Can Porto Win The Champions League Next Season? Here Is How Former Europa League & Uefa Cup Winners Fared The Following Year

After claiming success at the Dublin Arena, the signs are that they will have a harder time amongst Europe's big boys next term
ANALYSIS
by Robin Bairner

Though Wednesday night’s Europa League final was far from a classic, Porto proved to be worthy winners of Europe’s silver medal club event. In 2003, when the Portuguese giants last lifted the crown, then known as the Uefa Cup, they wasted no time in becoming the champions of the continent, achieving a feat that was remarkable, though not quite unique.

As the table below displays, only Liverpool had previously gone from being Uefa Cup or Europa League winners to champions of Europe, and Porto’s success around the turn of the millennium marked the end of teams from the second string competition seriously competing at the top table 12 months later.

WINNERS OF THE UEFA CUP/ EUROPA LEAGUE IN THE
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THE FOLLOWING YEAR
Year of Uefa Cup/ Europa League win
Club
Champions League/ European Cup progress
1972-73
Liverpool
2nd round
1973-74
Feyenoord
2nd round
1974-75
Borussia Monchengladbach
Quarter-finals
1975-76
Liverpool
Winners
1976-77 Juventus
Semi-finals
1977-78
PSV
2nd round
1985-86
Real Madrid
Semi-finals
1997-98
Inter
Quarter-finals
1999-2000 Parma
3rd qualifying round
2000-01 Galatasaray
Quarter-finals
2001-02 Liverpool
Quarter-finals
2002-03 Feyenoord
1st group stage
2003-04 Porto
Winners
2004-05 Valencia
Group stage
2006-07 Sevilla
Last 16
2007-08 Zenit St. Petersburg
Group stage
2008-09 Shakhtar
3rd qualifying round

With Andre Villas Boas at the helm, there is a remarkable level of optimism surrounding the Dragoes, who have stormed through this campaign with an incredible level of success at home and abroad. Their coach has already been compared to Jose Mourinho, who was the team’s leader when they marched to the Champions League title in 2004, though there is heavy interest from elsewhere and no guarantee that he will still be at the Estadio do Dragao next term.

And it’s not just the man in the dugout that Porto have to worry about losing. Unsurprisingly given the dominance of their campaign, a raft of players are being linked with clubs in the traditional big leagues, including strikers Radamel Falcao, whose goalscoring exploits on the continent have gone down in history, and Hulk.

Porto | 2011 European success... what of 2012?

The northern Portuguese side have shown a remarkable ability to reinvent themselves after the departures of key members of staff, and though there are few reasons to suggest that they could not do so again, becoming European champions after potentially losing many of their top stars would be an achievement to top anything even Mourinho managed.

Recent history also plays against Porto. Though there was a long spell when the Uefa Cup winners could expect to be highly competitive in the European Cup or Champions League, those days have passed. Aside from Mourinho’s triumph, it’s been a decade since the winners of the second string competition have even made it to the quarter-finals of the ‘main event’, which has of course grown more competitive due to the increased number of sides from the continent’s premier leagues.

Villas Boas, however, has worked miracles this season, and the Dragoes may have a strong recent history in the Champions League, but it would certainly be very hasty to label even this dominant side as potential winners of the ‘big-eared cup’ next season when the efforts of recent Europa League holders are considered.

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