Top 5 Best football clubs of the 21st century

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FC Barcelona celebrating their second continental treble in 2015
Varis Sharma

Club football has been around for more than 150 years with all major European clubs being established in the late 19th and early 20th century. The FA Cup of England is the oldest national level club competition as it was first played way back in 1871.

Other European nations also introduced national cup competitions and national leagues and finally in 1955 a continental club competition called 'European Cup' was established wherein the most prestigious clubs across Europe participated.

Real Madrid were recognized as FIFA Club of the 20th century on 11th December 2000 and were also awarded Best European club of the 20th century by IFFHS(International Federation of Football History & Statistics) in May 2010. The club won a record 7 UEFA Champions league titles and 27 national League titles in the 20th century.

The 21st century witnessed a shift of power at the club level as many clubs rose to prominence while other clubs that were once regarded as European powerhouses became irrelevant at the national and continental level. We shall now take a look at 5 clubs that have impressed spectators so far in this millennium.

#5 Juventus (Italy)


The Turin based club was established in 1897 by a group of Torinese students and is currently the most successful Italian football club. The Old Lady has won 7 consecutive Serie A titles since 2012 and finished twice as runners-up of the UEFA Champions league in the last 4 seasons.

Juventus went through a turmoil in 2006 when the Calciopoli scandal surfaced and were stripped of the two Serie A titles won in 2005 and 2006. The club was relegated to Serie B for the 2006-07 season; however, the club made a quick recovery as they earned promotion in the very next season.

On 10 July 2018, Juventus signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for โ‚ฌ100 million setting a new record for the most expensive transfer for an Italian club. The arrival of Ronaldo will boost the club's already existing attacking prowess and Juventus will look forward to once again take center stage in Europe.

21st century stats


Serie A: 2001-02, 2002-03, 2011โ€“12, 2012โ€“13, 2013โ€“14, 2014โ€“15, 2015โ€“16, 2016โ€“17, 2017โ€“18

Serie B: 2006-07

Coppa Italia: 2014โ€“15, 2015โ€“16, 2016โ€“17, 2017โ€“18

Supercoppa Italiana: 2002, 2003, 2012, 2013, 2015

Total titles: 19

Best playing XI: Buffon; Chiellini, Bonucci, Cannavaro, Thuram, Zambrotta; Nedved, Dybala, Pirlo; Del Piero, Trezeguet

Best Manager: Massimiliano Allegri (2014 - present)

#4 Manchester United (England)

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The club was founded as Newton Heath LYR Football club in 1878 and later changed its name to Manchester United in 1902. The Red Devils throughout history have been a dominating side in England and Europe.

United reached their pinnacle under Sir Alex Ferguson's guidance as they became the first English side ever to win "The Treble" (UEFA Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup) in the 1998-99 season. The club entered the new millennium as a formidable force and continued dominating the Premier League.

Sir Alex Ferguson decided to retire from his managerial position in 2013 and since then things have looked shaky for United as they have gone five years without winning the Premier League and have had to make three managerial changes.

21st century stats


Premier League: 1999โ€“2000, 2000โ€“01, 2002โ€“03, 2006โ€“07, 2007โ€“08, 2008โ€“09, 2010โ€“11, 2012โ€“13

FA Cup: 2003-04, 2015-16

League Cup: 2005โ€“06, 2008โ€“09, 2009โ€“10, 2016โ€“17

FA Community Shield: 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016

UEFA Champions League: 2007-08

UEFA Europa League: 2016-17

FIFA Club World Cup: 2008

Total titles: 24

Best Playing XI: Edwin van der Sar; Gary Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Giggs, Scholes, Keane; Beckham, Ronaldo; Rooney

Best Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson (1986 - 2013)

#3 FC Bayern Munich (Germany)


FC Bayern Munich was founded in 1900 based in the German state of Bavaria. The club has been highly successful in Germany and Europe as it has won a record 28 national league titles and 18 national cups along with 5 UEFA Champions League titles.

The club had its golden era in the middle of 1970s under the captaincy of Franz Beckenbauer as they went on to win three successive European Cup titles from 1974 to 1976. The Bavarian club entered the 21st century as a dominating force as they won the 2000-01 UEFA Champions league and the 2000-01 Bundesliga title.

Bayern Munich have looked formidable in the German Bundesliga as they won it for the sixth consecutive time in the 2017-18 season. The club reached its greatest success of 21st century in 2013 when it won "The Treble" (UEFA Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB- Pokal) after a series of heartbreaks in previous season where they lost the league and cup title to rivals Borussia Dortmund and were defeated at home by Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League final.

21st Century Stats


Bundesliga: 1999โ€“2000, 2000โ€“01, 2002โ€“03, 2004โ€“05, 2005โ€“06, 2007โ€“08, 2009โ€“10, 2012โ€“13, 2013โ€“14, 2014โ€“15, 2015โ€“16, 2016โ€“17, 2017โ€“18

DFB-Pokal: 1999โ€“2000, 2002โ€“03, 2004โ€“05, 2005โ€“06, 2007โ€“08, 2009โ€“10, 2012โ€“13, 2013โ€“14, 2015โ€“16

DFL Supercup: 2010, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018

DFL Ligapokal (Defunct): 2000, 2004, 2007

UEFA Champions League: 2000-01, 2012-13

UEFA Super Cup: 2013

Intercontinental Cup (Defunct): 2001

FIFA Club World Cup: 2013

Total titles: 35

Best Playing XI: Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Martinez, Alaba; Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara, Ribery; Robben, Lewandowski, Muller

Best Manager: Jupp Heynckes (1987-91, 2009, 2011-13, 2017-18)

#2 Real Madrid C.F. (Spain)


Real Madrid was founded on 6th March 1902 and was bestowed upon the word "real" meaning royal, by King Alfonso XIII in 1920 along with the crown in the emblem. The club ever since its inception, has been a major European and Spanish force as it currently holds the record for winning most Spanish league and UEFA Champions league titles.

Los Blancos had won the first five editions of the European Cup (1956-60) and were the first winners of Europe's most coveted title in the 21st century when they won it in the 1999-2000 season. After winning the title again for a record ninth time in 2002, the club went on a 12 year drought which came to an end in 2014 when they defeated city rivals Atletico Madrid to win 'la decima'.

Real were adjudged the best club of the 20th century by FIFA and have looked to continue their historical dominance as they are currently the three-time defending champions of the UEFA Champions League.

21st Century Stats


La Liga: 2000โ€“01, 2002โ€“03, 2006โ€“07, 2007โ€“08, 2011โ€“12, 2016โ€“17

Copa del Rey: 2010โ€“11, 2013โ€“14

Supercopa de Espana: 2001, 2003, 2008, 2012, 2017

UEFA Champions League: 1999โ€“2000, 2001โ€“02, 2013โ€“14, 2015โ€“16, 2016โ€“17, 2017โ€“18

UEFA Super Cup: 2002, 2014, 2016, 2017

Intercontinental Cup (Defunct): 2002

FIFA Club World Cup: 2014, 2016, 2017

Total titles: 27

Best Playing XI: Casillas; Salgado, Ramos, Hierro, Roberto Carlos; Modric, Zidane, Guti, C. Ronaldo; Raul, Ronaldo de Lima

Best Manager(s): Zinedine Zidane (2016-18) / Carlo Ancelotti (2013-15)

#1 FC Barcelona (Spain)

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FC Barcelona was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers under the leadership of Joan Gamper. The club over a period of time became a symbol of Catalan culture and hence adopted the motto "Mes que un club" (More than a club).

The Catalan club was overshadowed by its arch rival Real Madrid for most of the 20th century but things changed in the new millennium as Barcelona became a major European and Spanish force.

The club with its youth academy, 'La Masia', graduates have instilled a particular footballing culture through all levels due to which it has tasted immense success in the past 15-20 years.

The club has been one of the most consistent sides in Europe and the team managed by Pep Guardiola showcased the club's dominance and the importance of La Masia as most of the players during this period came through the youth academy.

Guardiola in his very first season won the historic continental treble with club and six years later his compatriot Luis Enrique repeated a similar feat as Barcelona became the first European club to win the treble twice.

21st Century Stats


La Liga: 2004โ€“05, 2005โ€“06, 2008โ€“09, 2009โ€“10, 2010โ€“11, 2012โ€“13, 2014โ€“15, 2015โ€“16, 2017โ€“18

Copa del Rey: 2008โ€“09, 2011โ€“12, 2014โ€“15, 2015โ€“16, 2016โ€“17, 2017โ€“18

Supercopa de Espana: 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018

UEFA Champions League: 2005-06, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2014-15

UEFA Supercup: 2009, 2011, 2015

FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015

Total titles: 33

Best Playing XI: Valdes; Dani Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Ronaldinho

Best Manager: Pep Guardiola (2008-12)

Edited by Abhinav Munshi


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