Of all club soccer dynasties, the Liverpool side that dominated the game for nearly three decades would top many lists. Starting with Bill Shankly rebuilding the Anfield club at the end of the 1950s, culminating with Kenny Dalglish’s tenure leading into the 1990s, Liverpool won pretty much everything on offer. Their true supremacy came to light between the 1970s and 1980s, winning 35 major trophies between four managers, all promoted from within the club. Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Dalglish led the Reds to four European cups and 13 league titles, an incredible haul for an incredible team.
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Real Madrid (1950s - 1960s)
The original soccer superpower, Real Madrid announced itself on the global stage under club president Santiago Bernabeu Yeste (sound familiar?). He was the man behind the original ‘Galacticos’, with the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano amongst those he brought in. With this new-found philosophy, Real picked up the first five European Cups (and another in 1966), as well as 12 La Liga titles out of a possible 20 between the two decades. A true force of nature that paved the way for CR7 and his crew.
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AC Milan – (Late 1980s - early 1990s)
In early 1986, Italian entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi – remember him? – purchased struggling, cash-strapped AC Milan, saving them from capitulation. Not only that, but he transformed the club into a European giant once more. On the back of signing Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit, Milan won five Serie A titles from 1988 to 1996, and also became the latest club to retain the European Cup, with victories in the 1989 and 1990 tournaments.
While Europe’s biggest clubs nowadays almost all come from the ‘big 5 leagues’ – the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 – this hasn’t always been the case. A prime example of one of European soccer’s superpowers came in the form of Portugal’s Benfica, who were at the echelon of the sport for nearly a decade. Led by the late, great Eusebio, the Eagles won 8 Primeira Ligas and back-to-back European Cups in the 1960s, with a further three runners-up places in European’s premier cup competition.
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Boca Juniors (Late 1990s)
Of course, it’s not just European clubs that create true soccer dynasties. One of the most notable sides comes from South America, in fact. Current Boca coach Carlos Bianchi led the wave of success with the 1998 Apertura title. A flurry of coaches followed after Bianchi’s departure in 2004, but so did the trophies. 8 Primera Division titles (6 Apertura, 2 Clausura), 4 Copa Libertadores’, 2 Copa Sudamericanas, 2 Recopa Sudamericanas, 2 Intercontinental Cups and 1 Copa Argentina adorn the halls of La Bombonera over a 14-year period in which Boca truly dominated the South American scene.
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Barcelona (Josep Guardiola's tenure)
With 14 trophies won under the stewardship of Guardiola, his Barcelona side have been the envy of Europe in modern times with their attacking dominance, defensive pressure and metronomic passing, which saw the term ‘Tiki Taka’ coined. After overhauling the Barca team, Pep’s emphasis on youth from the club’s La Masia academy saw the likes of Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta, Xavi and co. take a stranglehold of La Liga and the world's stage.
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Manchester United (Sir Alex Ferguson era)
Taking Manchester United from second-bottom in the league in 1986 to collect 38 trophies following his retirement in 2013, Ferguson built and rebuilt Manchester United sides involving some of the soccer greats. With the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, the Red Devil’s peak in 1999 saw the club win the treble, before continuing to go on to become the biggest team in Britain. Under Ferguson, United continued to evolve and swept away the rest of Europe away for a second time in 2008 with the team including Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
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Recognized as the architects of the term ‘Total Football’ and a side regarded as the founders of modern-day soccer. But with the likes of Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens in this revolutionary Ajax squad that had Rinus Michels at the helm, the Amsterdammers won three consecutive Champions League trophies between 1971 and 1973, proving they were much more than just style over substance. Cruyff joined Michels at Barcelona and went on to becoming the foundation for another of soccer’s dynasties.
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Bayern Munich (mid-1970s)
Instrumental in their part in the Golden Age of German soccer in the 1970’s, Bayern under the captaincy of Franz Beckenbauer the Bavarians rose to the pinnacle in Europe. Alongside Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier and Gerd Muller completed the core of the Munich outfit that overwhelmed the Bundesliga and accomplished a three-in-a-row sweep of the top European trophy between 1974 and 1976.
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The Old Lady of Italian soccer under coach Giovanni Trapattoni enjoyed the greatest period in the club’s long an illustrious history. Juve’s dominance at home saw them go on to claim their 20th scudetto in 1982 with the likes of Marco Tardelli, Paolo Rossi and Michel Platini among the ranks at the Turin club. However, Trapattoni led the club to their first Champions League title in 1985, but the victory also saw the end of the club’s era of success.