5 Once-Famous Clubs That Sank To Obscurity
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The footballing wheel of fortune knows no reverence for history, pedigree or sheer support. One moment you’re champion, the next you're out of a job. Just ask Jose Mourinho. For the spoilt supporter, this typically means having to wait another year for a trophy. For those who are less fortunate, this can mean watching your team plummet down the ladder to the dark depths of the footballing.
The fans of the following five clubs have experienced the highs and lows of soccer more acutely than most. Here are five clubs that have dominated, both domestically and abroad, only to find themselves today out of their countries' top flights.
5 Once-Famous Clubs That Sank To Obscurity
#1: Leeds United F.C.
Honors: 3-time League Champions (1968/69, 1973/74 and 1991/92), FA Cup Champions (1971/72) and UEFA Champions League semi-finalists (2001) and finalists (1975)
Leeds United were one of English football's most dominant sides throughout the 1960s and 70s. Led by former player turned manager Don Revie, Leeds were also a force in Europe in the 70s. The 1974/75 season saw the Leeds side reach the final of the European Cup, controversially losing to Bayern Munich.
The late 70s and 80s saw a succession of managers who were unable to match the success of Revie. However, the 1990s saw Leeds again return to prominence both at home and abroad. The Whites captured the league title in 1992 and, under David O'Leary and assistant Eddie Gray, never finished outside the top 5 in the Premier League from 1997 until 2002.
During that time, Leeds also made it to the semi-finals of both the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League, losing to a Valencia side that would go on to lose to Bayern Munich on penalties in the final. Their success would ultimately fuel their rapid decline.
Collapse: Gambling on prospective revenues from Champions League TV rights and sponsorships, the club took out massive loans to cover their spending and wage bill. However, Leeds failed to qualify for the Champions League in successive seasons, becoming unable to repay the loans.
Leeds were forced to sell all of the club's assets, including key senior players and valuable youth players. Gone were the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka and Jonathan Woodgate, as well as the club's ownership of their stadium and training ground. Building a squad on free transfers and entering administration on May 4, 2007, Leeds found themselves in the third tier of English football, League One, by the start of the 2007/08 season.
Leeds United have since made their way back into the English Championship. Under the guidance of majority shareholder and Chairman Massimo Cellino, the Premier League still seems a distant dream. The maverick Italian owner has handed the reigns to 7 different managers during his short time at Leeds.
#2: Rangers F.C.
Honors: 54-time Scottish League Champions, 33-time Scottish Cup Champions, 27-time Scottish League Cup Champions, European Cup Winners' Cup (1971/72) and UEFA Cup Runners-up (2007/08)
Rangers F.C. have won more league titles than any other club in the world. The Gers also have an impressive European pedigree, having claimed the 1971/72 European Cup Winners' Cup after defeating the likes of Rennes, Sporting, Torino, Dynamo Moscow and Bayern Munich.
UEFA Cup Runners-up as recently as 2007/08, when they lost in the final to Zenit, Rangers are one of the eleven original members of the Scottish Football League. They're also one-half of the most famous football rivalry in the world, the Old Firm.
The club has seen players like John Greig, Ally McCoist, Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne don the famous light blue, but an overly ambitious owner led to the liquidation of this footballing institution.
Collapse: Sir David Murray, a self-made Scottish businessman, bought Rangers in 1988. His ownership was marked by lavish spending, the likes of which had never been seen before in Scottish football. On-field success led to many turning a blind eye towards the spending. However, by 2003, Rangers’s debt had reached £82 million.
Between 2001 and 2010, Murray paid his players via an Employee Benefit Trust, effectively loaning players wages rather than paying them directly. This was done to avoid tax, a strategy that led to an unpaid tax bill of tens of millions. Realizing that the goose was cooked, Murray attempted to sell the club. Not wanting to foot the tax bill, surprisingly, no one was interested.
Rangers were placed into administration on February 14, 2012. They failed to reach an agreement with creditors and entered the process of liquidation. They were then forced to start over in the Scottish Football League’s lowest division, the Third Division, and given a one-year transfer ban.
They won subsequent promotions to the Scottish Championship, but failed in their attempt to reach the Scottish Premiership in 2015, losing in the play-off final to Motherwell.
#3: CR Vasco da Gama
Honors: 4-time Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Champions (1974, 89, 97 and 2000), Copa do Brasil (2011), Copa Libertadores Champions (1998) and FIFA Club World Cup Runners-up (2000)
One of the more famous and traditional clubs in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro's Vasco da Gama boasts over 20 million supporters. Vasco da Gama captured the Copa Libertadores in 1998, defeating Barcelona of Ecuador to win South America's biggest crown. In the 2000 FIFA Club World Cup, they defeated Manchester United and Mexico's Club Necaxa to reach the final.
Collapse: Vasco da Gama were relegated in 2008, marking the first time in 110 years that they wouldn't be playing in the top flight. Relegation again beckoned in 2013 and 2015, many attributing it to an owner who failed to build any stability around the club.
If they’re unable to bounce straight back up this time around, something they were able to accomplish after their previous two relegations, the fear is that a sustained stay in the lower division will pose much more of a long-term risk to Vasco.
#4: Atlante F.C.
Honors: 3 Mexican Primera División Championships (1946/47, 1992/93 and Apertura 2007), 3-time Copa México Champions, 2-time CONCACAF Champions League Champions
Atlante F.C. were one of the original members of the Mexican professional league when it was founded in 1943. "The People's Club" were originally one of the more popular clubs in Mexico City, becoming the first Mexican side to win the Champion of Champions Cup.
The late 1990s saw a major decline in the fortunes of Atlante, the team struggling on the field, they mantained their top flight status by virtue of the league's expansion, and off it. Attendance was low with clubs like Cruz Azul, Club América and Pumas UNAM competing for attention within Mexico City.
On May 14, 2007 the club officially left the Estadio Azteca for a new home in Cancún. In a remarkable turn of events, Atlante immediately captured their third championship, establishing themselves within Mexico once again. They went on to win the CONCACAF Champions League .
Collapse: Atlante were relegated at the end of the 2013-14 season, five days prior to their 98th anniversary. In the 2015 Apertura Liguilla, they were defeated 3-1 on aggregate by Juarez, ensuring that they'd need to spend another season in Mexico's Ascenso League. A team of huge ups and downs, there are no guarantees that Atlante's stay in the lower division won't be an extended one.
#5: S.S.D Parma Calcio
Honors: 3-time Coppa Italia Champions, 2-time UEFA Cup Champions (1994/95 and 1998/99) and winners of the 1993 European Super Cup
Parma were founded in 1913 and boast Italy's best European record apart from Juventus, Inter and Milan. Owned by Calisto Tanzi, an Italian businessman, Parma challenged the established powers of Italian soccer for a period of time. Players like Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianfranco Zola, Hernán Crespo and Liliam Thuram ensured that Parma's heyday will not soon be forgotten.
Collapse: Tanzi's company, and Parma's parent company, Parmalat was involved in a massive scandal, primarily centered around Tanzi embezzling eight-hundred million euros, which resulted in its collapse. The club was declared insolvent and remained in administration for three years.
After a brief period of respite and success in Serie A, a succession of owners, unpaid taxes and salaries resulted in Parma once again declaring bankruptcy in March of 2015. The club has since reformed for the 2015/16 season in Italy's Serie D, the fourth tier of Italian football.