Sleeping giants of world football

Monday, February 17th, 2020 00:00 |
Manchester United.

Once behemoths of the game both domestically and abroad, these teams have seen a shocking fall from grace since their glorious heydays. Here are some of the biggest declines endured by once great clubs in world football, and why they happened.

1. Manchester United

A fast-fading force, Manchester United remains the most-successful team in English football with their 20 league titles and three European crowns.

At their peak, they used to challenge for league and Champions League titles every year.

However, after the retirement of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who won 13 league titles and two Champions League, United have never come close to even challenging for one.

In the seven years since Ferguson retired, the best they have finished is second, 19 points behind the champions.

They are currently eighth with a mere 35 points from 25 matches. Poor signings and lack of a proper plan have seen them lurch from crisis to crisis and even with a fourth coach in six years, they still lack direction and way off the top. 

2. AC Milan

Looking at AC Milan now, it is hard to believe they are the second most successful team in Europe, having won seven Champions League titles, two more than both Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

The Rossoneri (Red and Blacks) are also the second most successful team in Serie A with 18 titles.

However, their last Champions League crown was in 2007 while they last lifted a league title in 2011.

Milan have endured a torrid time, changing coaches at will in search for success while also sinking in debts which has prevented them from signing top talent while losing their best.

They are currently 10th on the table and even a Europa League place looks dim. 

3. Saint-Etienne

Most Millennials would probably think PSG are the most successful team in France. Surprise, surprise!


While PSG have been the most dominant in the last decade, Saint-Etienne remains the most successful French team domestically with 10 titles.

The problem, however, is that the last of those came 39 years ago. Since then, they have bounced between first and second divisions several times with occasional appearances in the Europa League.

The struggle continues and even today as they find themselves closer to relegation than a title challenge, sitting 15th on the 20-team league table.  

4. Arsenal

Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ of 2004 come to mind whenever you write Arsenal’s success story. Winners of seven league titles, the Gunners wrote history by going the entire season unbeaten as they lifted the title 16 years ago.


However, that remains their last major honour with poor performances and frustrations following. Since then, Arsenal turned from title contenders to top four hopefuls and in the last three years, even that has proved difficult.

Most would point to Wengers’ retirement in 2018 after 23 years at the helm as the reason for their decline but the truth is that their struggles began way before he left. 

5. Deportivo La Coruna

Once a title contender in Spain, now they are fighting against relegation in the Segunda Division.

Deportivo La Coruna won the Spanish league title in 2000 with famous players like Djalminha, Diego Tristan and Roy Makaay.

They then impressed in the following years with some excellent performances in both the league and the Champions League.

A new European superpower appeared to be have been born, but soon after their success came the great downfall.

The club lost its best players and financial troubles lead the club towards relegation from La Liga in 2011. 

6. FC Kaiserslautern

One of the oldest clubs in Germany, FC Kaiserslautern experienced a true fairy tale. After they were relegated from the Bundesliga in 1996, they won two back-to-back championships to complete one of biggest fairy tales in modern football.

They won the Bundesliga 2 in 1997 and then instantly won the Bundesliga, beating Bayern Munich by two points.

Despite their wonder season, Kaiserslautern would be relegated from the Bundesliga on two occasions in the following years, the last time in 2012 and are now in the third tier.

7. Leeds United

In the 60’s and 70’s Leeds, won several league and cup titles and at the turn of the Millennium, they appeared to be the biggest challenger to Manchester United and Arsenal for silverware in England.

They had an awesome group of talented players that managed to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League such as Rio Ferdinand, Alan Smith, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell.

However, Leeds appeared to have been living too large for their status in that period.

They fell down the ladder very hard and barely survived bankruptcy. Leeds have been trying (and failing) to return to the Premier League since. 

8. Nottingham Forest

A league title in 1978 was followed up with back-to-back European Cup wins, with Martin O’Neill playing a pivotal role in their success.

However, relegation beckoned in 1993 and Forest turned into a yo-yo club throughout the 90s, before eventually becoming a permanent fixture in the second tier.

Relegation to League One in 2005 made them the first ever European Cup winners to slip into their domestic third division.

They are currently fifth in the second tier trying to launch a return to the top flight.

9. Aston Villa

The Villains were once members of an exclusive club as one of just seven teams to have played in every season of the Premier League.

The other six teams to have never suffered relegation are Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.

That was until the former European Cup winners went through ignominy of falling to the second tier in 2016.

Three years in the Championship saw them get promoted last season but it has not been smooth sailing. They are currently just one point ahead of the relegation zone.

10. Rangers

Scotland’s most successful club were relegated to the third division in 2012 after entering liquidation following financial difficulties in the late 2000s.

This was a new low for a team that has won a record 54 league titles and the 1972 European Cup Winners Cup.

However, after three promotions in four years, Rangers returned to the top flight in the 2016-17 season but it has not been easy.

They have been playing second fiddle to Celtic since, finishing 10 points behind last season, and already trailing them by the same tally this campaign.

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