10 European trophy-winning teams who were rubbish domestically

Cristiano Ronaldo, El Clasico

Real Madrid finished a mighty 17 points behind Barcelona in 2017/18, but this weekend they could claim a third straight Champions League title. Kiyan Sobhani uncovers some more continental kings who reserved their best for Europe

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1. Real Madrid 1955/1956

In the first ever European Club Championship, Real Madrid exceeded expectations by winning the tournament. Domestically, despite Alfredo Di Stefano’s league-leading 24 goals, they finished third – 10 points behind champions Athletic Bilbao and nine behind second-placed Barcelona.

Madrid went 2-0 down to French outfit Reims in the European final at Parc des Princes, but a match-winning strike from Hector Rial completed a comeback as the Spanish giants won 4-3. It was a result that set the tone for Madrid’s historic five-year dynasty in the competition.

2. Eintracht Frankfurt 1979/1980

Despite hurdling Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach in the UEFA Cup semi-finals and final respectively, Eintracht Frankfurt were repeatedly conquered in the Bundesliga during the 1979/80 season. They eventually ended the campaign way down in ninth, 18 points behind champions Bayern.

Their European exploits more than made up for that, though. Down 3-2 on aggregate to Gladbach in the final, Fred Schaub’s strike in the 81st minute of the second leg was enough for Frankfurt to lift the trophy, securing their spot in the competition for the following year.

Eintracht Frankfurt final

3. Tottenham 1983/1984

Tottenham’s UEFA Cup success in 1984 came at the cost of a rather mediocre season in England’s top flight: champions Liverpool finished 19 points ahead of the north Londoners, whose eighth-place finish wouldn't have been enough to secure a European berth had they not defeated Anderlecht in the UEFA Cup final.

The Belgians – who, it was later learned, reached the final thanks to a spot of match-fixing – went toe-to-toe with Tottenham in a tie that finished 2-2 on aggregate. The English side ousted Anderlecht in a penalty shootout, though, thanks largely to Tony Parks’s tremendous save from Arnor Gudjohnsen’s (Eidur’s dad) spot-kick.

Ossie Ardiles Smurf 1984

4. Inter 1993/1994

Inter have never been relegated from Serie A, but they came as close as they possibly could in 1994, finishing just one point above the drop zone.

A disastrous domestic campaign didn't preclude success on the continent, however: Inter won the UEFA Cup after a 2-0 aggregate triumph (1-0 wins in both legs did the job) over Austria Salzburg in the final.

Dennis Bergkamp Inter UEFA Cup final

5. Schalke 1996/1997

The 1996/97 Bundesliga season was one to forget for Schalke, who trailed champions Bayern Munich by a whopping 28 points in the final standings. The disappointment of finishing 12th was salvaged by their European exploits, though, as they overcame Roy Hodgson’s Inter in a UEFA Cup final shootout.

Schalke won the first leg 1-0, but Inter's Ivan Zamorano 84th-minute goal in the return match sent the final to penalties. Schalke converted all four of theirs, but Zamorano saw his effort saved by Jens Lehmann and Aron Winter shot wide – sending the trophy to Gelsenkirchen.