On Wednesday, Real Madrid host Manchester City in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final tie between two teams who have 13 European titles between them. Sadly for City, and despite their best efforts since their 2008 takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group, all 13 belong to Madrid.
Madrid are the undisputed kings of Europe, having won the competition – known as the European Cup until it was rebranded as the Champions League in 1992 – more than any other club. Indeed, Los Blancos have lifted the trophy on nearly twice as many occasions as the tournament’s next-most successful club, AC Milan, who have seven continental crowns to their name. Liverpool, who await Madrid or City in the final in Paris on 28 May, will move level with Milan on seven European Cup/Champions League victories if they win the competition this season.
Real Madrid – top dogs in Europe from the off
Madrid set about establishing themselves as the European Cup’s most dominant club immediately after its inception in the 1955/56 campaign. Led by legendary Argentinian forward Alfredo di Stéfano, the Spanish giants won the tournament in each of its first five seasons, before adding a sixth in 1966.
Madrid then faced a three-decade wait to conquer Europe for a seventh time – prompting jibes from supporters of arch rivals Barcelona that Los Merengues had only ever won the trophy in black and white. Over a five-year period that straddled the turn of the millennium, however, Madrid silenced such taunts by winning the competition – by now the Champions League – three times. Memorably, the last of that trio of triumphs was sealed by a stunning Zinedine Zidane volley in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen in Glasgow.
Having inspired Madrid to European glory as a player, Zidane was also involved in the club’s four most recent Champions League wins, this time as a coach. The Frenchman was assistant to Carlo Ancelotti as Los Blancos ended a 12-year period without a European crown in 2014. Then, as head coach, Zidane steered Madrid to three straight titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018 – the first time a club had retained the trophy in the Champions League era.
Madrid have also twice won Europe’s second-tier competition – the Europa League, which at the time was known as the UEFA Cup – in 1985 and 1986.
Manchester City – beaten finalists in 2020/21
As for Manchester City – who had a single, unsuccessful European Cup appearance on their CV before their Emirati takeover made them a domestic and continental player – they have been edging nearer to winning the Champions League over the past decade. So far, the closest City have come was last season, when they reached an all-Premier League final against Chelsea in Porto. Despite going into the game as favourites, Pep Guardiola’s men were beaten 1-0, as Kai Havertz’s early opener at the Estádio do Dragao gave Chelsea their second Champions League title.
City are not completely trophyless in Europe, though: the Sky Blues won the now-defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970, goals by Neil Young and Francis Lee earning a 2-1 win over Poles Górnik Zabrze in the final in Vienna.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City: live with AS USA
You can follow Real Madrid and Manchester City’s 2021/22 Champions League semi-final second leg live with AS USA. Join Kieran Quaile for the build-up, followed by all the action at the Bernabéu.