Best football seasons: What are top global clubs’ greatest-ever years for trophies?
- Updated: April 7, 2020
The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool have been sweeping up titles for decades but what is each club’s greatest season?
In recent seasons, it has become more and more common to see the biggest clubs winning multiple titles every season.
The gap between the haves and have-nots is growing, and lifting one piece of silverware a year is no longer enough to even guarantee a manager they will keep their job.
Throughout history, the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool have all been totally dominant of their leagues at different times.
The greatest club side in history is an impossible title to bestow – but what was each club’s greatest ever season?
AC Milan – 1993-94
AC Milan’s treble in 1993-94 was one of the more remarkable seasons in club football history.
Under Fabio Capello, Milan won Serie A by three points to second-placed Juventus, despite only scoring 36 goals in 34 league games. Only four teams scored fewer, and two of those were relegated.
However, a defense built around Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi proved near-impassable, while the handbrake came off in Europe.
Milan put six past Copenhagen and three apiece past Porto and Monaco on their way to the final, against Barcelona’s ‘dream team’ led by Johan Cruyff.
Romario, Stoichkov, Koeman and Guardiola were swept aside 4-0, with Milan wrapping the game up within 60 minutes.
Capello’s side also won the Supercoppa Italiana that season, but were beaten in the European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup.
Ajax – 1971-72
Ajax became only the second European team to win a continental treble in 1971-72, winning the Eredivisie, KNVB Cup and European Cup.
An iconic squad featuring Johans Cruyff and Neeskens, Arnold Muhren and Johnny Rep and managed by Stefan Kovacs were beaten just once in the league, scoring 104 goals in 34 Eredivisie games and finishing with a 12-1 thrashing of Vitesse on a triumphant final day.
A 3-2 win over FC Den Haag secured the KNVB Cup in the home stadium of rivals Feyenoord while Dynamo Dresden, Marseille, Arsenal and Benfica were dispatched on the way to the European Cup – also at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium.
Cruyff scored twice in a 2-0 win over Inter in the final, taking his own tally for the season to 30 and securing the second of three consecutive European crowns.
Arsenal – 2003-04
Arsenal may have only won one trophy in 2003-04, but their Invincibles season in the Premier League is a unique achievement unlikely to be matched in the Premier League.
Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira – the Gunners’ squad reads as a list of English footballing legends, and 03-04 marked the apex of Arsene Wenger’s managerial career.
Arsenal were, however, beaten in the semi-finals of the domestic cups by Manchester United and Middlesbrough, in the Community Shield by United, and knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Chelsea.
Wenger’s first season brought a league and FA Cup double, Arsenal’s first, but the Invincibles season was without doubt the greatest in the club’s history.
Atletico Madrid – 1995-96
Atletico Madrid may have been transformed in the modern era by Diego Simeone, but he didn’t build them out of nowhere.
Their greatest season arguably came in 1995-96 under Radomir Antic, as they claimed a La Liga and Copa del Rey double – with Simeone a key member of the squad.
Atletico finished four points clear of Barcelona in second, while neighbours Real struggled to sixth place, missing out on European qualification completely despite actually winning both Madrid derbies.
A thrilling 6-5 aggregate win over Valencia in the Copa del Rey semi-finals sent Antic’s side to the final where they claimed a 1-0 extra-time victory over Barca.
Atletico wouldn’t win the Spanish title again until 2013-14 – when Simeone’s side became the first team outside the El Clasico duopoly to win the league in 10 years.
Barcelona – 2008-09
When Pep Guardiola was moved up from his post as manager of Barcelona B in 2008, few could have expected that arguably the greatest season in European football history would follow.
Barca swept all before them, redefining expectations on how football could be played and how much a single team could dominate.
Guardiola’s side passed their way around Athletic Bilbao to lift the Copa del Rey in May, before clinching the league title three days later and dispatching Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United – the Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez vintage – 2-0 in the Champions League final.
A historic treble wasn’t enough for this historic side. As the next season kicked into life, they also took home the Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, completing a scarcely believable haul of six trophies in a calendar year.
Barca won another trio of trophies in 2014-15, the ‘MSN’ squad tearing teams apart around Spain and Europe, but Guardiola’s La Masia-reared treble remains their highest point.
Bayern Munich – 2013-14
Bayern Munich’s 2013-14 side was among the greatest ever seen in German football, breaking dozens of records on their way to a quadruple of Bundesliga, Champions League, DFB-Pokal and DFL-Supercup glory.
Jupp Heynckes’ side won the league by 25 points (a new record), won 91 points (a new record), won the title after just 28 games (a new record), won 29 of their 34 games (a new record) and scored in every league game, which had only been done once before.
Bayern didn’t have it easy in the cups, either. They beat Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final, the DFL-Supercup and on the way to their cup final win over Stuttgart.
Most satisfying was the Champions League win. Arjen Robben scored in the dying seconds at Wembley to cement Bayern’s status as the best team in the world and exorcise the ghosts of their final defeat on home soil to Chelsea two years previous.
Benfica – 1960-61
Benfica won a domestic treble in 2013-14, but their greatest accomplishment was their back-to-back European Cups in 1961 and 1962 under legendary manager Bela Guttmann.
The first of those came as part of a league and European Cup double, forward Jose Aguas scoring 43 goals in all competitions as Eusebio barely featured in his first season at the club.
Benfica began the league season with 12 wins from 13 games, and they beat Sporting Lisbon to the title by four points with just two defeats all year.
They were shocked 5-4 over two legs by Vitoria de Setubal in the Taca de Portugal, but made amends with a surprise win of their own against favourites Barcelona in the European Cup final.
Hungarian icon Guttmann got the better of an iconic trio of fellow countrymen in Laszlo Kubala, Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor as Benfica prevailed 3-2, before repeating the trick against Real Madrid with a 5-3 win the following season – despite a hat-trick from Madrid and Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas.
Borussia Dortmund – 2011-12
Borussia Dortmund’s greatest achievement may have been their Champions League win in 1996-97, but their 2011-12 domestic double under Jurgen Klopp is unmatched in terms of domestic dominance.
It couldn’t have started much worse, Dortmund beaten on penalties in the DFL-Supercup by Revierderby rivals Schalke, and they took just seven points from their first six games in the Bundesliga.
But after a defeat to Hannover on September 11, they didn’t lose another domestic game.
Dortmund, spearheaded by 30-goal Robert Lewandowski, scored for fun, setting a new Bundesliga points record with 81 from 34 games and thrashing Bayern 5-2 in the DFB-Pokal final with a Lewandowski hat-trick.
Their poor start to the season cost them in Europe – they finished bottom of their Champions League group – but once that early inconsistency was out of their system, they never looked back.
Celtic – 1966-67
Domestic trebles have been relatively easy to come by for Celtic in recent years, but none will rival the European treble they won in 1966-67.
Led by the legendary Jock Stein, Celtic won every competition they entered – not just the league, Champions League and Scottish Cup, but also lifting the Scottish League Cup and Glasgow Cup, scoring 196 goals across all five tournaments.
The Scottish Cup final win over Rangers was sweet, but Celtic’s peak came on May 25, 1967 as the ‘Lisbon Lions’ got their name, beating Inter 2-1 in Portugal to lift the European Cup.
Chelsea – 2009-10
Chelsea’s finest day might have come in Munich in 2012, but their Champions League-winning season was one of inconsistency and upheaval – and they finished sixth in the Premier League.
Just as historic was their first league and FA Cup double, won under Carlo Ancelotti two seasons previous.
Didier Drogba enjoyed his best season with 37 goals in all competitions, with Frank Lampard adding 26 and Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka getting 15 each.
Chelsea broke records that season, plundering 103 goals in the league and pipping Manchester United to the title by a single point with an 8-0 destruction of Wigan on the final day.
They edged Portsmouth 1-0 in the FA Cup final, Drogba adding to his big-game reputation with the only goal at Wembley.