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5 Biggest Teams That Never Won a UCL Trophy

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By Augustine Mbam - - 5 Mins Read
Celebrating with a UEFA Champions League trophy
Celebrating with a UCL trophy | Vlad1988 / Shutterstock.

The UEFA Champions League is regarded as the most prestigious club football competition in Europe. Only the top teams from each country participate.

These teams compete from the group stage to the final, one of the year's most anticipated sporting events.

Winning the Champions League brings everlasting glory, but for the losing team, it can be a day they'd rather forget, as the thrill leading up to the final is quickly overshadowed by the agony of defeat. 

Since its inception in 1955, the Champions League has seen 23 teams lift the trophy, with Real Madrid holding the record for most wins at 14.

English clubs have also had their fair share of memorable victories on the European stage. Nevertheless, there is another side of the story that focuses on the teams that didn't emerge victorious.

While the winners bask in glory, the losers often fade into the background.

In this article, we will take a look at the five major football teams that, despite their success and popularity, have never won the UEFA Champions League trophy.

1. Atletico Madrid

Experiencing a Champions League final loss is tough, but it's even more painful when it happens against your fiercest rivals.

Atletico Madrid faced this bitter outcome twice within three years, both times going beyond regular time.

In 2014, they were defeated 4-1 after extra time, with Sergio Ramos scoring a crucial 93rd-minute equalizer that led to extra time.

Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo then confirmed the win for Real Madrid.

In 2016, Atletico endured a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat. Yannick Carrasco had tied the game in the 79th minute, but ultimately, Cristiano Ronaldo shone as Real's hero again.

Atletico has reached three Champions League finals and has yet to win, making them one of the significant clubs without a UCL title.

2. Arsenal

Arsenal, another North London club alongside Tottenham, also lacks a Champions League title.

Their closest shot was in 2006 when they overcame Real Madrid, Juventus, and Villarreal in the knockout stages, only to fall short in the final against Barcelona. Sol Campbell gave them a lead, but late goals from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti dashed their hopes.

Before 2024, Arsenal's journey in the UEFA Champions League halted in the 2009 semi-finals against Manchester United, frustrating their fans even more.

But their woes are far from over. Arsenal, who had not participated in the top-tier UCL for seven years, were eliminated by Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena during a second-leg playoff in the 2023/2024 season after making it to the quarterfinals.

3. Tottenham Hotspur

For Tottenham supporters, the most disheartening match might well be the 2019 Champions League final. The team beat Dortmund, Manchester City, and Ajax remarkably to reach the final.

Lucas Moura's incredible second-half hat-trick against Ajax set up a final showdown with Liverpool in Madrid. However, Tottenham lost 2-0, with goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi, despite having numerous opportunities to score. This defeat extended their trophy drought, marking another year without success for this club without a UCL title.

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4. Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain, powered by Qatari investment and home to stars like Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Lionel Messi, remains one of the clubs without a UCL trophy.

In 2020, they reached their first final but were defeated 1-0 as neither Neymar nor Mbappe could find the net.

The following year, they were ousted in the semi-finals by Manchester City with a 4-1 aggregate score, underscoring the challenges even the wealthiest teams face in securing European glory.

PSG have their sights set on a major championship in light of their impressive accomplishments during the 2023/24 season.

After falling behind Barcelona 3-2 in the first leg, the French club staged a remarkable comeback led by star play Kylian Mbappe to secure a 6-4 aggregate victory that sent them to the semi-finals.

5. Bayer Leverkusen

Under Xabi Alonso's management in the 2023/2024 season, Bayer Leverkusen is performing exceptionally, reminiscent of its early 2000s form.

In 2002, they reached the Champions League final but fell to Real Madrid 2-1, defeated by a phenomenal volley from Zinedine Zidane. That year, Leverkusen nearly secured a treble but ended up second in all three competitions—a rare and painful achievement.

Despite their consistent presence in advanced stages of the tournament, they have failed to clinch the UCL title which cements their status among big teams that haven't won the trophy yet.