Barcelona are undoubtedly one of the most successful and iconic football clubs in Europe and indeed the world. Yet it might come as something of a surprise to some that they have “only” been crowned European champions five times, which pales into relative mediocrity when compared to their big rivals Real Madrid, who’ve won a massive 14 European titles.
Of course, winning the Champions League (and/or its forerunner the European Cup) even once is no mean feat, so landing it five times is very impressive. Only four clubs have won more: the aforementioned Real, AC Milan (7), Bayern Munich (6) and Liverpool (6). But let’s take a look at the times when Barcelona conquered the continent and also the times they failed at the final hurdle. We’ll also fish out a few occasions when Barcelona fell well short of their high standards when competing in the Champions League.
Incidentally, while Real Madrid won the first ever European Cup back in 1956 (and indeed then took the next four for good measure), Barca won the final European Cup (in 1992) before it was rebranded as the Champions League. But let’s find out when they won the tournament most recently.
Note that the information in this article is correct as of the end of the 2021/22 Champions League.
When Did Barcelona Last Win the Champions League?
Barcelona last won the Champions League in the 2014/15 season when they beat Juventus 3-1 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Luis Enrique was the coach at the time and he marshalled his team of world-beating superstars to the European title in fine style. The goals in the final came from Ivan Rakitić, Luis Suárez and Neymar, and few would have predicted they would still be waiting for another crown in 2023.
Champions League Finals
Alongside their five Champions League/European Cup triumphs, Barcelona have also ended up as the losing finalists on three occasions. This gives them a respectable win rate in finals of 62.5%. Rivals Real Madrid have also lost three finals, but they’ve won the cup 14 times (so have a win rate of 82%). Barca have won their last four finals but haven’t made it to the showpiece game since 2015. Here’s a rundown of their finals.
|1986||Steaua București||Lost||2-0 on penalties (0-0 AET)|
Stage of Elimination
Barcelona have competed in the Champions League or European cup on 32 occasions and have managed to go all the way 16% of the time, which is better than most sides out there. They’ve made it to the quarters or beyond three-quarters of the time, which almost all other sides would be rather happy with.
|Stage||Number of Times||Percentage|
|Round of 16||4||13%|
Note that the data in the table is correct ahead of the 2023 UCL final. The percentages are based on the total of European Cups/Champions Leagues that Barcelona have qualified for and the total does not equal 100% due to rounding.
Times Barcelona Won the Champions League
Here we’ll run through the five occasions on which Barcelona have been crowned European champions, four of which were Champions Leagues, the other being when the competition was still called the European Cup.
2015: Barca Superstars Prove Too Strong
As mentioned above, Barca beat Juventus 3-1 in the 2015 Champions League final. That was a very good Juve side (managed by Massimiliano Allegri) that included the likes of Carlos Tevez, Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Álvaro Morata. But Barca’s line-up was even stronger and included one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game: Lionel Messi. But Messi’s supporting cast wasn’t too bad either, with Neymar and Luis Suárez completing the famous “MSN” attack, Andrés Iniesta pulling the strings in the middle and a solid defence that included Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves.
Barcelona didn’t exactly have an easy route to the final either. They faced Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax and APOEL in their group, and things weren’t looking great for Enrique’s men when they went down 3-2 to PSG in Paris in their second group game. The Catalans won their remaining four, however, to finish at the top of the pile. They then beat Manchester City 3-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16 before being drawn to face PSG once again. This time Barca made short work of the French side, winning 3-1 in Paris and 2-0 at home.
A mouthwatering semi-final against Bayern Munich, then managed by former Barca legend, Pep Guardiola, lived up to its billing and Barca almost fluffed their lines. They won the first leg 3-0 on home soil but when stumbled to a 3-2 defeat in Bavaria. Still, it was enough to make the final and there was no hesitancy there as Rakitić scored after just four minutes. Morata got one back for Juve in the second half, but Suárez and Neymar finished the job to land Barca their fifth and (at the time writing) last European title.
2011: Barca Outplay Battling Man United
Under Guardiola, Barcelona were a real force to be reckoned with on the European stage and this certainly proved the case at Wembley in 2011 when they comprehensively outplayed Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United. With 63% of the possession and 12 shots on target to United’s one, there was really only ever going to be one result here. Goals from Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa were more than enough to send the Champions League back to Catalonia, despite a classy goal from Wayne Rooney.
Barca had a relatively easy group (Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos), and then got past Arsenal in the Round of 16 (4-3 on aggregate) and Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine in the quarters (6-1 on aggregate). They faced something of a tougher task in the semi, though: Real Madrid. Barca were in the ascendancy at the time in Spain (they were just wrapping up their third straight La Liga title), and it was the 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu that did the damage for the Catalan side, a brace from Messi late in the second half putting his side in control. The second leg was closer, but Barca eased to a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou to make it through.
In some ways, the final was less of a contest as Ferguson’s United side never really looked likely to be victorious. This turned out to be the second victory over the Red Devils in a Champions League final and the third against English opposition (see below). It was also the second time Barca had been crowned European champions at Wembley Stadium after their 1992 success. With Messi at his very best, the Barca of this era was arguably as good as any we have seen in club football, and perhaps should have won more UCL titles than they did.
2009: Revenge for Barca Against Reigning Champions
Manchester United were the reigning European champions coming into the 2008/09 Champions League and they had knocked Barcelona out at the semi final stage in 2008. When the sides made it through the 2009 final at the Stadio Olimpio in Rome, Barca boss, Guardiola, was out for revenge. And, revenge they got as they won the final 2-0 thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o (after 10 minutes) and that man Messi (after 70 minutes). It was a much closer encounter than three years later, at least in terms of possession, as Man United enjoyed 49% of the ball. Fergusons men also had more shots (12 to Barca’s 11), though Barca had more on target (eight to two).
Things weren’t all plain sailing for Barca during the tournament, however, as they only won their group by a single point ahead of Sporting Lisbon. Barcelona could only muster a 1-1 draw at home against Basel, and then went down 3-2 on home turf to Shakhtar Donetsk. They looked very good in the next two rounds though, scoring freely as they hammering Lyon 6-3 and then Bayern Munich 5-1 (both on aggregate). It was tougher in the semi final against Chelsea though and Barca had to rely on their away goal as they edged through the final thanks to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge after a 0-0 stalemate at Camp Nou.
When it came to the final, United could have given Barca a bit more of a run for their money if they’d had their shooting boots on. But ultimately it was Messi, Thierry Henry, so often the scourge of United with Arsenal, and Eto’o, with support from Xavi and Iniesta, that prevailed over United’s line-up that included Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney and, er… Anderson.
2006: Barca Outgun Arsenal
The first of a trio of Champions League final victories over English opponents came in 2006 when a Barcelona side managed by Dutchman, Frank Rijkaard, overcame Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal at the Stade de France. Barca had won back-to-back La Liga titles and had some top, top players amongst their ranks including Brazilian star Ronaldinho, Portuguese playmaker Deco and the ever-reliable Dutch fullback Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Arsenal had their fair share of top players at the time too, with Henry, Cesc Fàbregas, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg all at the height of their powers and performing well before Wenger’s decline had fully set in.
From an Arsenal perspective, this game was lost early on when their German goalkeeper, Jens Lehman, was sent off (harshly, Gunners fans would suggest) for bringing down Eto’o after just 18 minutes. But, even a 10-man Arsenal side had enough about them to get themselves in front and Sol Campbell scored the opener for the north Londoners late in the first half.
It was perhaps inevitable that Barca would be in the ascendancy late in the game with their man advantage, and so it proved. Enjoying 69% of the second-half possession, the Catalan side scored in the 76th and 80th minutes, through Eto’o and substitute, Juliano Belletti, respectively, to break Arsenal hearts.
1992: First European Title
Fully 32 years after first playing in the European Cup (when they made it to the semis) and 46 years after Real Madrid won their first title, Barcelona finally made it to the pinnacle of European football in 1992. It turned out to be the last ever European Cup before the competition was rebranded as the Champions League, and it’s fair to say it wasn’t the most exciting final in the history of the competition.
Barca, who were coached by another of their playing legends-turned-manager, Johan Cruyff, were up against Italian side Sampdoria who were captained by future Man City and Italy boss, Roberto Mancini. They also had amongst their ranks a legend of Italian football, Gianluca Vialli, and a legend of Grimsby Town football, Ivano Bonetti, but that wasn’t enough to help them to victory.
Barcelona had some very fine players at the time, including Guardiola, Bulgarian striker, Hristo Stoichkov, and Dutch centre back, Ronald Koeman. Despite the attacking talent on display at Wembley that day, the game – and thus the tournament – was decided by a single goal from a defender, the aforementioned Koeman. The Dutchman scored during extra time (in the 112th minute) after neither side could find the back of the net in normal time. This was a pivotal moment for Barcelona as, at long last, they had at least got one European title on the board and they could begin their long (and almost certainly fruitless) chase to catch up with their bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Barcelona’s Worst Upsets
Barcelona, like any team that has feasted at the top table of European football so often, have inevitably had days where the footballing food has been poor and disappointment has been the main order. But none will have hurt more than when they lost in the final to a team from Romania.
1986 European Cup Final: Barca Fire Blanks
One of the biggest upsets in Barcelona’s European Cup/Champions League history came in the final of the competition in 1986 when they lost on penalties to relative minnows Steaua București from Romania. To be fair to Steaua, they also made the final of the European Cup in 1989, so they weren’t the worst team around. But after Barca had beaten Sparta Prague, Porto, Juventus and Gothenburg en route to the final in Seville, they would certainly be fancying their chances of winning their first ever European title.
The thing is, to win football matches you need to score goals and Barcelona just couldn’t put the ball in the net even when the match went to penalties. That’s right, the mighty Barcelona missed all five of their penalties in the shootout, meaning that although their opponents only managed to score two, that was enough to send the trophy to Romania. The hero of the hour was undoubtedly Steaua București keeper, Helmuth Duckadam, who saved all five spot kicks and henceforth was known as the Hero of Seville.
Other Barca Upsets
As well as the penalty shootout disaster in Seville, Barcelona have suffered some rather embarrassing defeats in the Champions League over the years. For instance, they were battered 4-0 by AC Milan in the final in 1994 in Athens, just two years after they’d won their first European title. Equally, losing by the same scoreline to Dynamo Kyiv of Ukraine in 1997 was certainly a body blow, especially given the match took place at Camp Nou. A young striker by the name of Andriy Shevchenko scored a hat-trick that day and certainly raised a few eyebrows.
One of the very worst defeats for Barca, though, came at the hands of German giants, Bayern Munich, who battered Barcelona 8-2 (yes, you read that correctly) in the delayed quarter final match that was played in Lisbon (due to the global health crisis). The Barca side looked completely out of sorts and Bayern were more than happy to take full advantage. Bayern went on to win the tournament and Barca were left licking their significant wounds.