Which Country Has The Best Champions League Record?

Champions League TrophyThere has always been something odd about the naming of the Champions League, considering the fact that teams don’t need to be the champions of their own country in order to be part of it. When Liverpool won it in the 2004-2005 campaign, for example, they had finished fourth the season before and ended up in fifth place at the end of that season, only re-gaining entry into the competition on account of the fact that they won it. Even so, the tournament remains the biggest club competition in the world and teams that win it, whether champions of their own country or not, are worthy of their victory.

The very nature of the competition is such that football clubs from around Europe are desperate to win it. It is noteworthy that winning countries seem to come in waves, with some nations dominating for a period of time before others take over. Though it launched as the European Cup in 1955, it has been known as the Champions League since it rebranded in 1992, coinciding with the English top-flight’s rebrand as the Premier League. On this page, we’re looking very specifically at the competition post-1992, meaning that wins when it was the European Cup will be discarded.

Which Country Is the Champions League’s Most Successful?

Since the first Champions League final in 1993 until the 29th final in 2021, Spanish clubs have had the most trophies with 11, ahead of England with 6, Italy with 5 and Germany with 4.

Between the 1992-93 and 2021-22 seasons, Germany and Spain have had the most clubs to have participated in the competition from the group stage onwards with 13 different teams taking part from each. This is ahead of France with 11, England and Italy with 10 and the Netherlands and Russia with 7.

Germany has had highest number of different clubs reaching the knockout stages in this time period with 11 clubs. This is ahead of Spain with 10, England with 9 and Italy and France both with 8.

The Champions League Winners

In order to get a good sense of which nation has been the most successful in the Champions League, it is only right that we start off by looking specifically at the winners of the tournament. It is certainly fair to say that the teams that make the final of a tournament can be considered to be the best in it for that year, even if there is occasionally a team that makes it all the way in spite of their perceived ability rather than because of it. Here is a look at the two teams that made the final every year since the 1992-1993 season, alongside their country of origin:

List of Champions League Finalists – 1993 to 2021

Season Winner (Country) Runner-Up (Country)
2020-2021 Chelsea (England) Manchester City (England)
2019-2020 Bayern Munich (Germany) Paris Saint-Germain (France)
2018-2019 Liverpool (England) Tottenham Hotspur (England)
2017-2018 Real Madrid (Spain) Liverpool (England)
2016-2017 Real Madrid (Spain) Juventus (Italy)
2015-2016 Real Madrid (Spain) Atletico Madrid (Spain)
2014-2015 Barcelona (Spain) Juventus (Italy)
2013-2014 Real Madrid (Spain) Atletico Madrid (Spain)
2012-2013 Bayern Munich (Germany) Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
2011-2012 Chelsea (England) Bayern Munich (Germany)
2010-2011 Barcelona (Spain) Manchester United (England)
2009-2010 Inter Milan (Italy) Bayern Munich (Germany)
2008-2009 Barcelona (Spain) Manchester United (England)
2007-2008 Manchester United (England) Chelsea (England)
2006-2007 AC Milan (Italy) Liverpool (England)
2005-2006 Barcelona (Spain) Arsenal (England)
2004-2005 Liverpool (England) AC Milan (Italy)
2003-2004 Porto (Portugal) Monaco (France)
2002-2003 AC Milan (Italy) Juventus (Italy)
2001-2002 Real Madrid (Spain) Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
2000-2001 Bayern Munich (Germany) Valencia (>Spain)
1999-2000 Real Madrid (Spain) Valencia (Spain)
1998-1999 Manchester United (England) Bayern Munich (Germany)
1997-1998 Real Madrid (Spain) Juventus (Italy)
1996-1997 Borussia Dortmund (Germany) Juventus (Italy)
1995-1996 Juventus (Italy) Ajax (Netherlands)
1994-1995 Ajax (Netherlands) AC Milan (Italy)
1993-1994 AC Milan (Italy) Barcelona (Spain)
1992-1993 Marseille (France) AC Milan (Italy)

It is far to say that the word ‘Spain’ crops up time and time again in the above list, but does that automatically mean that the Spanish have enjoyed the most success since the Champions League launch? Here’s a look at each of the countries and the number of times that they’ve had either the winner of the competition or else the runner-up:

Chart That Shows the Champions League Finalists by Country Between 1993 and 2021

If you were to implement a system whereby a Champions League win would mean the country gets two points whilst a team finishing as runners-up in the competition would result in the country they represent being awarded one point, the following would be the amount of points amassed by each country that has had at least one finalist:

Most Successful Countries – 1993 to 2021

Country Winners (2pts) Runners-Up (1pt) Total Points
Spain 22 points 5 points 27 points
England 12 points 8 points 20 points
Italy 10 points 8 points 18 points
Germany 8 points 5 points 13 points
France 2 points 2 points 4 points
Netherlands 2 points 1 point 3 points
Portugal 2 points 0 points 2 points

Spain are obviously the biggest winners of the Champions League since its launch in 1992, with England and then Italy following it up. It is more likely that England will catch Spain up before Italy, given that there have been five English finalists and two winners since Italy last had a representative in the final, plus three English winners since an Italian team last won the trophy.

Clubs Playing in the Champions League Proper

Since the Champions League launched in 1992, 146 different football clubs from across 34 nations have appeared in the group stage of the competition. The obvious question is which nations and how many clubs have played Champions League football? Here’s a look at answering exactly that question, with the information being up-to-date as of the 2021-2022 campaign:

Chart that Shows Which Country Has Had the Most Champions League Clubs Between the 1992-93 and 2021-22 Seasons

It is difficult to tell how important making it to the group stage of the Champions League is when you consider that some clubs have a high enough co-efficient to mean that a given number of teams will always qualify for that state of the competition. Is the fact that Scotland have only had two teams in the group stage of the tournament and both of them have qualified for the knockout stage worth more than Slovakia having three teams in the groups but have never seen any of them make it through to the knockouts?

If we take our formula from before but tweak it slightly, so that teams that make it the knockout stage of the competition are awarded two points whilst those that only ever make it to the group stage are awarded one, that will perhaps give us a better sense of a nation’s strength in the competition. The information then breaks down as follows:

Champions League Clubs by Country – 1992-93 to 2021-22

Country Group Stage Only (1pt) Knockout Stage (2pts) Total Points
Germany 2 points 22 points 24 points
Spain 3 points 20 points 23 points
England 1 point 18 points 19 points
France 3 points 16 points 19 points
Italy 2 points 16 points 18 points
Russia 3 points 8 points 11 points
Netherlands 4 points 6 points 10 points
Portugal 1 point 8 points 9 points
Turkey 3 points 6 points 9 points
Belgium 4 points 4 points 8 points
Austria 2 points 4 points 6 points
Denmark 4 points 2 points 6 points
Switzerland 4 points 2 points 6 points
Greece 1 point 4 points 5 points
Sweden 3 points 2 points 5 points
Scotland 0 points 4 points 4 points
Ukraine 0 points 4 points 4 points
Czech Republic 2 points 2 points 4 points
Romania 4 points 0 points 4 points
Croatia 1 point 2 points 3 points
Cyprus 1 point 2 points 3 points
Norway 1 point 2 points 3 points
Poland 1 point 2 points 3 points
Israel 3 points 0 points 3 points
Slovakia 3 points 0 points 3 points
Bulgaria 2 points 0 points 2 points
Hungary 2 points 0 points 2 points
Serbia 2 points 0 points 2 points
Azerbaijan 1 point 0 points 1 point
Belarus 1 point 0 points 1 point
Finland 1 point 0 points 1 point
Kazakhstan 1 point 0 points 1 point
Moldova 1 point 0 points 1 point
Slovenia 1 point 0 points 1 point

It is interesting to see that, if you give more weight to making it into the knockout rounds than simply getting to the group stage, Germany have been more successful than Spain. There are also some instance where a nation that has had fewer teams make it to the group stage overall ends up with more points than countries that have had more competitors but fewer knockout stage appearances.

Which Country Has the Best Overall Record?

It is obviously difficult to make an clear and obvious statements about the Champions League and the success of the countries that have had clubs appearing in it over the years. As a result, what we’ll do is look to combine the points won in our two systems to see which nations have achieved the most over the years. With winning the Champions League being worth two points along with making it to the knockout stages and being a losing finalist and simply making it the group stage both worth one, here’s how the seven most successful countries work out:

Champions League Top Ranked Countries

Rank Country Finalist Points Participant Points Total Points
1 Spain 27 points 23 points 50 points
2 England 20 points 19 points 39 points
3 Germany 13 points 24 points 37 points
4 Italy 18 points 18 points 36 points
5 France 4 points 19 points 23 points
6 Netherlands 3 points 10 point 13 points
7 Portugal 2 points 9 points 11 points

Using this combined points-scoring metric, Spain is definitively the country with the best Champions League record. Interestingly, Germany overtakes Italy in terms of combined points, with Italy having been leading Germany in terms of Champions League finals reached and won. If you ask someone to name the most successful European countries, they will almost certainly put France at the bottom of the ‘big five’, which ties with the country’s success in the Champions League since its rebrand in 1992.