The Most Successful Leagues in European Football

graph of most successful european national leagues in uefa champions league history, over time

A rubric was developed to determine which European football league has been the most historically successful. The points rubric awards progressively more points the further a club went in the European Cup / UEFA Champions League. Historically, the Spanish league has been the most successful league in European football. Clubs in the English, Italian, and German leagues have also been very strong over the years.


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. SpainLa Liga – 607 pts.

Since the beginning of the European Cup, teams from Spain have often had success. Real Madrid won the first five cups. Spanish clubs have become champions of Europe on an astonishing 19 occasions, 4 more than English clubs. However, all of their titles have come from just two clubs: Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Still, both CF Valencia and Atlético Madrid have won reached the European final on multiple occasions as well.


2. England – Premier League – 517 pts.

English clubs have won the European title 15 times, the second most. Between 1977 and 1984, an English club won the European Cup 7 out of the 8 years. However, it wasn’t until Manchester United’s 1999 triumph that England saw another winner. Since then, English football has seen a resurgence. 6 different clubs have won the championship, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Chelsea, and Manchester City.

3. Italy – Serie A – 453 pts.

Italian clubs, including AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus, have won the European title 12 times. Between 1985 and 1996, the league was especially successful. Italian clubs won 5 championships during that time period. In fact, by the late 1990’s, Italy eclipsed Spain for the most historical success for a brief period. However, since Inter Milan’s 2010 triumph, a team from the Italian Serie A has not won a Champions League title.

4. Germany – Bundesliga – 395 pts.

Germany is the fourth most successful league, largely due to the success of Bayern Munich. The club won the European championship 6 times and were runners-up 5 other times. Only two other clubs in Germany have won the European championship, Hamburger SV in 1983 and Borussia Dortmund in 1997. However, a respectable six teams from the Bundesliga have reached the final match.

5. Portugal – Primeira Liga – 186 pts.

After Spain, England, Italy, and Germany, there is a big drop off in success. Portugal may be a surprise inclusion on this list, but between giants SL Benfica and FC Porto, Portugal’s clubs have lifted the championship trophy on four occasions. Most recently, FC Porto became champions in 2004 under José Mourinho, where they defeated AS Monaco in the final match. Sporting CP and Boavista FC have also made the Champions League final 16 before.

graph of most historically successful national leagues in european football

Uses the final 16 teams in the UEFA champions league (1993-present) and its forerunner the European Cup (1955-1992). Leagues are determined as currently constituted.

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

Historic Ranking Table of European National Leagues

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