Reaching glory in the UEFA Champions League is every footballer’s ultimate ambition; however, achieving it requires hard work, tremendous talent and some good fortune along with hard work. But what happens when that luck deserts you? For some teams, it results in heart-shattering defeats that leave a lasting mark on the club’s history.
In this article, we delve into the history books and unveil the five most unlucky sides in Champions League history.
Juventus: The Unwanted Record Holders
Juventus, the Old Lady of Italian football, boasts an impressive trophy cabinet, but they also hold an unwanted record. They’ve lost the most Champions League finals of any team in history, a staggering seven times. Gigi Buffon, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, suffered three of these final defeats. Despite their undeniable quality, since their last triumph in 1996, Juventus has been unable to secure the coveted European title.
Valencia’s Consecutive Heartbreaks
Valencia experienced heartbreak early in their 2000s Champions League careers when they reached two consecutive finals, first losing to Real Madrid before falling short against Bayern Munich again despite showing promise and even leading for some time during that second final before succumbing to penalty shootout heartache.
Arsenal’s Missed Opportunity
Before becoming synonymous with finishing fourth or lower in the Premier League, Arsenal, led by Arsène Wenger, was a formidable European force. In the 2005/06 season, they reached the Champions League final but faced disappointment against Barcelona. An offside goal by Eto’o left Arsenal and their fans feeling incredibly unlucky. Wenger later mused that if VAR existed back then, the outcome might have been different.
Atletico Madrid’s Suffering
Atletico Madrid under the leadership of Diego Simeone has experienced heartache over recent years. They met archrival Real Madrid twice in two Champions League finals and lost heartbreakingly both times; Sergio Ramos’ late equalizer and penalty shootout loss proved particularly disappointing and helped set Real Madrid on their historic run of four additional Champions League victories.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Tragic Tale
Bayer Leverkusen’s nickname of “Neverkusen” encapsulates their tragic 2001/02 season: They gave away five-point leads in both Bundesliga and cup competitions before finishing as runners-up three consecutive years, losing their domestic cup final against Real Madrid due to Zinedine Zidane’s iconic volley, before succumbing to Real Madrid again and facing Zinedine Zidane’s famous volley in the Champions League final against them – not forgetting Michael Ballack who suffered defeat both with Leverkusen as well as Germany national teams during that season.
Honorable Mention: Benfica’s Guttman Curse
No discussion of unlucky sides would be complete without mentioning Bela Guttman’s curse on Benfica. After being let go by the club, Guttman famously cursed Benfica, predicting they would not win the European title for a century. Since then, Benfica has lost eight finals, leaving fans pondering whether it’s bad luck or the lingering effects of Guttman’s curse.
In the unpredictable world of football, luck can be a fickle companion. These five teams and Benfica have faced their fair share of misfortune in the Champions League, leaving fans to contemplate what might have been. While their journeys have been marked by heartbreak, they also exemplify the resilience and determination that define the beautiful game.