The Downfall of the World’s Best

More stories from Evan Hull

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September 27, 2021

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The Iranian and Moroccan Men’s National Teams playing against each other during the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Throughout the years, soccer clubs around the world have blessed us with some of the best soccer the world has ever seen. From generational powerhouses to one time wonders, teams have made strides and downfalls on the world stage. So, let’s look at some clubs who have risen and fallen.

The Scottish club is considered one of the most successful clubs in history, winning the Scottish League 51 times, the Scottish Cup 40 times, and the UEFA Champions League once. Arguably their best season came in the 1966-67 season, where they won the quintuple, winning all of the above trophies plus the Glasgow Cup. Since that season, although they have remained consistently successful domestically, they have faltered on the European stage, where they have not qualified for the Champions League group stage since the 2017-18 season, and not living up to expectations in the Europa League since then.

River Plate:

The powerhouse from Argentina has had a relatively successful history, with 36 Primera Division titles, three Copa Argentina, and four Copa Libertadores. Despite their extensive trophy collection, they have run into some difficulties over the years. In 2011, then President Jose Maria Aguillar resigned, leaving the club in a debt worth over $75 million. This and poor form throughout the season led to the club’s first relegation ever, which was unprecedented for a club of such stature. However, they bounced back quickly and have made strides since then, winning two Copa Libertadores, even winning against their fierce cross town rivals Boca Juniors in 2015 and 2018 respectively. 


Over their 121 year history, the Amsterdam based team has consistently dominated not only the Dutch league but also the Champions League, winning 35 league titles and four Champions Leagues respectively. A powerhouse throughout the mid-to-late 20th Century, they have swayed soccer fans around the world for their exciting yet ruthless playing style, led by players such as Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal, Frank deBoer, and Edwin van der Saar. However in the 2000’s the club went into a decline, with only two league titles won and virtually no European success. In the 2010’s they came back onto the world stage, reaching the 2017 UEFA Europa League Final and making the now famous run to the semi finals of the 2018-19 Champions League, where they beat defending champions Real Madrid and Juventus before being knocked out by Tottenham Hotspur. Since then, they have remained relatively strong, winning the league twice in a row and repeatedly making statements in European games. 

A.C. Milan:

Probably the most well known and successful of all the teams on this list, the Italian powerhouse has won 18 Serie A titles, five Coppa Italia’s, seven Supercoppa Italia’s, and seven Champions League titles, the second most out of every team except Real Madrid. Given those numbers, it is safe to assume that the Rossoneri are good at what they do. However that has not stopped them from having difficulties along the way. In 1980, a match-fixing scandal led to their first ever relegation to Serie B. They bounced back however under the ownership of entrepreneur turned Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and through the actions of prime time playmakers such as Paolo Maldini, Andriy Shevchenko, and Ronaldinho. The 2010’s saw a time of decline, consistently finishing in the Europa League spots domestically and not performing to expectations in European competitions. This past year however has brought some optimism to the club, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in five years. All in all it looks like A.C. Milan has a bright future ahead of them. 


Tottenham Hotspur:

Part of the “big six” of England’s Premier League, Tottenham has had a bright yet mixed history. Dominant in the 1960’s and 1970’s, they won the league twice and became the first English team to win a European trophy in 1963. However from the 1980’s to about the mid 2000’s the team went on a big decline, constantly finishing mid-table and going through multiple managers under the unforgiving leadership of Chairman Daniel Levy. However in 2009 they qualified for the Champions League for the first time under the leadership of manager Harry Redknapp and with players such as Gareth Bale, and Luka Modric. They saw an even greater resurgence in the 2010’s, consistently finishing in the top four and getting respectable results in the Champions League, even reaching the final in 2019, which was won by Liverpool. The main reason why they are on this list is because of their lack of trophies given their relative success. They last won a trophy in 2008, which is disappointing given the team that they have and their standing as one of the biggest clubs in England, becoming the brunt of jokes throughout the soccer community. Because of this, they are a perfect example of what it means to be on this list. 

All in all, these five clubs have seen dramatic rises and yet dramatic falls as well due to poor form, corruption, or just mediocracy. They are what it means to rise and fall from success.