No team has won the UEFA Champions League trophy for two consecutive years since 1990, but there has never been a squad that looked more equipped to do so than the current holders, Bayern Munich. It can certainly be said that Bayern are perfectly placed to re-establish itself as a European powerhouse such as the club did from 1974-1976 when it won three consecutive European Cups.
Since the rebranding of the Champions League 22 years ago, there has not been a single team to successfully defend soccer’s most prestigious club trophy. Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan was the last team to win it back-to-back in 1989-90.
Olympique de Marseille were unsuccessful in trying to defend their 1993 title following the Valenciennes bribery scandal, Porto lost their advantage after selling many of its 2004 heroes, while Borussia Dortmund 1997, Inter 2010, AC Milan 2007 and Chelsea 2012 were all handicapped by aging squads that required rebuilding after the clubs won their respective titles.
The teams best placed to retain the Champions League, in terms of pedigree, were Louis van Gaal’s Ajax in 1996, Marcello Lippi’s Juventus a year later, the following season’s Milan led by Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2010. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Fabio Capello’s Milan of 1995 could also be added to this potential list by virtue of the fact that they were eventual finalists.
However, when all factors and circumstances are considered, none of these clubs have been better positioned than Bayern Munich this season to defend their respective trophy. Not only have the statistics of their unbeaten runs and dominant displays have been mind blowing, but individually, collectively, technically, tactically, physically and mentally Bayern look a complete team. Every department comprises star quality players, and all of them are on top form. The stellar names includes goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, defenders David Alaba and Dante, midfielders Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago and Toni Kroos, offensive talents like Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Ballon D’or finalist Frank Ribery. And that is without mentioning coach Pep Guardiola, who boasts an enviable Champions League record – two titles and two semi-finals from his four seasons at Barcelona.
Bayern may not be the best team of the Champions League era, but never before has a holder been so far ahead in the competition. In the mid nineties, Ajax had a magnificent Juventus side to compete with – a group who would reach three finals on the bounce. The following campaigns challenging the Italians were by a Dortmund squad full of Germany icons and a blossoming Manchester United side.