UEFA Champions League/European Cup Finalists
The Champions League is the most prestigious club competition in Europe: the final draws around 300 million television viewers each year, making it the among the most watched sporting event in the world.
The competition started in 1955 when 16 clubs, chosen by L'Equipe magazine, were invited to participate in the European Champions Clubs Cup. Generally known simply as the European Cup, this was a straight-forward knock-out competition with each tie played over two legs until the final, which has always been a single match.
The original trophy (left) was used until 1966 when the modern version, nicknamed La Orejuna (big-ears) was introduced.
In 1991, in order to satisfy the growing TV audience and ensure that the big clubs played more matches, group stages were introduced. The competition was re-launched the following season as the UEFA Champions League. The format was much expanded by the inclusion of teams finishing in 2nd-4th place from 1997-98 and up to 77 teams now participate. The number of entrants from each national league is decided by the UEFA coefficients: the higher the rating the more entrants a national association has and the fewer qualifying rounds they must play in.