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UEFA Champions League - annual club football competition

The UEFA Champions League (abbreviated as UCL) is an annual club football competition organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and played by European first division clubs, which nominate the best team in Europe. This is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world and the most prestigious club competition in European football, played by national league champions (and, for some nations, by one or more finalists) associations national championships.

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Introduced in 1955 as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, better known as the European Cup, it was originally a knockout tournament reserved for the champion club of each national championship. The contest took its current name in 1992, adding a group stage to the round and allowing the participation of several countries. Since then it has been expanded and, while most European leagues can only register their champion, the strongest leagues now have up to five teams. Clubs that rank in the next rank of their national league, without being qualified for the Champions League, are eligible for the UEFA Europa League second level competition. (From 2021, UEFA will host a third-level competition called UEFA Europa League 2, which will be made up of teams not eligible for the UEFA Europa League.)

In its current format, Uefa Champions league football will start at the end of June with a preliminary round, three qualifying rounds and a play-off, all on two runs. The six surviving teams enter the group stage by joining 26 teams qualified in advance. The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four and compete in a double-turn system. The eight group winners and the eight other finalists start the playoff phase that culminates with the last game in late May or early June. The Champions League winner qualifies for the UEFA Champions League next year, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

The competition was won by 22 clubs, 12 of which won more than once. Real Madrid is the most successful club in the history of the tournament, having won 13 times, including its first five seasons. Liverpool are the defending champion after beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the 2019 final. Spain football clubs have the most wins (18 wins), followed by England football (13 wins) and Italy football ( 12 wins). England has the highest number of winning teams, with five clubs winning the title.

The first pan-European tournament was the Challenge Cup, a competition between clubs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Mitropa Cup, a competition inspired by the Challenge Cup, was created in 1927 at the initiative of the Austrian Hugo Meisl and played between clubs in Central Europe. In 1930, the Nations Cup, the first attempt at the European Champion Clubs' Cup, was played and organized by the Swiss club Servette. Held in Geneva, it brought together ten champions from across the continent. The tournament was won by Újpest of Hungary. The nations of Latin Europe met to form the Latin Cup in 1949.

After receiving reports from his reporters on the highly successful Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones in 1948, Gabriel Hanot, editor-in-chief of The Team, began proposing the creation of a continent-wide tournament. After Stan Cullis declared Wolverhampton Wanderers "World Champions" after a series of friendly matches in the 1950s, including a friendly 3-to-2 victory over Budapest Honvéd, Hanot finally managed to convince UEFA to set up such a tournament. It was designed in Paris in 1955 as the European Champion Clubs' Cup.

The first edition of the European Cup took place during the 1955-1956 season. Sixteen teams participated: Milan (Italy), AGF Aarhus (Denmark), Anderlecht (Belgium), Djurgården (Sweden), Gwardia Warszawa (Poland), Hibernian (Scotland), Partizan (Yugoslavia), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Rapid Wien (Austria), Real Madrid (Spain), Rot-Weiss Essen (West Germany football), Saarbrücken (Saarland), Servette (Switzerland), Sporting CP (Portugal), Stade de Reims (France football) and Vörös Lobogó ( Hungary). The first European Cup match was held on 4 September 1955 and ended in a 3 to 3 draw between Sporting CP and Partizan. The first goal in the history of the European Cup was scored by João Baptista Martins of Sporting CP. The inaugural final was held at the Parc des Princes between the Stade de Reims and Real Madrid. The Spaniards came from behind and won 4-3 thanks to goals from Alfredo Di Stéfano and Marquitos, as well as two goals from Héctor Rial.

Real Madrid have successfully defended the trophy next season in its national stadium, the Santiago Bernabéu, against Fiorentina. After a scoreless first half, Real Madrid scored twice in six minutes to defeat the Italians. In 1958, Milan failed to capitalize after scoring two goals, but Real Madrid equalized. The final at Heysel stadium ended with an additional time in which Francisco Gento scored the winning goal to allow Real Madrid to retain the title for the third season in a row. In a rematch of the first final, Real Madrid faced Stade Reims at the Neckarstadion for the 1959 final and won the match 2-0. The West German team, Eintracht Frankfurt, became the first non-Latin team to reach the European Cup final. The 1960 final holds the record for most goals scored. Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park with four goals from Ferenc Puskás and a hat-trick from Alfredo Di Stéfano. It was the fifth consecutive title of Real Madrid, a record that still exists today.

Real Madrid's reign came to an end during the 1960-1961 season, when Barcelona's bitter rivals unseated them in the first round. Barcelona itself would be defeated in the final by Portugal's Benfica 3-2 at the Wankdorf stadium. Reinforced by Eusébio, Benfica beat Real Madrid 5-3 at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam and retained the title for a second consecutive season. Benfica wanted to repeat the successful run of Real Madrid in the 50s after reaching the peak of the European Cup 1962-1963, but a double of the Italian-Brazilian Jose Altafini at Wembley Stadium left the booty in Milan , allowing the trophy to leave the Iberian Peninsula. For the very first time. Inter Milan beat Real Madrid 3-1 in Ernst-Happel Stadium to win the 1963-1964 season and replicate the success of their local rivals. The title remained in the city of Milan for the third consecutive year after Inter beat Benfica 1-0 in their homeland, San Siro. Under the direction of Jock Stein, Scottish club Celtic beat Inter Milan 2-1 in the 1967 final to become the first British club to win the European Cup. That day, Celtic players became known as the "Lisbon Lions", all born 30 miles from Glasgow.

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