How many football dynasties do you think rule UEFA leagues right now?
Background Photo: Threeohsix, CC BY-SA 4.0
There are 55 leagues within UEFA. You have the giants like Spain, Italy, Germany and England. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the likes of Gibraltar, Kosovo, Andorra and San Marino. Top European clubs not only focus on their league but hope for European dominance too. While continental success is a huge achievement, the bread is buttered on the homefront.
For all the success Real Madrid enjoys with four Champions Leagues in five years, Barcelona's seven titles in La Liga compared to their two in the last decade are a sore point.
Competition varies from league to league. Some rotate through several strong rivals. Others are dominated by a single side. Quite a few, in fact. Coming into this season, seven leagues have belonged to a single club for at least the past six campaigns.
Here's a look at each of UEFA's most successful clubs.
The Old Lady has been completely dominant in recent Serie A seasons. She's on seven successive Scudettos and counting. Even more impressive, Massimiliano Allegri's side added the Coppa Italia in the past four seasons as well.
Juve is a prime example of building on your success. They improve season upon season. A few years ago, they signed Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic from Napoli and Roma respectively. The duo were the star players at their two biggest rivals. This summer, they applied the principle of weakening their enemy internationally, inking five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo after the Real Madrid all-time scorer repeatedly confounded their Champions League ambitions. They also brought back defender Leonardo Bonucci after a one-year exile in Milan.
Their latest title defence is off to a great start with 11 wins and a draw in their opening 12 fixtures. The Bianconeri cruise six points clear of nearest rivals, Napoli. It would take a brave man to suggest anything other than eight in a row for the Italian giants.
Bayern Munich put an end to Jurgen Klopp’s mini-dynasty with Borussia Dortmund. Their Bundesliga crown in 2012/13 ended BVB's two-year run. In the interim, no one has returned the favour against the Rekordmeister. Bayern's ascension six seasons past was part of a treble, including the DFB Pokal [German Cup] and Champions League. While they haven't reconquered the Champions League and been sporadic in the domestic cup competition, Bayern remain German champions. Their six-title streak rotated managers, starting and ending with Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti adding four between his two terms.
Heynckes retired a second time this summer. Former Bayern player and Eintracht Frankfurt coach, Niko Kovac, assumed command. Things haven’t gone as well for the Croatian international. His position is already under pressure. Defeat to Dortmund at the weekend saw Bayern drop to fifth in the table, seven points behind the leaders.
To remain in charge, Kovac must erode that gap. Otherwise, the Bayern hierarchy might be on the phone to Heynckes to clean up their mess one more time.
The Hoops are on seven consecutive Scottish Premier League titles with Ronnie Deila, Neil Lennon and now Brendan Rodgers leading the Parkhead club to glory.
Consecutive championships is a bigger thing in Scotland than most countries. Celtic and Rangers each won nine in a row at different points in their history. Celtic's nine came under the great Jock Stein in the 1960s and 70s. Graeme Souness, then Walter Smith led Rangers to the same mark in the 80s and 90s. Neither has ever won ten. Once either side of the Old Firm begins a new run, the debate over how long they can reign begins immediately.
Celtic started this campaign slowly but finally overtook Heart of Midlothian heading into the international break. The race remains a tight run. The top five are separated by a mere two points. Celtic are favourites but the league is still up for grabs with Hearts, Rangers, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone on their tail.
A decade ago, Ludogorets was a Bulgarian minnow. They had never played in the top flight. Even when they managed promotion to the second tier in 2009/10 nobody imagined what was to come.
In September 2010, the club was bought over by Kiril Domuschiev. The 49-year-old entrepreneur worth roughly $950 million USD invested heavily in the team. Promotion followed in 2010/11. For the first time, Ludogorets were among the elite clubs in Bulgarian football.
That wasn't enough for Domuschiev. The journey continued upwards. Ludogorets went into the 2011/12 season's final game against league leaders, CSKA Sofia. Two points behind, the title was on the line. A 1-0 win gave the promoted side their first title. They have successfully defended every year since. As well as league success, the seven-time champions won two Bulgarian Cups and made the Champions League group stages twice.
They are well placed to add another title this season. CSKA and Levski Sofia remain within shouting distance, three and four points behind as it stands.
Cypriot football has mostly centred around the rivalry between Nicosian clubs, APOEL and Omonia. Between them, they have won 47 titles. Anorthosis, in third place, lag well behind with 13. Omonia was traditionally the more successful of the two. Over the last few decades, APOEL reined them in and left them behind, flashing 27 championships to Omonia's 20.
APOEL's current run is six titles. They've even begun to make a bit of a mark in Europe. They reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League back in 2011/12 and in 16/17 made the Europa League last 16.
This season, they're lurking second in the league, two points behind AEL Limassol. It's still early days with plenty of games left. Nor is there any worry over competing on two fronts after being knocked out of Europe by Kazakh champions Astana in the summer.
Wales only fielded a domestic league since the early 1990s. Barry Town dominated the early years but since then, Total Network Solutions, aka The New Saints have become the team to beat. Since 2000, they have won 12 Welsh titles. Their current run is seven.
Arguably, the biggest night in the club's history came in 2005 when they took on Liverpool in Champions League qualifiers. Liverpool had just won the tournament with that famous comeback in Istanbul but failed to qualify for the 2005/06 Champions League domestically. As holders, they were placed into the qualifying rounds where a battle of Britain against TNS came out of the hat. Back to back 3-0 wins for Liverpool saw TNS eliminated but the home game remains the biggest gate the club has drawn.
This season TNS is third in the league, three points behind Connah's Quay and Barry. The top six are all within a half-dozen points. If TNS are to win an eighth title on the trot, they must emerge victorious from a proper battle royal, seeing off five pretenders to their throne.
Belarus was long a satellite in the Soviet Union. The domestic league only began in 1992. BATE weren't involved originally. The club disbanded in the 1980s before reforming in 1996.
They won their first league title in 1999 and another in 2002 while they found their footing. Since 2006, they've been completely dominant. Last season was their 13th consecutive title. What? I said completely dominant.
They've reached the Champions League group stages five times. While never progressing in that tournament, they've been to the Europa League final 32 twice. On both occasions, they were unlucky to lose out to massive clubs, giving Paris Saint-Germain and Fenerbahce all they could handle.
Weather being what it is in Eastern Europe, the Belarusian league runs through the summer. It's just wrapping up with BATE having confirmed their 13th title in succession. Check this space in 2019 to see whether 14 is in the cards.