Underdog Triumphs: The Biggest Unexpected Heroes in Champions League History
Making Champions League predictions is never easy, with Europe's most prestigious football prize offering out thrills and spills aplenty over the years. However, there have been some surprise packages that have truly shocked the football world more than others.
In today's article we will explore some of the biggest underdog triumphs in Champions League history, the unexpected sides who stole the hearts of fans across the continent, from an Italian side managed by a novice to an unforgettable run navigated by the special one, we have got you covered.
AS Roma – 2017/18
Under novice coach Eusebio Di Francesco, not much was expected from the Italian side as they entered the tournament during the 2017/2018 campaign.
Nevertheless, they ended up topping their group, which included Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, before toppling a fierce Barcelona side in the quarter-finals, coming back from a 4-1 deficit.
Unfortunately, this surprise package story didn't finish with a trophy, after Roma were knocked out of the competition by Liverpool in the semi-finals, however, their remarkable run is still remembered fondly on the streets of Rome.
Villarreal – 2005/06
A team molded around the majestic maestro Juan Roman Riquelme reached the semi-finals of the Champions League during the 2005/2006 season in their first-ever appearance in the competition.
The Yellow Submarines topped their group which featured a Sir Alex Ferguson-led Manchester United before toppling Rangers and Italian royalty Inter Milan.
Much like Roma, their remarkable run came to an end at the hands of an English giant, with Arsenal seeing them off in the semi-finals after Riquelme missed a late penalty to take the second leg to extra time.
Nantes – 1995/96
No one gave Nantes much of a chance when they made their first-ever appearances in the Champions League in 1995 and the little-known team from France went on to prove everyone wrong.
Panathinaikos, Porto and Aalborg faced the French side in the group stages, which they managed to overcome finishing in second place before seeing off Spartak Moscow in the knockout stages.
Claude Makelele was the star of this young Nantes side and despite them proving just about everyone wrong, a strong Juventus setup that went on to win the competition that year narrowly escaped Nantes' grasp with a 4-3 aggregate win.
Valencia – 1999/00
Claudio Lopez, Kily Gonzalez and Gaizka Mendieta were just some of the stars who would go on to have terrific careers from this special Valencia set-up.
The 1999/2000 campaign was Valencia's first ever time in the Champions League and boy did they make an impression. They demolished the highly-rated Lazio and Barcelona en route to the final.
Despite being ultra-talented and playing some incredible football, Valencia could never quite make it over the final hurdle and would lose their first of two consecutive Champions League finals that year, ouch.
Leeds – 2000/01
Now, Leeds United wouldn't be a side you particularly associate with the Champions League in recent years, however, their youthful squad in 2000/2001 played their part in upsets aplenty.
The Whites managed to escape a group of deaths that featured AC Milan and Barcelona, before inflicting a demolition job on Spanish champions Deportivo La Coruna in front of a raucous Elland Road crowd.
Semi-final heartache occurred when Leeds was eventually knocked out by Valencia, nevertheless, no one will ever forget this remarkable Champions League run.
Dynamo Kyiv – 1998/99
The streets will never forget Andriy Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov's Dynamo Kyiv side that produced one of the most memorable Champions League runs in recent memory.
No Eastern European team has reached the heights Kyiv did since and it's more than likely they never will either, making this surprise package story all the more special.
A 4-3 semi-final defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich brought the Kyiv outfit crashing back down to earth before they were robbed of their star talents the following season.
Porto - 2003/04
Porto during the 2003/2004 season, guided by the special one Jose Mourinho in the infantry of his managerial career, the biggest surprise package in Champions League history? We think so.
Porto's machine kept on ploughing through every European giant put in front of them before that easily overcame Monaco in the final to take home Europe's most coveted prize.
No side outside of England, Italy, Spain and Germany has won the competition since and it's more than likely they never will either, making this Porto victory one of the very best in the competition's illustrious history.
Published by Patrick Jane