Just had lunch. Feeling a little under the weather actually. Had a headache for the last couple of days.
Whixh is why I distracted myself a bit with this.
With the Gunners having reached the finals of the UEFA Champions League, and Boro still in with a shout in the UEFA Cup, we could (potentially) see an all-English sweep of European honours on offer this season. (Don’t forget that Liverpool won the Super Cup too….)
(And no jokes about Arsenal not being English, please, it’s gotten old already. What we need are more jokes about Moan-rinho and Chelski.)
I wondered, though, would this be the first ever time clubs from the same country dominated Europe in a single season?
Enter the ‘internets’.
As any fanatical football supporter who’s plugged into the Google Matrix should know, the place to go to check football stats is The RSSSF Archive.
First thing to do, is to figure out what European competitions should be included in the research. Obviously the Champions League (or Cup), UEFA Cup (and its predecessor the Fairs’ Cup), the now-discontinued Cup Winners Cup and finally the Super Cup.
I’m not including the Intertoto Cup because, frankly, I have no idea how that works. I think you have multiple winners or something everytime, in which case it just voids the whole one dominant nation concept, so no need lah.
Scanning The Records
While it would be logical to start in the year in which all competitions were played for the first time (that being 1972 when the Super Cup came into being), I’m going to start a little earlier, beginning with the 1960/61 season, when the Cup Winners Cup was first contested.
Basically what I do is this – go through the seasons starting from 1960/61, beginning with the Champions Cup, and then others, noting the nation from which the club originates, and as soon as I get two clubs from different nations, I abandon that season and move on to the next.
(Aside: While looking through the records, it’s interesting to be reminded of the fact that the first British team to win a European honour is Tottenham, who won the Cup Winners Cup in 1963. It’s funny how they don’t get enough credit for that outside of North London….)
The closest I got in the early years to a single dominant nation was 1965/66, when Spain’s Real Madrid won the Champions Cup and Barcelona took the Fairs’ Cup. But German club Borussia Dortmund crashed that party by winning the Cup Winners Cup – defeating Shankly’s Liverpool in the final, ironically.
But as we all know, England took revenge on the Germans that summer….
By the way, the win by Leeds heralded an amazing era for English clubs in that competition (and the UEFA Cup, which replaced it). Leeds’ victory was the first of 6 consecutive wins by an English club in that competition (including a second win by the Yorkshire club – and the last Fairs’ Cup ever won – in 1971).
Another golden era for English football in Europe dawned in the late 70′s and early 80′s with Liverpool kicking off (in 1977) 6 consecutive triumphs for English clubs in the Champions Cup.
A particularly good year for the British Isles in general was the 1983/84 season, where Liverpool and Spurs won the Champions Cup and UEFA Cup respectively, with Scotland’s Aberdeen (led by Alex Ferguson) taking the Super Cup. But no prizes for guessing, once again the Cup Winners Cup winners, Juventus, proved to be the odd men out.
And then I hit the jackpot.
The Italian Job
The season in question is 1989/90. And not surprisingly, it was the Italians who proved to be dominant force that season. The great AC Milan team won their second consecutive Champions Cup title, with Juventus winning the UEFA Cup and Sampdoria winning the Cup Winners Cup. Milan had also won the Super Cup that same season, making it a clean sweep for Europe’s boot.
Well, that was one time. Was there an encore? Let’s see…..
1993/94 was a very very close one for the Italians. AC Milan took the Champions Cup, Inter won the UEFA Cup, and Parma took the Super Cup. However, in the Cup Winners Cup final, Parma ended up losing to Arsenal 1-0. Oh so close…
After 1999, the Cup Winners Cup was discontinued. Without their spoiling factor, was there a better chance for a nation to sweep everything?
Nope. If anything, the European honours have been spread more evenly in the last few years. This has a lot to do with the change in the European competition formats. Previously, only the champions of each domestic league entered the Champions Cup, which saw other strong teams compete in the lesser European tournaments. But now with Europe’s creme de la creme all entering the Champions League, the lesser lights of European football find themselves on a more equal footing in the other competitions.
It’s funny though, when you think about it. In order to make more money, Europe’s biggest names have sacrificed better opportunities to win trophies.
But that’s football for you, today. Money. Money. Money. It’s so funny. In Abramovich’s world….