Long before teams who won their domestic cup were granted the right to participate in the Europa League, there was the Cup Winner’s Cup (CWC). A European competition dedicated solely to honoring winners of national cup competitions, it was part of a three branch system that also included the European Cup (later to be rebranded as the Champions League) and the UEFA Cup (later the Europa League).
The Cup Winner’s Cup had its time in the spotlight. In fact participating clubs made it one of their priorities. Matches in the competition were highly attended. Teams winning the trophy were practically guaranteed heroes’ welcome upon the return to their home countries. So, what happened?
In a nutshell, Europe’s super clubs began rocking the proverbial boat, demanding advantageous conditions for their teams. For a while it looked like they would start their own competition and simply play each other. The pressure resulted in UEFA agreeing to the Champions League, where the system favored those top clubs. The super clubs now had a higher stake and they routinely played against each other. Rankings started going down for the other competitions. Finally, in 1999, the European federation agreed to make the CWC part of the UEFA Cup.
Still remembered fondly by fans across the world, here are some of the those super clubs you may not know were winners of Cup Winner’s Cup.
1. Manchester United (1991)
The 1990’s represented the resurgence of Manchester United. Under the leadership of Alex Ferguson, the team became of the most successful clubs in the world. Fergie’s team would go on to win the Champions League twice. But their success in the Cup Winner’s Cup announced the team’s ambitions to the world. (Photo: Sir Alex Ferguson & Archie Knox celebrate CWC trophy Source: Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
The victory was made all the more special by the fact that 1990 was the year England’s ban in European competitions was lifted. English teams were expected to prove themselves and fans were expected to behave.
United’s most difficult game on route to the final was the 3-2 aggregate win against Juventus in the semi-finals. With the Serie A giants out of the way, Manchester United played Barcelona in the final,on the 15th of May 1991 . Mark Hughes scored twice for the Red Devils, who won the game 2-1.
It was Alex Ferguson’s second Cup Winner’s Cup victory, following Aberdeen’s shocking victory over Real Madrid. A lot would soon change for United, with a talented new generation of players joining the ranks and the club once again becoming one of Europe’s greatest. (Photo: Mike Phelan,Bryan Robson and Lee Sharpe Source: Simon Bruty / Getty Images)
2. Chelsea (1971, 1998)
In 1998 Russian millionaire investors and super club status were merely a dream for London’s Chelsea. But it was all about to come true thanks to one man. Italian striker Gianfranco Zola ushered in a new age at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had won the competition once before in 1971, but the days of European success seemed a life time away.
Manager Ruud Gullit started the campaign that saw the English side advancing over the likes of Real Betis and Vicenza. By the time they’d reached the final against VFB Stuttgart forward Gianluca Vialli was also acting as team manager. His decision to bench compatriot Zola in the final came as a bit of a shock. But the diminutive striker was brought in late in the game and slaughtered in a long pass that made Chelsea the winners. (Photo Dennis Wise, Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo celebrate Cup Winner’s Cup trophy. Source: Reuters)
Zola would continue to play for Chelsea until 2003. His final goal for the club was also one of the most important in the club’s history. Zola scored a beautiful lob from outside the area against Everton, to grant Chelsea entry in the Champions League. Reportedly, a certain Russian billionaire was in the market of an English club playing the Champions League. It took an Italian forward’s audacious long shot to make it happen. In 2003 Gianfranco Zola was voted Chelsea’s best ever player by fans.
3. Paris Saint-Germain (1996)
Nowadays PSG is bidding for the worlds’ most expensive players and promising Champions League success. But before that they were a club routinely failing to live up to expectations despite showing a lot of potential.
This potential was was on full display in 1996 when the team secured their first, and to date only, European trophy. It was a difficult road to the final. PSG had to overcome Molde, Celtic, Parma and Deportivo La Coruña.
PSG played the final against Austria’s Rapid Wien, whose attack featured football goliath Carsten Jancker. The difference was made by a single goal scored through Bruno N’Gotty free-kick. Paris-Saint Germain had finally won a European trophy and fans were confident more success was to follow.
For a while, the optimism proved justified. The Parisian side made it through the final again once more the following year. This time they played Barcelona. The Spanish side won after a penalty kick was converted by Ronaldo (yes, the Brazilian Ronaldo). Almost fifteen years of disappointment followed, before PSG could once again assemble one of Europe’s best teams.
The Cup Winner’s Cup is no more. We’re probably worse off because of this. But the Champions League and Europa League are going ahead as planned and the games are featured in FootballCoin contests. Join for a free chance to win important crypto prizes.