How the Mighty Have Fallen: The Decline of 10 Untouchable Football Clubs
When your favorite club is on top of the world things are great as wins and Championship hardware begin to pile up.
However, many times just as quickly as good fortune can come to your side, things can come crashing down just as quickly.
It could be an economic collapse of the clubs corporate ownership, bad decisions made by management off the field, and even the downfall of political structures, that could send mighty clubs crashing.
The following ten clubs were once some of the strongest in their respective domestic leagues, and major players in European football, yet now find themselves struggling.
10. Paris Saint-Germain
Club Honors: 1996 Cup Winners Cup Champions, 2 French Ligue One Championships, 7 French Cup Titles.
Star Players: George Weah, Ronaldhino, Youri Djorkaeff, Nicolas Anelka
Current Fate: French Ligue One.
The Story: It might be a bit unfair to include PSG on this list given that they have never dropped out of Ligue One.
However, it is important to note that as little as four years ago PSG were major players in European football, and now are content with barely squeaking out a UEFA Cup bid.
PSG began as a club born of a split when the Paris city council in the 1970's demanded that Paris-San Germain disband and most of the top flight players competed in Ligue One as Paris F.C.
The remaining players played as Saint Germain and quickly were promoted to Ligue One as Paris F.C were relegated to Ligue Two, since that time Saint Germain has been known again as Paris-Saint Germain.
The side had some moderate success, then in 1991 were purchased by French television giants Canal + with the goal to supplant Marseille as the top club in France.
Canal + put millions into making PSG a premier team in Europe and results quickly followed winning Ligue One in 1994, claiming 4 French Cup trophies, and success in Europe winning the 1996 UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
During the Canal + era PSG signed some of the top players both domestically and internationally claiming stars like Djorkaeef, Anelka, Ginola, Ronaldhino, Okocha, and the great Liberian goal scorer George Weah.
The Downfall: In 2006 Canal + sold the club to a consortium of investors including American investment bank Morgan Stanley.
Almost from the day Canal + sold the club their fortunes began to change and by 2008 the club found itself in 15th place in Ligue One barely avoiding relegation and not appearing in a European competition for the first time in over 15 years.
While the team has bounced back and should qualify for the UEFA Cup in 2009-10, the future of Morgan Stanley and the U.S. banking collapse might lead to an uncertain future for PSG.
9. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Club Honors: 3 English First Division Championships, 4 F.A Cup Titles, 1972 UEFA Cup Runner-Up
Star Players: Billy Wright and Bert Williams
Current Fate: Coca-Cola Championship (second tier)
The Story: If you ever want to win a bet with a soccer/football fan ask them to name the four winningest teams in English football history.
Likely they will easily name Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal, however the fourth name will always stump them.
Wolves will also win you an additional bet when the question is posed as to which English club has scored the most goals in the history of association football.
In fact in the first half of the 20th century Wolves were the premier club team in England and remained so well into the 1950's under the leadership of legendary manager Stan Cullis.
Cullis led Wolves to 3 First Division titles, 2 F.A Cup titles, were First Division runners-up twice; while play an exciting brand of football.
The side returned to form in the mid 1970's as they won two League Cup titles, and were the runner-up to Tottenham in the 1972 UEFA Cup Finals.
However, over the past quarter century the once respective Wolves have spent only one season in English football's top flight.
The Downfall: In the early 1980's Wolves owners the Bhatti brothers, had managed to bankrupt the club leading to an amazing three straight relegations in three years, taking Wolves from the highest level of English football to the fourth tier.
It took a special resolution by the city counsel of Wolverhampton to save the club, which by 1997 were in the Fourth Division and were playing in a stadium that had been condemned.
Since that time the financial situation has been stabilized and Wolves have been mainstays in the second tier of English football,
The will be promoted again to the Premier League for the 2009-10 season.
Club Honors: 1993 UEFA Cup Winners Cup and Super Cup Champions, 1995 and 1999 UEFA Cup Champions, 3 time Italian Cup Champions
Star Players: Hernan Crespo, Gianluigi Buffon, Junior, Hristo Stoichkov, Thomas Brolin.
Current Fate: Serie B (second tier)
The Story: Parma were one of those clubs that never should have failed, and if not for actions taken in a corporate office, probably never would have.
Until the early 1990's Parma were never a major player in Italian football playing elevator football between Serie A, B, C, and D over their history.
However, in the late 1980's Parma was primarily bought by and sponsored by the family who owned Italian dairy Parmalat.
As Parmalat began to be a bigger player in the European financial markets, Parma F.C became a bigger player in the European soccer markets.
Flush with cash, Parma began buying players wisely in the same manner as the glamor clubs from Rome, Turin, and Milan.
While never winning Serie A, Parma were always heavyweights with teams designed to win at the European level and if the 90's were a golden age of club football in Italy, Parma was one of it's major players.
Two UEFA Cup championships, a UEFA Cup Winners Cup title, and a 1993 European Super Cup title were just the tip of the iceberg for a club that came out of nowhere to suddenly challenge the oligarchy of Juventus and the Milan Clubs.
Parma's level of success continued as recent as five years ago when the side finished fifth in Serie A, and made the UEFA Cup Semifinals.
The Downfall: For every American that can tell you about the down fall of Enron, a European can tell you about the downfall of Parmalat.
Fiscal mismanagement, corporate greed, scandal, corruption, and illegality brought down the dairy giant and without their leading benefactors Parma began selling off players they were no longer able to pay.
Above the obvious problem concerning a lack of financial resources, Parma in part also became a victim of their own greed.
During their glory days of the 1990's and early 2000's Parma never developed players at the youth level because they never needed to, and without the millions needed to buy the Faustino Asprilla and Hristo Stoichkov's of the football world, they were left with nothing.
7. Dynamo Dresden
Club Honors: 9 East German First Division Championships, 7 East German Cup Titles, 1989 UEFA Cup Semifinalists.
Star Players: Reinhard Hofner and Hans-Jergen Kreische
Current Fate: German Third Liga (third tier)
The Story: No club has a more fascinating history than Dynamo Dresden which is in reality two clubs born in East Germany of the post war era.
The original Dynamo Dresden were born in one of the most war torn cities in East Germany in 1950 and quickly became one of the most dominant teams in the new East German Bundesliga.
However, four years later the head of the Stassi (the East German secret police) was upset that Dresden had a number of teams in the East German first division, but none from Berlin.
The answer was move Dynamo Dresden to Berlin and rename the side Dynamo Berlin.
The remaining reserves and youth players regrouped and within 8 years was playing in the nation's top division again, where over the next 40 years they would claim 7 domestic titles and 6 league cup championships.
This is even more impressive considering for nearly a decade matches and tournament draws were routinely fixed in favor of the Stassi side Dynamo Berlin.
The Downfall: German reunification has not been kind to the former East Germany economically or politically and football has been no different.
Dynamo Dresden was better positioned to make the move to a unified Bundesliga than many of their fellow East German sides, however they did not have the financial resources to compete with the former West German sides.
Problems on the field and financial mismanagement and fraud saw Dresden drop as low as the fourth tier of German football, before earning promotion to the Third Division this season.
6. Stade Reims
Club Honors: 6 French Ligue One Championships, 2 French Cup Titles, 1956 and 1959 European Cup Runner-Up.
Star Players: Just Fontaine, Raymond Kopa, Michel Hidalago
Current Fate: French Ligue Two (second tier)
The Story: French football has had three golden era's, the first being the Zidane era of the late 90's and 2000's; the second was the Platini era of the 1980's, but the first was the 1950's.
No side dominated France during that time more than Stade Reims and their dymanic duo of Just Fontaine and Raymond Kopa.
Fontaine was the premier goal scorer of his era and possibly the world's second best player behind Pele, and Kopa was the visionary midfielder who consistently set up his goal scoring partner.
As the cornerstone of Stade Remis, the duo almost singlehandedly led the club to success not only in France (where the side claimed the league title 5 times in 8 years), but also in Europe where Remis twice were runner-up to Real Madrid in the European Cup.
The Downfall: Remis were among the top teams in Europe with their outstanding duo of Fontaine and Kopa, however when their two stars (along with manager Albert Batteux) left Remis, things began to go south.
Remis has spent the past 40 years playing "elevator football" going from the first-to-second-to-third-to-second-to-third-to second divisions of French football.
At this time supporters of Stadium Remis would just settle for a consistent Ligue One club, much less a side that would contend for European Championships.
5. Nottingham Forest
Club Honors: 1979 and 1980 European Cup Champions, 1978 English First Division Champions, 2 F.A Cup Championships.
Star Players: Peter Shilton, Viv Anderson, and Stuart Pearce.
Current Fate: Coca-Cola Championship (second tier).
The Story: It's hard to believe that less that thirty years ago Nottingham Forest were the premier team in Europe, and one of the top elite tier teams in England for over two decades.
While Forest had some success in the 90's under Frank Clark they were truly great under the leadership of football's mad genius Brian Clough.
For American's reading this Clough was English soccer's answer to Billy Martin. Outspoken, quick tempered, off center, a tactical genius, who was also an alcoholic.
Despite his demons Clough led Nottingham to 2 European Cup Championships, an English First Division title, 2 F.A Cup titles, and 4 League Cup crowns.
Forest never had the most talent in English football are certainly didn't have the best talent in Europe however, through Clough's mad genius they were always feared and respected both domestically and throughout the continent.
The Downfall: It would be easy to say Forest's downfall was related to Clough's retirement, however the side were relegated during his final season in charge.
Nottingham Forest fell not because of poor finances or geo-politics, but rather stupid decision-making from the club's directors.
The perfect example centers around the ultra popular Stuart Pearce who was apointed as a care taker manager/player when Dave Clark was fired, yet was not retained because he was felt to "lack experience."
However, less than four years later the same directors gave the job to 33-year old David Platt who's primary coaching accomplishment to that point had been leading Italian side Saphdoria to relegation.
Over the last 13 years Forest have had 12 managers and also have never seen the Premiership.
4. FC Magdeburg
Club Honors: 1974 Cup Winners Cup Champions, 3 East German First Division Champions, 7 East German Cup Championships
Star Players: Jurgen Sparwasser and Martin Hoffman
Current Fate: Regionalliga Nord (Regional League, German football fourth tier).
The Story: For over a quarter century FC Magdeburg were one of the premier sides in Communist Eastern Europe.
Under manager Heinz Krugel Magdeburg became not only one of the best sides in East Germany but also a club that competed regularly with the top clubs in Europe.
In 1974 the club beat Italian power A.C Milan 2-0 to claim the European Cup Winners Cup, and later that year produced nearly half the East German team that would beat eventual champions West Germany in the World Cup.
While the club lost some of their luster during the 1980's they were still competitive, continuing to be a fixture in the UEFA Cup throughout the decade.
However, the 1990 season would be the last where FC Magdeburg would compete in a first division in Germany.
The Downfall: Like Dynamo Dresden, Magdeburg were a victim of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
German football reunification saw Magdeburg fall to the nation's third flight, as the economic realities of football in a capitalistic system resulted in the loss of key players to former West German professional clubs.
After nearly two decades of futility FC Magdeburg, the former Champions of Europe, now find themselves playing in a small regional league in the fourth tier of German football.
Club Honors: 28 Hungarian First Division Championships, 20 Hungarian Cup Titles, 1965 Inter-City Fairs Champions, 1975 Cup Winners Cup Runner-Up.
Star Players: Sandor Kocsis and Florian Albert
Current Fate: Hungarian Second Division
The Story: Few sides have had as much domestic success as the Hungarian club Ferencvaros.
The club won 28 Hungarian First Division Championships and 20 domestic cup championships a record that is nearly unmatched in international football.
Ferencvaros were the home club of two of the best European strikers of the 20th century, Led in the post-World War II era by legendary Sandor Kocsis, and in the 1960's by Florian Albert, the greatest Eastern bloc football player.
Unlike many of the other clubs on this list Ferencvaros, were viable well into the 2000's, regularly competing in Europe before off the field issues brought the club down.
The Downfall: Ferencvaros has not fallen nearly as hard as their former Eastern Bloc sides from Germany, however they are certainly no longer an elite club at the European level anymore.
With the fall of communism clubs like Ferencvaros could no long afford to keep players like Albert and Kocsis at little or no wages, and the increased competition from western European and Italian clubs proved to be the club's downfall.
However, the final blow to the clubs top tier status in their own nation was not because of a lack of results on the field, but rather because the side could not pay their league assessment fees at the end of the 2008 season and were relegated for business and financial reasons.
2. New York Cosmos
Club Honors: Four time North American Soccer League Champions.
Star Players: Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Neeskens, Pele.
Current Fate: Defunct since 1985.
The Story: For those who hate the level of corporate ownership and involvement in big money clubs today, blame one man, Steve Ross.
Ross was the Chairman of Warner Communications and was the world's first true multi-media tycoon who just happened to be friends and business associates with two fellow millionares named Ahmet and Neshui Ertegun.
The Ertegun brothers were Turkish nationals who spread their love of the world's game to Ross whom it infected like a virus.
Soon enough Ross was willing to throw all the resources of his vast Warner empire at acquiring the best talent in the world and at one time had the best attacking player (Pele) and the best defender (Beckenbauer) to ever live on his squad.
The first true mega-club, the Cosmos dominated soccer in the U.S, filled 70,000 seat stadiums, and were bigger in New York City than baseball's Yankees in the late 70's.
The Downfall: Warner Communications look on massive losses in the early 80's during the U.S recession, and were forced to scale back their corporate based spending on soccer to keep the company afloat.
Coupled with the ultimate demise of the North American Soccer League the Cosmos experiment might have failed, but it planted the seed that everybody from Chelsea to Real Madrid would follow in the future.
1. Leeds United
Club Honors: Three English First Division Titles, 1972 F.A Cup Champions, 2 Inter-City Fair's Championships, 1975 European Cup Finalists, 2001 Champions League Semifinalists.
Star Players: John Charles, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Gordon Strachan, Eric Cantona, Rio Ferdinand.
The Story: For much of their history Leeds United were as common a presence in the highest level of English football as Arsenal or Liverpool.
Current Fate: English League One (third tier)
When legendary manager Don Revie was appointed in 1961 Leeds had a run of success over the next 15 years that were unmatched by many clubs, and for a 10 year period his side never finished out of the top four in the English First Division.
European success and domestic success were part of Leeds United's history well into the early 1980's.
After some minor setbacks in the early part of the 80's, under the leadership of managers Howard Wilkinson, George Graham, and David O'Leary; Leeds once again became one of the top clubs in English Football.
Once again at the top part of the table and with a 2001 UEFA Champions League semifinal finish. Leeds United's future looked bright heading into the 2000's.
The Downfall: Given the consistant success of the club since the late 80's and the sides play in 2001, chairman Peter Ridsdale took out a loan against future revenues the team expected to make in the 2002 Champions League.
The only problem was that Leeds didn't qualify for the 2002 Champions League and deeply in debt Ridsdale was forced not only to sell off Leeds top players but their stadium as well.
In 2004 Leeds was relegated to the Coca-Cola Championship and in 2007 the team went bankrupt and was relegated to English football's third tier league.