 may be difficult.

5. Liverpool FC – 151 pts.

Liverpool are the most successful English club in European football. They have won six European championships, with the most recent coming in 2019. Liverpool also played in the Champions League final in 2022, but lost to Real Madrid. The team’s success has been spread out over time, winning titles in an impressive five different decades.

graph of most historically successful champions league teams

Uses the final 16 teams in the UEFA champions league (1993-present) and its forerunner the European Cup (1955-1992).

For the full table of all European clubs ranked and a breakdown of success decade by decade please see:

Historic Ranking Table of European Football Clubs

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