Cup Winners' Cup: Winners, history & why European tournament ended

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As UEFA gets set to reintroduce a third continental tournament, we've taken a look back at UEFA's last third-tier competition

European football governing body UEFA is set to introduce a new third continental competition to complement the Champions League and the Europa League.

The idea behind what is being called 'UEL2', according the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, is to increase participation for clubs that would find it difficult to qualify for the premier and second-tier tournaments.

While the concept of a new third tournament may seem novel and fresh to some football fans, it is not the first time we've seen three UEFA tournaments.

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As well as the European Cup (Champions League) and UEFA Cup (Europa League), the Cup Winners' Cup ran for nearly 40 years during the 20th century.

Goal takes a look at the competition, past winners and why it came to an end.


What was the Cup Winners' Cup?


Mike Phelan Bryan Robson Lee Sharpe Manchester United

The Cup Winners' Cup was launched during the 1960-61 season as a pan-European tournament for - as the name suggests - the winners of domestic cups across the continent.

It was a companion competition to the European Cup and the winners of the two competitions later faced off in the final of the UEFA Super Cup.

Initially it was not recognised by UEFA but the governing body took over the administration of it in the second season and it soon became a key competition in the club football calendar.

Thirty-two teams competed and unlike the Champions League and Europa League formats that we are familiar with today, the Cup Winners' Cup was a straight knockout tournament, with home and away legs.

Interestingly, it was the platform where the away goals rule was first introduced, with the 1965-66 tournament serving as a test space.


Cup Winners' Cup champions


Bobby Robson Ronaldo Barcelona Cup WInners Cup

Barcelona are the most successful club in the history of the Cup Winners' Cup, lifting the trophy on four occasions having reached six finals in total.

AC Milan, Chelsea, Anderlecht and Dynamo Kiev follow on two trophies each. After that there are 27 different champions, including the likes of Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Ajax and Arsenal.

Italian side Fiorentina won the first ever tournament beating Rangers 4-1 on aggregate. It was the only final in the competition's history to feature home and away legs, with the rest being single deciders on neutral territory.

You can see the full list of winners and the years they won in the table below.

Club Titles Years won
Barcelona 4 1979, 1982, 1989, 1997
Anderlecht 2 1976, 1978
AC Milan 2 1968, 1973
Chelsea 2 1971, 1998
Dynamo Kiev 2 1975, 1986
Atletico Madrid 1 1962
Rangers 1 1972
Arsenal 1 1994
Fiorentina 1 1961
West Ham 1 1965
Hamburg 1 1977
Ajax 1 1987
Sampdoria 1 1990
Parma 1 1993
Paris Saint-Germain 1 1996
Tottenham 1 1963
Sporting 1 1964
Borussia Dortmund 1 1966
Bayern Munich 1 1967
Slovan Bratislava 1 1969
Manchester City 1 1970
Magdeburg 1 1974
Valencia 1 1980
Dinamo Tblisi 1 1981
Aberdeen 1 1983
Juventus 1 1984
Everton 1 1985
Mechelen 1 1988
Manchester United 1 1991
Werder Bremen 1 1992
Real Zaragoza 1 1995
Lazio 1 1999

When did the Cup Winners' Cup end & why?


Bryan Robson Manchester United Diego Maradona Barcelona

The last Cup Winners' Cup tournament took place in the 1998-99 season with UEFA's executive committee deciding to abolish it thereafter, bringing an end to four decades of history.

Serie A side Lazio won the final tournament - it was their first time lifting the trophy - by beating Spanish outfit Mallorca in the decider at Villa Park.

The decline of the tournament coincided with sweeping changes to the European Cup, which had been remodelled in 1992 as the Champions League.

With a greater number of elite clubs qualifying for the Champions League through their league positions thanks to UEFA's overhaul, the Cup Winners' Cup gradually suffered from a perceived lack of quality.

It was merged with the UEFA Cup (which later became the Europa League) and the winner of that competition subsequently earned the right to play in the UEFA Super Cup.

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