Five European Champions Who Were Later Relegated

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Five European Champions Who Were Later Relegated

This weekend Aston Villa will more than likely be relegated from the Premier League. It will end a 27 year run in the top of the English football pyramid (stretching back to the old First Division) and shorten the list of English top flight clubs who have never been relegated in the Premier League era. Villa is already one of several English clubs with long and proud histories (and passionate fanbases to match) who have slipped into the second division, such as Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers.

Here are some of the clubs who claim that ignonimous distinction.

1. Nottingham Forest


During Brian Clough’s legendary reign as manager, Forest won the European Cup in 1979 and 1980. Not bad for a “provincial” club that few had paid much mind to before then. But the good times couldn’t last forever. Clough’s 18 year reign as manager came to a dismal end in 1993 when Forest were relegated from the Premier League. They’ve won promotion back to the top flight a few times but were never able to put a long run together, and are currently struggling in 20th place in the Championship, just nine points above the relegation zone.

2. Juventus


I Bianconeri are two-time European Cup winners, lifting the trophy in 1985 and 1996. These were honors befitting one of the strongest and most decorated clubs in Italy. Then the Calciopoli scandal broke in the mid aughts and Juventus were one of several clubs found guilty of rigging games. As punishment, Juve were booted down to Serie B, the first relegation in the club’s history. They returned the next season thanks to a wealth of promising youth players (including Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco) and in recent years have emerged as an indomitable force in Italian football. But it’s likely the stain of that scandal will never be completely erased.

3. Olympique de Marseille


Marseille also got themselves embroiled in a scandal that kicked them out of the top flight. In 1994, a year after beating AC Milan for their first (and only) European Cup, Marseille’s president Bernard Tapie was implicated in a match-fixing scandal. That, plus financial irregularities, resulted in the club being relegated to the second division, as well as the revocation of their 1992-93 first division title and the right to defend their Champions League title during the 1993-94 season. Marseille lingered in the second division for two seasons before they would pull themselves back up, and it roughly a decade before Les Phocéens would return to prominence.

4. AC Milan


Milan have a phenomenal record in Europe. I Rossoneri were strong contenders in the early years of the European Cup, lifting the trophy in 1963 and 1969 (in addition to their many, many Serie A titles). But the early 1980s were not kind to Milan— the club was relegated in 1980 for the first time in their history due to their involvement in a match fixing scandal (this is sort of a recurring theme in Italian football), returned the next season, and went back down the season after that. They came back in 1983-84 and have remained in the top flight ever since. Meanwhile, they went on to win the European Cup an astonishing five more times.

5. Manchester United


United hold the honor of being the first English club to go all the way in Europe, beating Benfica 4-1 in extra time in the 1968 Final at Wembley. But the club fell into decline over the next few years (precipitated by the team losing the legendary trio of George Best, Denis Law, and Bobby Charlton), and in 1974 had slipped down to the Second Division. The Red Devils returned to the top flight the next season and have remained there ever since (although they had a close call in 1986-87). Sir Alex Ferguson would later guide United to two more European Cups (along with an obscene number of Premier League titles and sponsorship deals).