5 clubs that have won the European Cup and been relegated

Paolo Maldini lifted the trophy for AC Milan in 2007
Paolo Maldini lifted the trophy for AC Milan in 2007
Ashwin Asok

The UEFA Champions League, (called the European Cup till 1992) remains the most prestigious and sought-after trophy at club level.

Contested by 32 teams consisting of the champions of Europe's different leagues and the qualified teams each season, there is nothing quite like the adrenaline rush that Champions League nights provide.

It is also worth noting that despite the glory and glamour the European stage provides, the despair and agony that teams fighting for survival every season is a different story altogether.

Over the years, European Champions have often suffered a fall from grace and have been relegated to the lower divisions.

On that note, we look at five clubs who after winning the grand prize got relegated later:

5. Olympique de Marseille

Marseille celebrate their triumph
Marseille celebrate their triumph

The late 1980s saw the resurgence of Marseille who became one of the superpowers that dominated French football at that time. It was a period that saw the likes of Jean-Pierre Papin, Chris Waddle, Didier Deschamps, Marcel Desailly and Rudi Voller rise into prominence.

They led the club to four successive league titles between 1989 to 1992 and to the pinnacle of world football in 1993 when they defeated AC Milan in the final of the restructured UEFA Champions League.

But their downfall initiated in 1994 when their president Bernard Tapie was involved in match-fixing allegations. The club also found themselves financially struggling, and as a result, they were relegated into the second division.

They returned to the top division in 1996, and their triumph in 1993 remains their only triumph till date.

4. Juventus

The 1996 Champions League winning team of Juventus
The 1996 Champions League winning team of Juventus

One of the footballing heavyweights, Juventus, is one of the most decorated clubs in football history and is Italy's most successful club. The Old Lady has an envious history and has won Europe's most significant prize twice- in 1985 and 1996.

The then European Footballer of the Year, Michael Platini was the star man as he scored the winning goal in the 1985 European Cup against Liverpool.

In 1996, under Marcelo Lippi, they tasted European success for the second time in their history as a star-studded team consisting of the likes of Gianluca Vialli, Didier Deschamps and Alessandro Del Piero beat Louis van Gaal's Ajax side in penalties.

However, Italian football was rocked in 2006 as five teams including Juventus were found guilty of rigging games and involving in match-fixing incidents. Termed as the Calciopoli incident, Juventus were relegated to Serie B for the following season.

They returned to the top flight in a year, but the league titles that they won in 2005 and 2006 were stripped off.

3. Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest won back-to-back European cups
Nottingham Forest won back-to-back European cups

A miracle. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh, and the managerial mastery of one of the game's greatest minds- Brian Clough.

A year after achieving promotion to England's top tier, Clough led his men to back to back European Cup triumphs writing their version of an underdog story in the process.

After winning promotion in 1977, he led them to their first-ever league title triumph in 1978 and then miraculously to two consecutive European titles in 1979 and 1980.

In 1979 they defeated Liverpool in the Round-of-32 and scored a total of 16 goals in the three ties that led to the final in which they beat Swedish side Malmo. They successfully defended the trophy the following year after beating Hamburg 1-0 in the final.

But Clough's 18-year-reign came to an end in 1993 when they were relegated from the top division in the inaugural Premier League season. They finished bottom of the table with 40 points and have never enjoyed a sustained period in the top flight since.

2. AC Milan

AC Milan lift the 1969 European trophy
AC Milan lift the 1969 European trophy

Just like Juventus, AC Milan was a force to be reckoned with on the European stage. If Juventus were commanding proceedings in the League, AC Milan was a dominating force in Europe.

They have won 7 UEFA Champions League titles to date, four of them being won before the tournament was renamed in 1992.

They lifted the trophy by defeating Benfica in 1963, a team which consisted of the great Eusebio and went on to beat Ajax 4-1 in 1969 to claim their second European title.

However, the club was involved in the 1980 Totonero match-fixing scandal, centred around betting the outcome of matches, and as a result, were demoted to the Serie B.

They returned to the top flight the next season itself, but were sadly relegated for the second time in their history in the 1981-82 season as they finished in the third-last place, one point adrift of safety.

They again gained promotion immediately, and a revolution happened at the club which saw Arrigo Sanchi being appointed as their manager. Some of the game's most celebrated names would then go on to don their famous shirt and lead them to 5 more European trophies, including back-to-back wins in 1989 and 1990.

1. Manchester United

The 1968 European Cup winners
The 1968 European Cup winners

Within ten years from that fateful night in Munich, Sir Matt Busby had assembled a squad fit to dominate the footballing stage and capture the imagination of the whole world in the process.

The task Busby faced was daunting. He had to build a team from scratch and what he created was a team that would go on to break records. Denis Law and Pat Crerand were roped in, and the brilliance of George Best and Bobby Charlton injected the belief back into the club.

They went on to win the FA Cup in 1963, the league title in 1965 and 1967. They were the first team in English football history to win the European trophy in 1968 when they beat Benfica 4-1 at the old Wembley with a team that contained 3 European Footballers of the Year in Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law.

However, things took a turn for the worse after Charlton and Law left the club in 1973 and under Tommy Docherty who was appointed in 1972, the club was relegated into the second division after finishing second-last in the League.

They returned to the top flight immediately in the next season. Since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson took over the team, he turned them to an all-conquering machine, and they went on to dominate English football in a way unprecedented till date.

Under him, United went on to win two more Champions League titles- a miraculous comeback against Bayern Munich in 1999 to complete the treble and a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in 2008.

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Edited by Shambhu Ajith
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