Clubs With The Most Champions League Final Losses
Is it better to have loved and lost than never loved at all? That’s the question for these clubs, which sadly have the records for most Champions League final losses.
Would it have been better to be knocked out in the quarterfinals and save the agony of losing to a rival in the final? Was the journey worth the heartbreak of losing a 3-0 halftime lead in Istanbul? Should Benfica have paid its manager a little more in the 1960s?
Reaching the final of the Champions League (or the European Cup, as it was called prior to the 1992-93 season) is a remarkable accomplishment, something only 41 clubs have ever done. Fewer still (22) have ever won the tournament.
But some clubs just have a habit of reaching the final only to lose.
The clubs on this list of most Champions League final losses vary wildly. Some, like Real Madrid, have a lot of losses just because they make it to the final so often. Others have made it to the final multiple times without ever winning the dang thing.
Atlético Madrid has been to more finals than anyone without actually winning it, but Los Colchoneros only rank in a tie for fifth on our list of clubs with the most Champions League final losses.
Which club has the most Champions League final losses? Read on.
Clubs With Most Champions League Final Losses
#14. 23 tied with 1 (Fiorentina, Eintracht Frankfurt, Partizan Belgrade, Celtic, Panathinaikos, Leeds United, Saint-Étienne, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Club Brugge, Malmö FF, Hamburg, AS Roma, Steaua Bucuresti, Marseille, Sampdoria, Bayer Leverkusen, AS Monaco, Arsenal, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspurs, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City)
Of these clubs, only Celtic, Hamburg, Steaua, Marseille, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund ever won Champions League titles.
#9. Ajax — 2 (1969, 1996)
Ajax begins the list of two-time finals losers, having fallen to AC Milan in ’69 and Juventus in ’96. But Ajax did win four European trophies, including three straight from 1971-73.
#9. Manchester United — 2 (2009, 2011)
The Red Devils went 2-2 in Champions League finals under Sir Alex Ferguson, winning in 1999 and 2008. Manchester United also won a European Cup in 1968 under Matt Busby at Wembley Stadium.
#9. Inter Milan — 2 (1967, 1972)
Internazionale won back-to-back European Cups in 1964-65 and nearly won a third two years later. Inter had to wait for Jose Mourinho in 2010 to win a third Champions League.
#9. Valencia — 2 (2000, 2001)
Valencia reached consecutive Champions League finals to start the millennium under Héctor Cúper, losing first to Real Madrid 3-0 and then Bayern Munich on penalties.
#9. Reims — 2 (1956, 1959)
French club made it to two of the first four European Cup finals but was beaten both times by Real Madrid, winner of the first five tournaments.
Not even signing Just Fontaine, who scored 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup, after the 1956 loss could help Reims lift the cup.
#5. Real Madrid — 3 (1962, 1964, 1981)
Real Madrid owns the most Champions League titles with 13, but it’s also reached the final on three other occasions.
Los Blancos haven’t lost a European final since losing to Liverpool in 1981, a remarkable run of seven straight finals without a defeat.
#5. Liverpool — 3 (1985, 2007, 2018)
The most successful English club in European competition, Liverpool is 5-3 all time in finals.
If not for the remarkable comeback in Istanbul in 2005, the Reds might be .500, though Milan got its revenge two years later.
#5. Barcelona — 3 (1961, 1986, 1994)
Barcelona lost three of its first four trips to a European final, but the Blaugrana have won all four finals since 2006, including three over English competition.
#5. Atlético Madrid — 3 (1974, 2014, 2016)
The record of most Champions League final losses without a win belongs to Atlético Madrid. The first defeat came 4-0 to Bayern Munich after a 1-1 draw forced a replay.
The last two have been even more heartbreaking, with extra-time and penalty kick losses to city rival Real Madrid. Atleti is 3-0 in Europa League finals though, if that’s any consolation.
#4. AC Milan — 4 (1958, 1993, 1995, 2005)
Aside from Real Madrid, no club has reached the final more often than AC Milan. The club’s last loss in a final came in that epic match in Istanbul against Liverpool.
The Rossoneri haven’t been back to a final since winning it all in 2007, when Kaká led the tournament with 10 goals and Filippo Inzaghi scored twice to beat Liverpool in the final.
#2. Bayern Munich — 5 (1982, 1987, 1999, 2010, 2012)
The German giants won three straight European Cups from 1974-76 plus two more since the turn of the millennium. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a club with more soul-crushing defeats than Bayern.
In 1999, Bayern gave up two late goals to lose to Manchester United; in 2012, Chelsea scored a late equalizer and beat Bayern in a shootout — at Bayern’s home arena in Munich.
#2. Benfica — 5 (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988, 1990)
No club has a greater hex on it in European competition than Benfica. And we mean that almost literally the club is cursed.
After Benfica won back-to-back European Cups in 1961-62, coach Béla Guttmann asked for a raise. When he was denied a pay increase, he quit the club and said “Benfica will not win another European final without me,” so the legend goes.
Benfica has not won a European final since, including these five losses in the Champions League and three more in the Europa League (tied for most all time with Marseille). The last two defeats came in the Europa League in 2013 and 2014.
The Eagles should’ve paid Guttmann, if you ask us.
#1. Juventus — 7 (1973, 1983, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2015, 2017)
No club has experienced more heartache in Champions League finals than Juventus. The club has the worst winning percentage in the final of any team to have made it at least four times. Gianluigi Buffon himself went 0-3 in Champions League finals with the Bianconeri.
Despite European Cup wins in 1985 and 1996, the club that has dominated Serie A recently hasn’t been able to get over the last hurdle since, including five finals losses since 1996. Maybe that will change with Cristiano Ronaldo, the man with the second-most Champions League titles all time.
(Updated through 2020.)