Spurs have long been known as a cup side, which is a double-edged sword, reflecting their relative lack of success in the league just as much as it does their glory in the cups. The north London giants have only won England’s top flight on two occasions but they have won the FA Cup eight times. They have enjoyed plenty of cup success besides the FA Cup too, but how have they done in the biggest competition of them all, the UEFA Champions League (UCL)?
Founded in 1955 as the European Cup and rebranded as the Champions League in 1992, despite the name this competition is fundamentally a cup, but have Spurs ever won it?
Have Tottenham Hotspur Ever Won the Champions League?
Spurs have never won the UCL, either in its initial guise as the European Cup or since it adopted its current moniker. They have, however, gone reasonably close a few times, as we shall see, and have been competing in the competition far more regularly over the last 10 or so years.
Champions League Finals
Whilst we have just noted that Spurs have “gone reasonably close a few times”, they have only fallen at the final hurdle once, a summary of which you can see below:
Stage of Elimination
Taking a more general look at Spurs’ involvement in this elite competition, the table below shows at what stage Tottenham have tended to be eliminated from the competition. The format of the UCL has changed many times, and there is certainly a big difference between the structure of it now compared to in the tournament’s early days. As such, not all of the rounds listed have been played in all of the seasons, whilst the relative value of being eliminated in the quarter final, for example, is not necessarily the same across all UCL campaigns.
As an illustration of this, in 1961/62 they made the semis having played eight, won four, and lost three. In contrast, in 2017/18 they won five out of eight games, losing just once, but went out at the Round of 16 stage. Even so, the table below gives us a decent idea of how Spurs have fared in the Champions League.
|Stage||Number of Times||Percentage|
|Round of 16||2||33%|
Note that the information given is correct prior to the 2022/23 season. Percentages do not equal 100 due to rounding.
Tottenham’s Best Performances
Spurs qualified for one of the earliest seasons of this competition thanks to winning their second and most recent top-flight English title in 1961, when they completed the double. That very fine Spurs side, led by club legend Bill Nicholson and with Jimmy Greaves up front (signed after winning the double), made the semis, narrowly losing to Benfica, who would go on to beat Real Madrid 5-3 in what looks to have been a cracker of a final.
Spurs would not play in the competition again until 2010 but over the past decade or so they have begun to qualify more regularly. Their best run in the competition ever came in the 2018/19 season when they made it all the way through to the final. That year was actually a rather strange one for Spurs as they lost five times in the UCL, and also 13 times in the league. That total of 13 Premier League defeats was as many as the three sides who finished above them (Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea) combined but even so, Tottenham came so close to winning the biggest competition of them all.
Then managed by Mauricio Pochettino, the north Londoners only just scraped it out of Group B, taking a mere eight points from their six games and edging out Inter Milan only by virtue of having scored more away goals in the head-to-head meetings between the pair! In the final game of the group they drew 1-1 at the Nou Camp with runaway group winners Barca, whilst Inter could only manage the same result at home to the whipping boys of the quartet, PSV.
Poch and co almost made the most of their good fortune though as they hammered Dortmund in the last 16, winning 4-0 overall. They rode their luck at times in the quarters before thrillingly coming out on top on away goals (4-4) against Man City and then again needed away goals to get past Ajax 3-3 in the semis. In the second leg of the semi they came from 2-0 down in Amsterdam too, Lucas Moura grabbing an incredible hat-trick with goals in the 55th, 59th and 96th minutes to set up an all-English final with Liverpool.
The showpiece was played at Atletico’s stadium in Madrid and was a disappointing final between the teams that would finish second and fourth in the Premier League that year. A Mo Salah penalty in the second minute and a Divock Origi strike at the death gave the Reds a 2-0 win. Ironically, having so often been second best at other stages of the tournament and scraping through, Spurs were probably the better side in the final but lost. The eventual winners had just three shots on target, one a penalty, another a late goal on the break, whereas Alisson had to make eight saves in the second half to keep Liverpool ahead.
Tottenham’s Worst Upsets
Spurs have never really suffered any truly terrible results in this competition and for a club like them their record overall is pretty decent. They have only competed in the European Cup/UCL six times and have made the quarters or better half of the time, only exiting at the first hurdle once.
That came in 2016/17 and should rightly be considered their worst performance in the competition. Drawn in Group E alongside CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco they were strong favourites to at least progress. Instead they trailed the French and German sides and managed just two wins. Their only wins came against CSKA and they lost at home to both Monaco and Leverkusen to be eliminated.