National success in Europe tends to happen in clusters
Wise words from the soccer boffin
Liverpool were Champions League runners-up last season and now there could be more English finalists. Successes for a country in the Champions League and European Cup have tended to cluster.
A country was more likely to be represented in the next final if it had been represented in the previous final than if it had not.
There was at least one English team in seven of the eight Champions League finals between 2005 and 2013 and in nine of the 11 European Cup finals between 1975 and 1985. The European Cup evolved into the Champions League in 1992.
Only three other times in the history of the competitions has there been an English finalist: Liverpool last season and Manchester United in 1999 and 1968.
Liverpool lost to Real Madrid. There was at least one Spanish team in the last five finals, from 2014 to 2018. There was also a Spanish team in the first seven finals, between 1956 and 1962.
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Real Madrid was the commonest Spanish name in both clusters of success but there were others. A country can enjoy a run of finalists either because of one pre-eminent team or because of two or more teams going through golden spells together.
Sir Alex Ferguson, four times a Champions League finalist as manager of Manchester United, has said: “Success is cyclical. At the moment, the cycle is with the Spanish teams. They’re the best, and that’s why they’re winning. But that will change.”
There was an Italian team in all seven finals between 1992 and 1998 and in seven of the 11 finals between 1963 and 1973. There was at least one German finalist in three of the four years from 2010 to 2012, in four of the six years between 1997 and 2002 and in seven of the ten years from 1974 to 1983. Outside of those periods there have been just two German finalists.
Spain, Italy, England and Germany are the most successful countries in the Champions League and European Cup. There have been 29 finalists from Spain, 28 from Italy, 20 from England and 17 from Germany. Together they have provided three-quarters of all finalists.
And each of those countries has been more likely to provide a finalist if it was also represented in the previous final than if it was not.
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