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5 most unexpected winners of the UEFA Champions League

Liverpool celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League title in the 2004/05 season
Liverpool celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League title in the 2004/05 season
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Shambhu Ajith

It is safe to say that UEFA Champions League is the most coveted trophy in club football. It is so important to the European top-flight clubs in all aspects that qualifying for the UEFA Champions League is one of their main agendas for the season.

The UEFA Champions League is undoubtedly a stage for winners and most often, the team that goes on to win would have, over the course of the tournament, proven why they are a cut above the rest. After all, it's a round-robin tournament and luck can only get you so far over the length of a season.

That being said, there have been quite a few teams who were initially given no chance but went on to prove everyone wrong on their way to glory. Let's take a look at 5 teams that went on to do the unthinkable.

5 most unexpected winners of the UEFA Champions League


#5 Borussia Dortmund (1996/97)

Borussia Dortmund players after winning the Champions League title
Borussia Dortmund players after winning the Champions League title

Borussia Dortmund had won back to back Bundesliga titles and though they had some big names on their side, they were not given a chance against some of the absolute juggernauts they slayed on their way to winning the UEFA Champions League.

Dortmund did not top their group either. They came second to Atletico Madrid and qualified for the quarter-finals where they took on Auxerre. They defeated the French club 4-1 on aggregate. Dortmund would then come up against Ferguson's United side brimming with talent.

Dortmund then won both the legs and qualified for the final where they would take on Juventus. Quite admirably, Borussia Dortmund walked into the Olympiastadion in Munich against a Juve side that featured players like Deschamps, Zidane, Vieri and Del Piero and grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck.

Karl-Heinz Riedle scored twice in the first half to give Dortmund a 2-goal advantage. Del Piero pulled one back in the 64th minute before Lars Ricken restored Dortmund's 2 goal cushion in the 71st.

Juventus tried but a comeback eluded them. Their opposition was simply unstoppable on the night. It was a fairytale end to Borussia Dortmund's season.

#4 Liverpool (2004-05)

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lifts UEFA Champions League trophy
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lifts UEFA Champions League trophy

Liverpool's incredible comeback win in the 2004 UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan in Istanbul warrants its own chapter in the history book. The Reds came back from being 3-0 down in the first half to make it even and then win the game in a shootout.

The Reds who qualified for the UEFA Champions League by finishing 4th on the Premier League table in the 2003/04 season, 15 points behind 3rd placed Manchester United, were not exactly considered a proper contender for the title.

However, under the guidance of Rafa Benitez, Steven Gerrard and company tore through Bayern Munich, Juventus and Chelsea in the knockout stages to then make history against AC Milan in the final.

Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Vladimir Spicer scored the 3 goals on the night for Liverpool and their heroic performances are still a source of inspiration for players and fans alike and will continue to be for years to come.


Also check out: the Champions League Winners by season

#3 Inter Milan (2009-10)

Jose Mourinho and Marco Materazzi celebrate after winning the Champions League
Jose Mourinho and Marco Materazzi celebrate after winning the Champions League

Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan was yet another side that wasn't tipped to do anything big in Europe let alone win the UEFA Champions League. They finished the Champions League group stage at 2nd place below Barcelona who had beaten the Nerrazurri 2-0 at the Camp Nou with Pep Guardiola getting the better of Jose Mourinho.

Once they got beyond the group stage, Inter Milan started to look more and more formidable as a unit after each game. They beat Mourinho's former side Chelsea in the Round of 16 by 3 goals to 1 on aggregate before knocking out CSKA Moscow in the quarter-finals 2-0.

It is in the semi-finals that Inter Milan endured their biggest test. Pep Guardiola's Barcelona were the reigning champions of Europe and they were simply the greatest attacking force in world football at the moment.

However, a long bus journey to Milan did its bit as the Barcelona players lacked bite in the first game with Inter winning the opening leg 3-1. However, Barca were still favourites to go to the final and were expected to dismantle Inter at Camp Nou.

Mourinho was getting into Pep's head with his mind games off the field. On that famous night at Camp Nou, Jose Mourinho's low block shut out a seemingly unstoppable force.

After going a man down in the opening half an hour, Inter held on and despite Barcelona scoring in the 84th minute, they held on to secure a 3-2 win on aggregate. They would then do the unthinkable and beat Van Gaal's Bayern Munich 2-0 in the final thanks to a brace from Eder Militao and become European champions.

#2 Chelsea (2011-12)

Chelsea after winning the 2011-12 Champions League title
Chelsea after winning the 2011-12 Champions League title

Chelsea were in shambles mid-season and Andre-Vilas Boas had just been fired as their manager. Roberto di Matteo then took charge as the interim manager and under him, the Blues would then go on to create history.

After trailing by 3 goals to 1 against Napoli after the away fixture, Chelsea weren't give a chance. However, they upset the odds by winning the second leg 4-1 and advancing to the quarter-finals where they took on Benfica. Robert di Matteo's side won both the legs and qualified for the semis.

The underdogs won the home fixture against Barcelona 1-0 and then played with 10 men to secure a historic draw at the Camp Nou after John Terry got sent off for violent conduct. Sergio Busquets' goal was canceled out by Ramirez right before the half-time break.

Iniesta then gave Barcelona the lead in the tie before Fernando Torres went past Victor Valdez and slotted the ball home in the 92nd minute to help Chelsea make it to the finals.

After being outplayed by Bayern Munich in the final, Chelsea went behind in the 83rd minute and Thomas Mueller's goal seemed to have sealed the deal for Bayern. However, Drogba equalized in the 88th from a corner and forced the match into extra time and then won it on penalties. Chelsea became one of the most unlikeliest teams to win the UEFA Champions League title.

#1 Porto (2003-04)

Nuno Valente hugs manager Jose Mourinho after winning the Champions League
Nuno Valente hugs manager Jose Mourinho after winning the Champions League

Jose Mourinho announced himself as one of the elite managers on the planet winning the UEFA Champions League title with the ultimate underdogs of the tournament, Porto.

Jose Mourinho took a team, that no one would have put their money on, to the top of Europe and showed the world how far grit and determination can get you.

Porto had some really difficult fixtures in the knockout sages. They beat a dominant Manchester United in the round of 16 before knocking out Olympique Lyon in the quarters.

Deportivo La Coruna proved to be a tough proposition for Mourinho's side but they got past the La Liga side thanks to a 1-0 victory at home. The Portuguese side would then absolutely dominate Monaco in the final and beat them 3-0 to become the kings of Europe.

Edited by Shambhu Ajith
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