Although they have only won one Premier League title to date, Liverpool are considered one of the most successful clubs in English and indeed European football. With 19 top-flight domestic titles to their name, only Man United have won more (with 20). Whereas on the continent, Liverpool have won a whopping total of 13 European tournaments, and they’ve even thrown in a Club World Cup triumph for good measure. But of their various honours, the question at hand is simply this: how many Champions Leagues have Liverpool won?
We’ll cut to the chase here and declare that Liverpool have won the Champions League on two occasions, in 2005 and 2019. But it should, of course, be noted that the Champions League has only been in existence since the 1992/93 season. Prior to that, its forerunner the European Cup was the premier prize in European football and Liverpool won that four times in the 1970s and 1980s. As such, having been crowned European champions six times, only AC Milan (with seven) and Real Madrid (with a whopping 14) are more successful in the European Cup/Champions League (Bayern Munich have also been European champions six times).
Let’s take a look at Liverpool’s two Champions League triumphs. And, then we’ll cast our gaze back to the four European Cups they bagged during their heyday.
Liverpool Have Won the Champions League Twice – 2004/05 & 2018/19
The 1990s was not the most fruitful decade for Liverpool in terms of trophies, certainly compared to the two that preceded it. Yes, they won the old Division One title in the 1989/90 season, but after that, they only added one FA Cup and one League Cup to their trophy cabinet before the end of the millennium.
They didn’t do too well on the continent either and didn’t qualify for any of the first nine Champions Leagues. They made the quarters in 2001/02, but then went out at the group stage the following season. But their fortunes were about to change in Europe’s elite club competition.
Miracle of Istanbul: Liverpool Fight Back for Glory – 2004/05
Liverpool had appointed the former Valencia boss, Rafael Benitez, as manager ahead of the 2004/05 season. The man from Madrid had led Valencia to two La Liga titles in three seasons and also won the UEFA Cup, so hopes were high that he could bring success to Merseyside. Things didn’t go quite according to plan in the Premier League (Liverpool finished fifth, a place behind Everton!). But in the Champions League, Benitez showed his experience of European football to guide his side through the competition brilliantly… at least after the group stage.
The Reds finished second in their group, behind Monaco, and only went through to the knockout phase on head-to-head goal difference ahead of Olympiacos. Indeed, they only scraped through thanks to a very late goal by Steve Gerrard against the Greeks in the final four minutes of the entire group. His screamer secured the two-goal margin the Reds needed in what is one of Liverpool’s all-time great moments.
But in the Round of 16, Liverpool turned on the style as they beat German side Bayer Leverkusen 6-2 on aggregate (3-1 both home and away). Then they overcame Italian giants, Juventus, 2-1 (on aggregate) in the quarters before an all-English affair in the semis against Chelsea. In a tight tie, the Reds edged it 1-0 on aggregate thanks to a Luis García “ghost” goal at Anfield in the second leg.
That set up the final in Istanbul against AC Milan, who had already beaten Inter and Manchester United during the tournament. The Italian side, managed by Carlo Ancelotti, was full of stars including Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Kaká, Andriy Shevchenko and Hernán Crespo. And, the Italians had by far the better of the first half and were 3-0 up at the break.
Then came one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history as the Reds clawed it back to 3-3. Extra time and penalties ensued and Liverpool triumphed (in part due to Jerzy Dudek’s Grobbelaar-esque and unconventional means of putting off the opposing side’s penalty-takers).
Liverpool Triumph Against English Opposition – 2018/19
Jürgen Klopp was at the helm when Liverpool next won the Champions League and they came into the competition having been defeated in the final the season before (when they lost 3-1 to Real Madrid). Klopp and his team were determined to go one better this time around and they ended up having a brilliant season. Okay, they missed out on the Premier League title by a single point to Man City. But the Reds amassed a points total of 97 and only lost one league game all season. But there was no settling for second best in Europe!
Well, having said that, Liverpool once again finished second in their group, this time behind Paris Saint-Germain. And, level on just about every possible metric with Napoli, the Reds progressed to the knockout stage because they had scored two more goals than the Italians. But – like in 2004/05 – Liverpool turned it on against German opposition in the Round of 16, this time around beating Bundesliga behemoths Bayern Munich 3-1 on aggregate. In the quarters, the Reds made short work of Porto, swatting them aside 6-1 on aggregate, before what would turn out to be a very eventful semi-final clash against Barcelona.
Liverpool lost the first leg in Barcelona 3-0 and looked dead and buried. But, almost miraculously, they won the second leg at Anfield 4-0, with Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum each scoring two goals. That unlikely triumph set up a final against Tottenham Hotspur, which proved rather less exciting than Liverpool’s semi-final. The Reds scored after just two minutes, Mohamed Salah making no mistake from the penalty spot. In a dour contest, Spurs could find no breakthrough and Liverpool doubled their lead with just a few minutes to go, Origi stroking the ball into the bottom right corner after a counter.
Liverpool’s Four European Cup Triumphs
Just as domestic football existed in England long before the advent of the Premier League, so European tournaments were well established before the Champions League appeared. And Liverpool had already been crowned European champions more times than any other English side with four European Cups in the cabinet.
Liverpool’s First European Cup – 1976/77
Bob Paisley led Liverpool to their first European Cup as his star-studded side beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in the final in Rome. The goals came from Terry McDermott, Tommy Smith and Phil Neal.
Liverpool Retain European Title – 1977/78
Liverpool showed their first European Cup was no fluke when they retained the title the very next season. This time they beat Borussia Mönchengladbach in the semis before beating Belgian side Brugge 1-0 in the final thanks to a goal from Kenny Dalglish.
Third European Cup for Paisley & Liverpool – 1980/81
The 1980/81 was a tough one for Liverpool in that they finished only fifth in the league. But they made up for that in the European Cup when they beat the mighty Real Madrid 1-0 in the final in Paris. The only goal of the game came from Alan Kennedy and it gave Liverpool and Paisley their third European title. To this day, only Carlo Ancelotti has won more European Cups/Champions Leagues than Paisley (the Italian having won four).
Liverpool League, European Cup and League Cup Treble – 1983/84
Under Joe Fagan, the Reds had a fantastic season, winning the domestic title and League Cup and rounding things off with the European Cup too. They beat Roma in the final, which went to penalties after finishing 1-1 after extra time.