The Champions League has grown into one of the greatest sporting competitions in the world since its evolution from the European Cup in 1992/93.
During that period, we’ve seen 13 different clubs lift European club football's most prestigious trophy. So we decided to take a look at which clubs have enjoyed the most success in the competition overall, using StatBunker data to outline the all-time ‘league table’.
How this works is that three points are given for a win, even in the knockout stages, to give an overall ranking of the 141 teams who have taken part in the competition proper – that is, from the group stage onwards – over the last 28 years.
Below, we’ve outlined the top 25, but a few British clubs didn’t quite make the cut. If you’re interested, they ranked:
36. Tottenham (69pts)
38. Rangers (65pts)
39. Celtic (64pts)
64. Leeds (23pts)
73. Leicester (17pts)
122. Blackburn (4pts)
25. Dynamo Kiev
Points: 121 (from 123 games), Goal difference: -39
Dynamo’s greatest European successes remain the Cup Winners’ Cup titles they won in 1975 and 1986, but they have a creditable record in the Champions League.
The Ukrainian giants, powered by the goals of Andriy Shevchenko and Sergiy Rebrov, made a memorable run to the semi-finals in 1998/99, where they fell to a 4-3 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich.
In recent years they’ve struggled more, having failed to make it to the group stages since 2016/17, although they did make it to the knockout stages a year earlier, when they were knocked out by Manchester City in the last 16.
24. PSV Eindhoven
Points: 123 (from 110 games), Goal difference: -51
One of the Netherlands’ most storied clubs, PSV’s name is etched into the history books thanks to a UEFA Cup victory in 1977/78 and European Cup triumph in 1987/88.
They were the first Dutch team to appear in the Champions League, in its inaugural edition, and one of a handful of clubs to feature in every group stage between 1997 and 2008.
Their biggest success came in 2004/05, when a team featuring the likes of Mark van Bommel, Philip Cocu and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink reached the semi-finals, where they only succumbed to AC Milan on away goals.
23. Shakhtar Donetsk
Points: 126 (from 99 games), Goal difference: -30
Shakhtar steal in just ahead of their domestic rivals, having surpassed Dynamo Kiev to become Ukraine’s major European force in recent years.
They didn’t make their tournament debut until 2000, when they reached the group stages, but since then the Ukrainians have featured regularly and produced some memorable runs.
They knocked out Roma en route to the quarter-finals in 2010/11, and have made it to the last 16 a further three times since then - most recently when the Italians gained revenge by knocking Shakhtar out on away goals in 2017/18.
22. Bayer Leverkusen
Points: 131 (from 101 games), Goal difference: -23
Leverkusen’s greatest Champions League moment came at Hampden Park in 2002, when they took to the field to face Real Madrid in their first and only final, only to be undone by a Zinedine Zidane volley that has gone down as one of the greatest goals the competition has seen.
Since then, the Bundesliga side have reached the last 16 five times but progressed no further, last gracing the competition in 2016/17.
Points: 133 (from 100 games), Goal difference: -15
The Italians embarked on a shock run to the semi-finals two years ago, pulling off an astonishing second leg comeback against Barcelona in the quarter-finals from three goals down.
That was as good as it has got for Roma, who made the first of their 11 Champions League appearances back in 2001.
They reached the second group stage twice in the early noughties, and made it to back-to-back quarter-finals between 2006 and 2008, but since then the last 16 has been as far as they have strayed - other than their memorable run in 2018.
Points: 136 (from 106 games), Goal difference: -25
After winning consecutive European Cups in 1961 and 1962, Benfica were famously cursed by departing manager Bela Guttman who, angry at being denied a pay rise, proclaimed: “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions”.
Since then, the Lisbon giants have reached eight European finals – five in the European Cup and three in the UEFA Cup/Europa League – and lost each one. This tale dominates Benfica’s European history, but they have nevertheless become one of the Champions League’s most regular entrants in recent years.
They’ve reached the quarter-finals four times, starting in 1994/95, before knocking out holders Liverpool en route in 2005/06, and making it to the final eight again in 2011/12 and 2015/16.
Points: 142 (from 128 games), Goal difference: -71
Greece’s highest-ranked Champions League side first entered the competition in 1997/98, and their best-ever outing came just one year later.
After progressing through their group to the quarter-finals, Olympiakos faced Italian behemoth Juventus, and were set to pull off a momentous upset on away goals until Antonio Conte struck five minutes from time in the second leg to end the dream.
They’ve featured regularly in the group stage ever since, and made it to the last 16 in 2007/08, 2009/10, 2013/14.
18. Manchester City
Points: 142 (from 82 games), Goal difference: 58
City boast an impressive points-per-game ratio and goal difference, but there's no doubt that a club as ambitious – and wealthy – as the Premier League giants will have expected to have achieved more in the Champions league by now.
In 2011, they returned to European football’s top club competition for the first time since a 1968 European Cup appearance.
However, it took them until 2015/16 to get beyond the last 16, when they lost to Real Madrid in the semi-finals, and even the mighty Pep Guardiola hasn’t been able to take them further than the quarters. Could this be their year?
Points: 173 (from 111 games), Goal difference: 45
Like Atletico Madrid, Valencia are best known for their painful stumbles at the final hurdle in the Champions League.
The Spaniards made surprising back-to-back runs to the finals of 2000 and 2001, but fell to defeats against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively, the latter loss coming after a penalty shoot-out.
Two quarter-final appearances is as good as it’s got for the La Liga side since those golden years, but this year's run to the last 16, where they lost to Atalanta, was their best accomplishment in seven years.
16. Atletico Madrid
Points: 174 (from 99 games), Goal difference: 50
Atleti have come a long way. It wasn’t that long ago that they were failing to even qualify for the Champions League – they reached the competition just once before 2008 – but now they are considered contenders to win the thing.
Under Diego Simeone’s ferocious leadership, the Spaniards have come agonisingly close to doing just that. They were losing finalists twice in three years between 2013 and 2016, taking their city rivals Real Madrid beyond 90 minutes on both occasions, before losing in extra time and penalties.
Real thwarted them again in the 2016/17 semi-finals, but they are again in the mix this year after booking a quarter-final spot.
Points: 197 (from 123 games), Goal difference: 30
One of European football’s most iconic sides, Ajax were one of the continent’s strongest teams when the Champions League first came to life.
The Amsterdam club lifted the trophy in 1995 and reached the final again a year later, only to lose to Juventus on penalties.
The Old Lady then knocked them out in the semi-finals in 1997, and Ajax would have to wait 22 years to get that far again. Their entertaining young side stormed to the semis in 2018/19, knocking out Real Madrid and Juve on the way, before collapsing to defeat in their second leg against Tottenham.
14. Inter Milan
Points: 197 (from 123 games), Goal difference: 30
The Italian giants are currently celebrating a decade since their famous Treble win under Jose Mourinho.
In 2009/10, the Nerazzurri knocked out Chelsea, CSKA Moscow and Barcelona before defeating Bayern Munich to claim their third title overall, but the first of the Champions League era.
However, since then Inter have only reached the knockout stages twice, while before the Treble success they had only gone as far as the semi-finals once, when they lost to rivals AC Milan in 2002/03.
Points: 212 (from 129 games), Goal difference: 53
Lyon reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for nine consecutive years between 2003 and 2012, a run that started with three quarter-final exits in a row.
The furthest they delved into the competition was in 2009/10, when the Ligue 1 side eliminated Real Madrid and domestic rivals Bordeaux before going out to Bayern in the semi-finals.
After falling out of the equation for a few years, Lyon have re-established their elite-level credentials with back-to-back runs to the knockout stages in the last two years.
12. Borussia Dortmund
Points: 212 (from 129 games), Goal difference: 53
Dortmund’s triumph in the 1996/97 Champions League, in only their second appearance in the competition, was one of the great early shocks for European football’s new-look tournament.
They made it to the semi-finals again the following year, losing to Real Madrid, but then had to wait 15 years for Jurgen Klopp to get his hands on them before making a serious mark again.
BVB’s thrilling run to the 2012/13 final ended in bitter defeat to their domestic rivals Bayern Munich, but they’ve established themselves as a force ever since with regular appearances in the knockout stages.
11. Paris Saint-Germain
Points: 215 (from 129 games), Goal difference: 195
Like Man City, the ambition and financial firepower of PSG makes their list of achievements in the Champions League feels a little underwhelming.
Since a defeat to AC Milan in the semi-finals of the 1994/95 edition, the French club have failed to make past the quarter-final stage. The success they’ve enjoyed in recent years in Ligue 1, winning seven titles in eight years, hasn’t been replicated in Europe’s biggest competition, where they have reached the quarters five times and the last 16 three times.
They’ve earned a reputation as big-game bottlers in the process, after throwing away comfortable first leg leads to lose to Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years - not to mention their spectacular collapse from 4-0 up against Barcelona, when they suffered a remarkable 6-1 second leg defeat.
Points: 225 (from 129 games), Goal difference: 96
After falling in the 2018 final to Real Madrid, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool went one better last season to end a 14-year wait to be top dogs in Europe once again.
Klopp has transformed the Anfield side into leading contenders in the competition again, after a period of early exits and Europa League campaigns.
But nobody can doubt their prestige in this competition, having won it twice in the Champions League era, to add four European Cup triumphs. Plus, in the miracle of Istanbul, they provided the tournament with one of its most jaw-dropping moments.
9. AC Milan
Points: 271 (from 165 games), Goal difference: 96
They may have lost their way in recent years, having failed to qualify for the Champions League since 2013, but Milan have one of the richest histories of any club in the competition.
Fabio Capello’s side triumphed over Barcelona in the 1994 final, and they were victorious once again in 2003, beating fellow Serie A giants Juventus on penalties to clinch the title.
The Rossoneri haven’t lacked in sore moments, though, losing to Marseille in the first-ever Champions League final in 1993, falling to Ajax in the 1995 final and, most memorably, surrendering a 3-0 half time lead in Istanbul to lose to Liverpool in 2005. They did get their revenge though, beating the Reds when they met in the final once again two years later.
Points: 290 (from 177 games), Goal difference: 76
Arsenal are something of an anomaly here, being the only side in the top 10 who are yet to actually win the Champions League.
Much of that will be down to their excellent qualification record, as they reached the group stages for 19 consecutive years between 1998 and 2017.
The closest the Gunners came to glory was in 2005/06 when they were losing finalists to Barcelona, but more recently they have been remarkably consistent in their exits – Arsenal were knocked out at the last-16 stage for seven years in a row between 2010 and 2017.
Points: 301 (from 170 games), Goal difference: 132
Chelsea clinched their first and only Champions League title in 2012, beating Bayern Munich on penalties at Munich's Allianz Arena after a dramatic semi-final victory over Barcelona.
The triumph came after a somewhat painful relationship with the competition had blossomed since Roman Abramovich’s 2003 takeover.
Before their glorious night in Germany, the Blues had been knocked out in the semi-finals four times and suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 final. They lost in the semis again in 2014, but since then haven’t made it further than the last 16.
Points: 302 (from 195 games), Goal difference: 41
Champions League stalwarts Porto have only missed eight campaigns since the competition began in 1992, reaching the semi-finals in 1993/94 and regularly gracing the knockout stages.
However, their crowning moment will always be the against-the-odds, Jose Mourinho-led triumph of 2004, when the Portuguese side were crowned European champions for the first time since 1987.
Porto knocked out Manchester United, Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna before thrashing Monaco 3-0 in the final, a result that catapulted the Special One into superstardom.
Points: 361 (from 205 games), Goal difference: 120
Juventus consider themselves somewhat cursed when it comes to the Champions League. Since winning the trophy in 1995/96, the Old Lady have reached the final five times – and lost each one.
Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid (twice), AC Milan and Barcelona have ended the Italians’ dreams of ending the barren run, over a period spanning 20 years.
Nevertheless, Juve boast one of the most impressive records in the competition and re-established themselves as a leading contender in recent years under Massimiliano Allegri.
4. Manchester United
Points: 419 (from 229 games), Goal difference: 169
In 1999, United rose to the top of European and world football with a stunning stoppage-time comeback win over Bayern Munich that sealed their first victory of the Champions League era.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 93rd-minute winner remains one of the competition’s most iconic moments, but more glory was to come when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side beat Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 final.
They were denied further success after suffering defeats to Barcelona in the finals of 2009 and 2011 against Pep Guardiola’s superb Barcelona side, while the club is yet to return to the top after struggling to recover from the retirement of Fergie in 2013.
3. Bayern Munich
Points: 498 (from 258 games), Goal difference: 270
Bayern could’ve been forgiven for being shell-shocked by the manner of their 1999 heartbreak against Man United, but they responded by brushing themselves down and clinching their first Champions League title just two years later, beating Valencia on penalties in the final.
Their pain wasn’t over though, as they suffered final defeats to Inter and Chelsea in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
However, they eventually returned to European football’s summit with a 2013 victory against Dortmund at Wembley and have made deep runs in the competition ever since, winning it last year - despite fewer matches in the knockouts.
Points: 530 (from 264 games), Goal difference: 270
A defeat to AC Milan in the 1993/94 final was as close as Barcelona came to Champions League glory in the '90s, but at the turn of the millennium things soon swiftly changed.
The Catalan giants claimed their first prize with victory over Arsenal in 2005/06, before Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola inspired the club to two triumphs in three years between 2008 and 2011.
Another followed in 2014/15 on Luis Enrique’s watch, making the five-year gap since Barca’s last Champions League final appearance feel like something of a drought by their standards.
1. Real Madrid
Points: 538 (from 273 games), Goal difference: 276
If one club is synonymous with this trophy, it’s Real Madrid. Their record in the Champions League is simply staggering; they’ve lifted the trophy seven times, in addition to their six European Cup triumphs.
Whether it’s Zinedine Zidane’s wonder-volley in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen or Gareth Bale’s spectacular bicycle kick to clinch the 2018 edition, men in white shirts have produced some of the most memorable moments in the competition’s history.
After Carlo Ancelotti clinched the much-anticipated Decima in 2014, Zidane oversaw three consecutive victories as coach between 2016 and 2018, a remarkable feat that underlined the Merengues’ utter dominance on Europe’s biggest stage.
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