Are Chelsea the worst European champions ever?
Published: 21.02.13 / Written by: David Gold
Chelsea played in the Europa League against Sparta Prague last week as they got used to life outside of Europe’s elite.
The Champions League a year ago was a distant dream, as Chelsea went 3-1 behind to Napoli under Andre Villas Boas. They came back, improbably, and won the competition.
Their victory in the Champions League was one of the least deserved in history. The amount of luck Chelsea got on their route to the final was almost unprecedented, outplayed in game after game on their way to victory. Their defence of the title this season was shambolic. Outplayed by Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus, Chelsea were never going to last long in the competition and were rightly shunted out at the first hurdle by far superior opponents.
So are they the worst European champions ever? Certainly they pale with comparison to some recent winners of the tournament. Barcelona are the best team in the world, whilst Inter Milan were a superb team when they claimed the title, winning the domestic league and cup as well. Manchester United claimed the title in 2008, and were hard to dispute as the best team in the world that year. The year before, 2007, AC Milan walked away with the title, and that team was an excellent one which had won the competition in 2003 as well. Porto in 2004 were another weak title winner, but they did beat Manchester United on the way to victory and at least avoided a group stage exit the following year.
Similarly Liverpool in 2005 came from nowhere to win the tournament. Yet their victory was superb. Even less likely than Chelsea’s last year, what it lacked in the likelihood factor it made up for in entertainment. Liverpool were thrilling, a superb team who fought like lions and played with such attacking endeavour to overturn a 3-0 deficit in the final, a show of defiance far superior to Chelsea’s last year. It is easy to defy a superior opponent through attacking organisation, far harder to do it creatively, going forward in search of goals.
So it is hard to think of a worse European champion than Chelsea. Devoid of class or quality, this is a team who have failed to capture the imagination the way other European champions have in recent years. Their reign was brief and deservedly so, but they put on a meak show in Japan against Corinthians of Brazil. They were clearly the better team in the World Club Cup final, taking the trophy back to South America for the first time in five years. That enabled South America to reassert dominance after years of being in the shade to Europe. In part that is down to the impressive performances of Brazilian sides and their growing wealth, but it is a reflection too on the paucity of quality in Europe’s best side of last year. The worst best team there has been for some time.