How Many Teams Have Won the Treble?
With Manchester City on course to become only the second English team to win the league, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League in one season, we look at how many teams have won the treble.
They say three is a magic number. Well, Bob Dorough said so and then everyone else just went along with it.
There’s been plenty of magic this season when it comes to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s men already have the Premier League title sewn up, while Manchester United and Inter await in the respective finals of the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Win both of those games and they will become just the second English team after United in the 1998-99 season to win the iconic treble.
If Erling Haaland and Co. can complete the job, they’ll join an exclusive list of teams to have won their league, domestic cup and the top European prize in the same season. Here, we look at the nine who have gone before and how they managed such a rare feat.
This remains a unique achievement by the Scottish giants, not only because they were the first to win the treble, but that it actually ended up being a quadruple. Celtic claimed league, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup success before becoming the first British team to lift the European Cup.
Led by manager Jock Stein, the Bhoys only lost two league games all season on their way to the title, both to Dundee United, and finished three points ahead of Old Firm rivals Rangers, whom they also beat 1-0 in the League Cup final. A 2-0 victory over Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final secured a domestic treble, before they headed to Lisbon for the most famous night in the club’s history.
It wasn’t a great start in the European Cup final against Inter, with Sandro Mazzola putting the Nerazzurri ahead after seven minutes from the penalty spot. However, Tommy Gemmell’s equaliser just after the hour mark was followed by Stevie Chalmers’ winner six minutes from time. That earned Stein’s side the ‘Lisbon Lions’ moniker and cemented their place in football history.
The Amsterdam giants were defending European champions having beaten Panathinaikos at Wembley Stadium in the previous season’s final, but now they were without legendary boss Rinus Michels, who left for Barcelona at the end of the 1970-71 campaign.
No matter, Michels still left a great team behind for new manager Ștefan Kovács, and they showed that by losing just once en route to the Eredivisie title, winning 26 of their final 27 league games. They then beat FC Den Haag 3-2 in the KNVB Cup final, before further European glory beckoned.
As Celtic had in 1967, Ajax also played Inter in the final, with the advantage of it taking place in the Netherlands at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam. A brace from star player Johan Cruyff was enough to seal a 2-0 win and what remains the club’s only treble on record, though they would go on to win a third consecutive European Cup a year later.
PSV Eindhoven 1987-88
Not to be outdone by their Eredivisie rivals, PSV also achieved a treble 16 years later. They eased to the league title under Guus Hiddink, with Wim Kieft’s 29 goals helping them win it by nine points over Ajax in second.
The team managed 117 goals in their 34 league games and added the KNVB Cup following a 3-2 win after extra time against Roda JC. They were far less attack-minded when it came to the European Cup, though.
PSV didn’t actually win a game inside 90 minutes beyond the second round in their European run. Against both Bordeaux in the quarter-finals and Real Madrid in the semis, they drew the away legs 1-1 before securing 0-0 draws in the return games to go through on away goals. The final against Benfica in Stuttgart went all the way to a penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw, with the Dutch side winning 6-5.
Manchester United 1998-99
The Red Devils had dominated English football since the dawn of the Premier League in 1992, but Champions League success initially eluded them under Sir Alex Ferguson. They clinched another league title after a fierce battle with Arsenal, finishing a point ahead of the previous year’s champions.
Their FA Cup run also saw them come up against the Gunners, pipping them 2-1 in a semi-final replay at Villa Park after a stunning goal from Ryan Giggs, before a more routine 2-0 win over Newcastle United in the final gave them trophy number two.
Another dramatic semi-final win, this time over Juventus, set them up for their first Champions League final under Ferguson, which was also suspenseful to say the least. The strike pairing of Andrew Cole and Dwight Yorke had starred throughout the season, but it was stoppage-time goals from super subs Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that turned a 1-0 deficit against Bayern Munich at Camp Nou into a late 2-1 victory.
Of course, Guardiola is no stranger to trebles, having managed one with Barcelona 14 years ago. Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta… The list of iconic names in that side was as long as the team-sheet, and they lived up to their potential by winning La Liga ahead of Real Madrid by nine points, despite a shock 1-0 defeat at Numancia in their opening game.
A 4-1 thrashing of Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey final put the Blaugrana on course for their first treble. However, due to their third-place finish in La Liga the previous season, they had an extra hurdle to clear, needing to go through the third qualifying round to reach the Champions League.
They did manage to get past Wisła Kraków, albeit losing the second leg 1-0 in Poland, but had few problems from there on, winning their group before easing past Lyon and Bayern Munich to reach the semi-finals. After beating Chelsea on away goals following a refereeing performance at Stamford Bridge that still angers Blues fans to this day, they faced Manchester United in the final in Rome. Goals from Samuel Eto’o and Messi clinched a 2-0 win, the trophy, and the treble.
Just a year later, a very different team to Barca replicated their success under the guidance of José Mourinho. Inter had coincidentally participated in a deal with the Catalan giants that saw Zlatan Ibrahimović and Eto’o swap clubs. It was the Nerazzurri who came out better in the exchange.
The strike partnership of Eto’o and Diego Milito fired Inter to glory, though they had strength throughout the team with Julio Cesar in goal, Lucio at the back, and Wesley Sneijder in midfield. They retained their Serie A title after beating Roma to the Scudetto by two points, before edging the Giallorossi 1-0 in the Coppa Italia final.
Inter finished behind Barcelona in their Champions League group but were able to get past Chelsea and CSKA Moscow before an inevitable reunion with Barca in the semis. A Mourinho masterclass saw them deny Guardiola’s men at Camp Nou in the second leg – despite losing 1-0 – to advance 3-2 on aggregate, before a brace from Milito in the final against Bayern Munich in the Santiago Bernabeu sealed Inter’s first European Cup/Champions League crown since 1965.
Bayern Munich 2012-13
The Bavarians had been rattled in recent seasons, toppled by Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund on back-to-back occasions in the Bundesliga. They were determined to take their place back at the top of German football and managed to do the same in Europe.
The season started with eight straight wins for Jupp Heynckes’ team and ended with an incredibly comfortable title win as they took three points in all but one of their games after the mid-season winter break. Just one league defeat saw Bayern finish with 91 points, 25 ahead of second-placed Dortmund.
They faced a familiar foe at Wembley in the Champions League final after getting past Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona in the knockout stages. A back-and-forth final saw İlkay Gündoğan’s penalty equalise Mario Mandžukić’s opener, before an 89th-minute goal from Arjen Robben won it for Bayern. They went on to beat Stuttgart 3-2 in the DFB-Pokal final a week later to secure Germany’s first treble.
By this point, trebles were almost becoming a regular occurrence. However, Barca made history in this season by becoming the first team to do it twice. It was Luis Enrique’s first season in charge after leaving Celta Vigo, and it would prove a fruitful one.
With a front three of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez, it was little surprise Barca dominated. The trio scored 122 goals between them, with 58 of those coming from Messi. They were made to sweat by Real Madrid in La Liga, eventually pipping Los Blancos by two points despite amassing 94 overall.
After beating Athletic Club 3-1 in the Copa del Rey final, it was on to the Champions League showpiece, where Juventus awaited. A far from simple route of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern had been negotiated, and Ivan Rakitić gave them an early lead in Berlin against the Bianconeri. Álvaro Morata equalised in the 55th minute, but Suárez restored the lead and Neymar clinched it deep into stoppage time for Barca’s second treble.
Bayern Munich 2019-20
If you win a treble and no-one is around to see it, did it really happen? Yes, it did. There’s plenty of video evidence that Bayern won the league, cup and Champions League again in 2019-20 despite fans not being in attendance to see the trophies handed out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The other particularly odd thing about this very successful season was that it included Bayern sacking Niko Kovač due to underperformance in November. That proved an inspired move as his replacement, Hansi Flick, improved them almost immediately. Following a 2-1 loss at Borussia Monchengladbach on 7 December, Bayern won 19 and drew one of their final 20 Bundesliga games to win it by a distance.
Not thrown off by the two-month break at the start of the pandemic, Der Rekordmeister also picked up the DFB-Pokal after beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in the final, before they were part of what felt like a mini-tournament in Portugal to finish off the Champions League. Lisbon played host to the final three rounds, which included Bayern thrashing Barcelona 8-2 in the quarter-finals. A routine 3-0 win over Lyon sent them to the final against PSG, where Kingsley Coman scored the winner to make Bayern the second team to win two trebles.
In 2018-19, Manchester City became the first men’s team to win the domestic treble in England, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup. This is the one they want, though, and they are close to becoming the 10th team ever to achieve it. They have had famous days before, but this would surely eclipse all of them.
There is one first City can achieve should they join this illustrious list, with Guardiola on course to become the only manager to win a treble twice. United and Inter will be determined to stop that from happening, but as is always the case when it comes to stopping the best teams, that’s far easier said than done.
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