Which League Performs Best In The Champions League?


Which football league has performed best in the Champions League? Today on the blog Barrie takes a look at how the clubs from each league have performed and makes the claim that the Premier League is the best football league in the football.


Manchester City were shown up by an Ajax side consisting mainly of products from their infamous youth academy last week, Chelsea were beaten in Ukraine and Arsenal were outplayed on their own soil by a German side. Was this a sign that the English Premier League is not as our media would have us believe? Or just a bad week in Europe for England's top 4 sides?

There has certainly been a number of people in the media and fans on social media making claims that La Liga is the best league in Europe in recent seasons, mainly down to Barcelona's dominance and Jose Mourinho's move to Real Madrid. Of course, Athletic Bilbao convincing eliminating Manchester United in the Europa League backed these stakes up further. As of this season, the Spanish La Liga overtook the English Premier League to rank number 1 in the UEFA coefficient.

Why the Premier League is the best football league in the world

Being a pro-Premier League fan myself (although I do watch more than my fair share of La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A games as well as the occasional Portugese Primeira Liga and Dutch Eredivisie games) I'm of course going to say England has the best football league in the world. And I'm going to back it up with some figures.

Looking back at the Champions League for the past 10 seasons, it has been dominated by what were the 3 strongest leagues in Europe, prior to the German Bundesliga moving above the Italian Serie A in the UEFA coefficient at the start of the season. The trophies have been shared equally amongst those leagues with each league having 3 winners over the past 10 seasons, with FC Porto of the Portuguese Primeira Liga winning the other one.


During this period the Premier League can boast 3 different winners; Liverpool in 2004/05, Manchester United in 2007/08 and Chelsea the reigning holders. AC Milan have won it twice for Serie A (2002/03 and 2006/07) whilst La Liga has relied on Barcelona to win all 3. Interestingly, Barcelona beat an English side in all 3 finals. La Liga has not had another finalist during the past 10 seasons.

Real Madrid have been semi-finalists in 3 of these 10 seasons, whilst La Liga can also boast Deportivo La Coruna and Villarreal reaching the final four during this time. Interestingly, both of these sides have experienced relegation from La Liga since.

As well as winning the competition twice in the last decade, AC Milan have also been losing finalists in between. Their victory in 2002/03 came against fellow Italian side Juventus, meaning Serie A has produced 3 Champions League finalists.

As well as the most winners, the Premier League tops the number of finalists, with Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all reaching the final. In fact, all four were runners-up in consecutive years and only Arsenal of those four have not won the trophy in the last ten years, or ever.

Need I praise the Premier League any more?

England's top flight has had more teams qualify for the group stage, second round, quarter-finals and semi-finals than any other league in the past 10 years, as well as the most finalists and joint-most winners. That is dominance.

The Premier League has been denied on 3 occasions by Barcelona in the final. The first being their controversial 2-1 victory over Arsenal in which Jens Lehmann was sent off in the 18th minute with referee Terje Hauge admitting after the game he “regretted” sending the German goalkeeper off. Mr Hauge had controversially sent Asier Del Horno off for Chelsea in a second round match against Barcelona that season. The fourth official for that final was Tom Øvrebø, who 3 years later was involved in Barcelona's controversial victory over Chelsea in the semi-final. All this makes the pessimist think that Ole Hermann Borgan isn't the only Norwegian official who own's a Barcelona shirt. Barcelona however were deserved winners in both their finals against Manchester United.


Outside of the big three, Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga have been runners-up twice during this timeframe, and FC Porto beat French Ligue 1 side AS Monaco in the 2003/04 final. Therefore the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A have produced 16 of the last 20 Champions League finalists and 9 of the last 10 winners. Gone are the days of the 1990s when a side from Yugoslavia (Red Star Belgrade), France (Marseille), the Netherlands (Ajax) and Germany (Borussia Dortmund) won it.

Another interesting table is how English sides have fared against their foreign opponents in the Champions League (and on occasions, against each other). Below shows how they have performed in each stage of the tournament versus these leagues:


*2002/03 and 2003/04 seasons had 2nd round group stages - the aggregate scores have been compiled into Win/Loss. Away goals used to determine results where necessary and Manchester United-Deportivo La Coruna from 2002/03 has been excluded as both sides won their home game 2-0.

Austria, Belarus, Croatia and Serbia & Montenegro have all had sides in the competition during this 10 year span, but none of these came up against English opposition. The 4 draws in the Group Stage against English sides represents Chelsea's two draws versus Liverpool and Liverpool's two draws versus Chelsea in the 2005/06 season when Liverpool as defending champions were given special permission to enter the tournament having failed to finish in the top 4 of their own domestic league, making them eligible to face another English side in the group stage.

Overall the table shows a great deal of dominance from English sides, and particularly highlights their superiority in the knock out stages against sides outside of Spain and Italy.

Which league is the best in the world? Which league performs best in the Champions League? Perhaps these are rhetorical questions and the debate will roll on. But as these statistics show, the English Premier League has an edge over its rivals right now.



Follow Barrie on Twitter: @BarriesView

And read more of his work at BarriesView.com

Premier League blogger, statistician and fan.