Chance to win all three major European trophies gone for most
6 February ~ When hearing this week that former Bayern Munich, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Barcelona manager Udo Lattek had died at the age of 80, I instantly remembered he was the first coach to win all three European club competitions. Furthermore he had Denmark’s Allan Simonsen in his Mönchengladbach and Barça sides, the only player to score in all three European finals. In a week when a new TV rights auction will earn the Premier League billions, these unique boasts remind us that variety of achievement once mattered, rather than variety of match days.
They also illustrate how the 1999 discontinuation of the European Cup-Winners Cup still skews the European honours list. For some this matters more than league games on Monday and Friday nights. Real Madrid lost the 1971 Cup-Winners Cup final to Chelsea after a replay and the 1983 final to Aberdeen after extra time. So, despite always having won the European Cup more often than anyone else, Real will never have won the three continental trophies as Barcelona had by 1992. This treble remains a possibility for the likes of KV Mechelen – 1988 Cup-Winners Cup champions and in the Belgian third division as recently as 2005 – and 1974 winners, FC Magdeburg, currently in the German fourth tier.
This season Rafa Benítez could become the first manager to win the same European trophy with three different clubs. He lifted the 2004 UEFA Cup with Valencia and Napoli’s current Europa League campaign could quite easily end as victoriously for him as Chelsea’s in 2013. Yet despite this and the small matter of winning the 2005 Champions League with Liverpool, Benítez is regarded as a failure in England for not winning the Premier League. Following two-time Champions League and Premier League winner José Mourinho into the Internazionale and, eventually, Chelsea jobs didn’t help.
However, the 21st century lack of a third European competition has only emphasised the quality gap between the remaining two. It cheapens Benítez’s achievement by comparison. A dozen Europa Leagues would now merely highlight 12 years you weren’t in the Champions League. Arsène Wenger has lost all three European competitions (the Cup-Winners Cup as Monaco manager in 1992 the UEFA Cup and Champions League finals with Arsenal in 2000 and 2006 respectively). However, this breadth of endeavour segued, at the turn of the century, into 17 straight Champions League group stage qualifications. Almost as a direct result, last season’s FA Cup was their first trophy in nearly a decade.
The same FA Cup was regarded as an embarrassing omission for the Liverpool side sweeping all else before them home and abroad between 1974 and 1986. Deregulated broadcasting rights mean minor glories achieved en route are a hindrance; Premier League survival and Champions League participation are the cash cows and the main aim. The list of players to have won all three European competitions is in double figures. However, as it’s now 16 years since UEFA scrapped the Cup-Winners Cup, Simonsen’s feat will remain unique. It’s unlikely anyone will match Lattek and Giovanni Trapattoni, who managed Juventus when they became first club to win all three European trophies, between 1977 and 1985.
Benítez improved Chelsea’s nouveau riche image by making them the first English side to acheive this continental treble also completed by Ajax and Bayern Munich. Liverpool have the country’s superior European Cup record. But Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham – all previous Cup-Winners Cup holders – could win every European trophy before any north-west giant. All it takes is an oligarch with an interest in London and football history prior to the year 2000. Alex Anderson