Manchester City did it. They beat Inter Milan 1-0 in Istanbul on Saturday to win the UEFA Champions League, but where do they rank for European trophies among English clubs?
It’s been a big week for English clubs in Europe. After West Ham beat Fiorentina in the UEFA Europa Conference League final, Manchester City defeated Inter to finally win the Champions League.
City’s triumph in Istanbul secured legendary status for the 2022-23 vintage as they won the treble, having already sealed Premier League and FA Cup glory. That made them only the second English team ever to accomplish such a feat after Manchester United in 1999.
Much like West Ham, City’s victory ended a long drought in European competition, but how many trophies have they won on the continent and where do they rank among the most successful English football clubs?
Liverpool: 13 Wins
The undisputed most successful English team in Europe are Liverpool, who’ve won 13 titles across the European Cup/Champions League, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup.
They were by no means the first, however. City, West Ham, Newcastle United, Leeds United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United had all won something in Europe before the Reds did. But since winning the UEFA Cup in 1973, the only decades they’ve not had European success in are the 1990s and 2020s – time’s still on their side with respect to the latter, however.
That UEFA Cup triumph, sealed with a 3-2 aggregate win over Borussia Monchengladbach in the final, may have been towards the end of the reign of the legendary Bill Shankly, but it was still the start of a special era for Liverpool. Another UEFA Cup success followed in 1976 under Bob Paisley, and then they won the European Cup in back-to-back seasons in 1977 and 1978.
Liverpool won the European Cup again in 1981, making Paisley the first manager to win the competition three times. To this day, only Carlo Ancelotti (four) and Zinedine Zidane (three) have repeated that feat.
The Reds are now on six European Cup/Champions League titles, the most of all English clubs, while they’ve also won the UEFA Cup three times and the Super Cup on four occasions.
Chelsea: 8 Wins
It might surprise some to see Chelsea second only to Liverpool in terms of European trophies won by English teams, though it’s worth saying six of their eight successes have come since Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003.
Their first continental trophy was the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971, with the Blues beating Real Madrid 2-1 in a final replay following a 1-1 draw. They didn’t win again on the continent until 1998, but then two came almost at once. Their second Cup Winners’ Cup triumph was soon followed by their first ever Super Cup triumph thanks to a 1-0 win over Real Madrid.
Despite having Abramovich’s millions poured into the club from 2003 and the 2004 arrival of Jose Mourinho, Champions League glory wasn’t attained until 2011-12. They defied the odds as caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo guided them to the final, beating reigning European champions Barcelona en route. They then took the title on penalties after salvaging a 1-1 draw against an otherwise dominant Bayern Munich side.
They won it again in 2021, beating Manchester City in the final, and they also won the UEFA Super Cup that year. In all, Chelsea have been victorious two times in each of the Champions League, Europa League, Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup.
Manchester United: 6 Wins
Man Utd were the first English club to win the European Cup when they thrashed Benfica 4-1 in the 1968 final, but it took them 31 years to add another to their cabinet.
It proved worth the wait, however. Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored late goals to secure one of the most iconic Champions League final triumphs ever, with United beating Bayern Munich 2-1 to win the trophy and clinch the treble, having already won the Premier League and FA Cup final.
In the intervening years, United did win the Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup in 1991. Those were the club’s sole successes in those competitions.
Sir Alex Ferguson guided United to a second Champions League crown in 2008, beating Chelsea on penalties. But since then they’ve only lifted one other European trophy, with Mourinho taking them to the Europa League title in 2017.
Tottenham Hotspur, Nottingham Forest: 3 Wins
Nottingham Forest played their part in a golden era of English dominance on the continent in the 1970s and 80s. Between 1977 and 1984, seven out of eight European Cup winners were from England.
Liverpool’s two consecutive titles kicked things off, and Brian Clough’s Forest repeated the feat in 1979 and 1980, beating Malmo and Hamburg respectively. Sandwiched between those two wins was a Super Cup success – but it’s now been 43 years since European glory was celebrated at the City Ground, with Forest spending much of that time out of the top flight entirely.
Spurs have also won three European trophies, though the European Cup/Champions League doesn’t account for any of them. They tasted UEFA Cup success in 1972 – the competition’s inaugural campaign – and 1984, but their maiden victory was in the 1963 Cup Winners’ Cup.
That made Spurs the first English club to win a European trophy.
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Man City, West Ham: 2 Wins
Aston Villa were the other club to contribute to England’s 1970s and 1980s European Cup dominance with Forest and Liverpool, lifting the famous trophy in 1982 thanks in part to a sensational performance from goalkeeper Nigel Spink in a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the final at De Kuip. The Super Cup followed a few months later, and that was their last European success.
Arsenal were last triumphant on the continental stage in 1994. George Graham’s Gunners defeated Parma 1-0 in the Cup Winners’ Cup final, adding to their only previous European trophy won 24 years earlier when they lifted the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
Leeds United won that competition a year later in 1971, the last season before it was replaced by the UEFA Cup. Leeds’ other triumph on the continent was also in the Fairs Cup in 1968.
With Europa League Conference success, West Ham ended their lengthy continental drought. It had been 58 years since their last European trophy – a 2-0 Cup Winners’ Cup victory over 1860 Munich – but Jarrod Bowen’s late strike against Fiorentina saw then reset the clock to zero.
Man City hadn’t won a European trophy since the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970. Rodri’s lovely effort in the 2022-23 Champions League final ensured they finally got over the hump, and in doing so got their hands on the biggest prize in club football. This also sealed a historic treble for Pep Guardiola’s side, becoming just the second English side to achieve the feat.
Newcastle United, Ipswich Town, Everton: 1 Win
If you’re looking at these figures and thinking they’re incorrect, it’s worth saying now that we aren’t counting the Intertoto Cup. If we were, Fulham (2002) would also enter the list here, and it was a competition also won by Newcastle and Aston Villa. However, it’s not included because it isn’t widely recognised as a major trophy – probably partly down to every edition from 1995 to 2005 having multiple ‘winners’. Some years had as many as three ‘winners’.
So, with that cleared up, there have been three English clubs who’ve won a single European trophy.
Everton (1985) won the Cup Winners’ Cup; Newcastle were victorious in the Fairs Cup (1969); and Ipswich Town lifted the UEFA Cup (1981).
But it wouldn’t be surprising to see Newcastle climb this list at some point in the next few years.