8 teams who retained the European Cup - can this Real Madrid side join them?
1. Real Madrid (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas were the undisputed stars, but Francisco Gento, Raymond Kopa and Hector Rial could all play a bit too
The first five editions of the European Cup were all won by Real Madrid, who will be looking to claim their 12th title in Cardiff on Saturday. It's impossible not to admire Los Blancos’ incredible consistency between 1955 and 1960, although it's also hard not to wonder whether their progress would have been checked by Manchester United had tragedy not struck in the form of the Munich air disaster in 1958.
Either way, these Madrid teams were always packed full of talent: Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas were the undisputed stars, but Francisco Gento, Raymond Kopa and Hector Rial could all play a bit too. Their remarkable record of five successes in a row will surely never be beaten.
2. Benfica (1961, 1962)
Eusebio, Mario Coluna, Jose Aguas et al. beat Madrid 5-3 in one of the most entertaining games in the history of the European Cup
Madrid’s baton was passed to Benfica at the turn of the decade, as Bela Guttmann wrote his name into the history books by guiding the Portuguese club to successive triumphs.
Holders Madrid were knocked out in the first round of the 1961 competition by Barcelona, who provided the opposition as Benfica ran out 3-2 winners in the final in Bern.
In the showpiece event 12 months later, Eusebio, Mario Coluna, Jose Aguas et al. beat Madrid 5-3 in one of the most entertaining games in the history of the European Cup. Benfica were certainly easy on the eye, and they regularly had too much attacking quality for the best of the rest on the continent.
3. Inter (1964, 1965)
A 3-1 win against Real Madrid in the 1964 final served as a riposte to those who dismissed Inter as overwhelmingly defensive
Benfica were unable to defend their title in 1962/63, when a brace from Jose Altafini helped Milan defeat the Eagles in the final. It was the Rossoneri’s city rivals Inter who became the next side to win the European Cup in consecutive campaigns, though, as catenaccio – the most notorious tactic in the history of the game – enjoyed its moment in the sun. The style of football may not have been to everyone’s taste, but Helenio Herrera’s men were undoubtedly masters of their craft.
A 3-1 win against Real Madrid in the 1964 final served as a riposte to those who dismissed Inter as overwhelmingly defensive. The Serie A side did an excellent job of nullifying their gifted opponents, but they also committed bodies forward on the counter-attack and were good value for their victory.
A thrilling comeback in the second leg of their semi-final clash with Liverpool saw Inter book their place in the final in 1965, with Jair da Costa’s first-half effort ultimately settling the decider against Benfica in their favour.
4. Ajax (1971, 1972, 1973)
Their Total Football revolved around short passing, pressing, a high defensive line and the constant rotation of positions
“You play football with your head,” Johan Cruyff once said. “And your legs are there to help you.”
The Ajax side of the early 70s were certainly cerebral, and it was their conception of the game that won them so many admirers. Their execution of it wasn’t bad, either: each member of the team was well versed in the various facets of Total Football, which revolved around short passing, pressing, a high defensive line and the constant rotation of positions.
Ajax eased past Panathinaikos in the 1971 final, before twice defeating Italian opposition to retain the trophy in 1972 (Inter) and 1973 (Juventus). Cruyff’s sale to Barcelona the subsequent summer brought the Eredivisie outfit’s reign to an end, as Ajax crashed out in the second round in 1973/74.