the fifty best clubs of the last 20 years: ranks 50-31

502 different european clubs from 50 different european nations have played at least one first round match of any of the european cups organized by uefa. this list will have a short look at the 50 best clubs in this era, which can be described as the modern era of association football. the election of the world’s best player and the founding of the uefa champions league are in the beginning of this era, and so is the founding of many of these 50 european leagues, due to changes in nations and borders.

our look into the top 50 will begin with ten teams, their memorable seasons and key players involved in those seasons. memory lane for some of you who have been following european football for this long, and historical research material for those who’ve joined us fanatics recently.

first of all, though, a list of currently notable clubs who didn’t quite make the list, with their respective ranking:

153 – ssc napoli (italy), 144 – manchester city (england), 82 – tottenham hotspur (england), 63 – zenit st petersburg (russia), 56 – ac fiorentina (italy), 53 – hamburger sv (germany)

here we go:

50 – villarreal cf (spain) – 6 seasons in europe

best season 2005/06 – uefa champions league semifinalist, with juan ramon riquelme and diego forlán

49 – shakhtar donetsk (ukraine), 13 seasons in europe

best season 2008/09 – uefa cup winners, with luis adriano and fernandinho

48 – aj auxerre (france), 12 seasons in europe

best season 1992/93 – uefa cup semifinalist, with frank verlaat and corentins martins

47 – red star belgrade (serbia, before yugoslavia), 16 seasons in europe

best season 1990/91 – uefa european cup winners, with dejan savicevic and darko pancev

46 – aek athens (greece), 17 seasons in europe

best season 2002/03 – fourth round uefa cup, with theodoros zagorakis

45 – celtic glasgow (scotland), 15 seasons in europe

best season 2002/03 – uefa cup finalist, with hendrik larsson and paul lambert

44 – fc schalke 04 (germany), 10 seasons in europe

best season 1996/97 – uefa cup winners, with olaf thon and mark wilmots

43 – cska moscow (russia), 12 seasons in europe

best season 2004/05 – uefa cup winners, with wagner love and yuri zhirkov

42 – rosenborg bk (norway), 15 seasons in europe

best season 1996/97 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with bent skammelsrud

41 – sevilla fc (spain), 8 seasons in europe

best season 2005/06 – uefa cup winners, with frederic kanouté and luis fabiano

40 – steaua bucharest (romania), 18 seasons in europe

best season 2005/06 – uefa cup semifinalists, with nicolae goian and constantin nicolae dica

39 – olympiakos piräus (greece), 17 seasons in europe

best season 1998/99 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with predrag djordjevic

38 – sporting lisbon (portugual), 16 seasons in europe

best season 2004/05 – uefa cup finalist, with joão moutinho and liedson

37 – club brugge kv (belgium), 19 seasons in europe

best season 1992/93 – uefa champions league 6th place, with franky van der elst

36 – sparta prague (czech republic), 20 seasons in europe

best season 1991/92 – uefa european cup 3rd place, with vaclav nemecek

35 – deportivo la coruña (spain), 10 seasons in europe

best season 2003/04 – uefa champions league semifinalist, with mauro silva and walter pandiani

34 – girondins bordeaux (france), 14 seasons in europe

best season 1995/96 – uefa cup finalist, with zinedine zidane and bixente lizarazu

33 – rsc anderlecht (belgium), 18 seasons in europe

best season 1991/92 – uefa european cup 5th place, with luc nilis

32 – atletico madrid (spain), 10 seasons in europe

best season 2009/10 – uefa europa league winners, with diego forlan and sergio aguero

31 – feyenoord rotterdam (netherlands), 16 seasons in europe

best season 2001/02 – uefa cup winners, with pierre van hooijdonk and robin van persie

 

Advertisements

manuel neuer – a legend in the making

young manuel neuer, in 2006.

march 27, 1986, manuel neuer was born. in germany. in the city of gelsenkirchen. that’s where a special football club comes from, fc schalke 04, one of the two best supported teams in germany. at the age of four, neuer already started playing for his home town club; up to his teens, who would defend all the youth teams of the club, and watch the bundesliga matches from the stands. at the age of 20, already as a professional player, he finally made his debut for the first team, substituting the injured frank rost. when the experienced goalkeeper returned from injury right in time for the home match against bayern munich, neuer retained his position and was allowed to play. his brilliant performance guaranteed a 2×2 tie in that match, and neuer had just become the starting keeper. frank rost, widely considered one of the top five keepers in germany for many years, would leave the club, and neuer was already seen as a future number one for the german national team, since jens lehmann wasn’t getting any younger.

 

neuer in action, 2009

since then, manuel neuer has had a few weeks of bad form, but mostly memorable performances and important matches. it seems that when the pressure is the highest, neuer gives his best performances. in the champions league against fc porto, in a season when schalke reached the quarter finals (2008); for the sub-21 german national team during the euro 2009 won by germany and having neuer as their mvp; or, more recently, for schalke against bayern, holding the gelsenkirchen club in the match in a fantastic first half by bayern munich, and even assisting in the first goal. even in the recent world cup, manuel neuer, who inherited his deserved number one position from a rene adler injury and a tragic robert enke suicide, did a pretty good job; a little bit of a mistake against serbia, but some great performances against ghana, england (where he assisted to klose’s first goal), argentina and spain.

neuer is on the way to becoming the world’s best keeper – a title currently belonging to iker cassillas, but still somewhat up for grabs. the brazilian julio cesar has been outstanding for internazionale, another brazilian (gomes) was considered the best goalie in england, and the young lloris, goalkeeping for lyon and france, are in the running. but the now 24 year old manuel neuer has a great future. and he deserves to spend some time of his career outside of his hometown. in england, maybe? or in munich? the decision should be announced in the next few months.

but right now my advise is for you to watch the round of 16 match involving schalke, in february. it doesn’t matter against whom, but you’ll probably understand what i’m talking about when you see neuer at work. his great qualities, besides the obvious one-to-one situations and great reflexes, are his “footballer qualities”, his precise long passes and long throws, his calm personality and his increasingly good antecipation. he’ll be the german number one for at least another decade, and he will be the world’s best goalkeeper by the time the next world cup is played.