How Has Power Shifted in European Football During the Champions League Era?

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How Has Power Shifted in European Football During the Champions League Era?
Grazia Neri/Getty Images

So much of football is cyclical.

Fortunes ride on the visions of decision-makers who are easily discarded for new decision-makers. And then there are the political and economical factors that eventually come to bear on a nation’s clubs.

Since the establishment of the European Cup, there has been a subtly traceable balance of power. It began in Spain with the Real Madrid teams of Di Stefano and Puskas (the two once combined to score seven goals in a final) and wound its way to Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan—the last side to have lifted “Old Big-Ears” in back-to-back seasons.

That was back in 1989 and 1990.

Two years after Milan's second straight triumph (fourth in club history), the Champions League came into being. That power balance, which had also found its way through the Netherlands, Germany and England, became somewhat more indistinguishable.

But that’s not to say there hasn’t been one—that the biggest clubs from a certain country haven’t been tipped for Europe’s most prestigious honour at the outset of the tournament a few years in succession.

Since the establishment of the Champions League, the continent’s power has resided in three countries over four eras. And with Saturday’s all-German affair, it's set to enter a fifth.

We’ll examine those eras over the next few slides and attempt to chart how European football’s balance of power has shifted in the last 20 years.

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