Treble winners: Where could Manchester City rank among Europe’s greatest teams?
Treble winners: Where could Manchester City rank among Europe’s greatest teams?

Treble winners: Where could Manchester City rank among Europe’s greatest teams?

Manchester City are bidding to become only the 10th Treble winners in football history by securing league, cup and European Cup triumphs in the same season.

Having already claimed their fifth Premier League title in six years, Pep Guardiola’s men can add the FA Cup and Champions League with victories over Manchester United at Wembley and Inter Milan in Istanbul.

We have delved into the history books to compare City with previous Treble winners.

Which teams have won the Treble?

Since the first European Cup was played in 1955-56, nine teams have won it in the same season as winning their domestic league and cup titles.

Celtic were the first club to achieve the feat in 1966-67, having come from a goal down to defeat Inter 2-1 in a final played in Lisbon. Remarkably, Jock Stein’s side went one better that season by also winning the Scottish League Cup – they remain the only team ever to have completed a quadruple.

Dutch sides Ajax and PSV won the treble in 1971-72 and 1987-88 respectively, before Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United became the first – and so far, only – English side to do it in 1998-99.

Ten years on from United’s crowning moment in the Nou Camp, Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona team of 2008-09 beat Ferguson’s Red Devils in the Stadio Olimpico to complete a hat-trick of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey titles.

Barca repeated the feat in 2014-15 under Luis Enrique, but not before Inter (2009-10) and Bayern (2012-13) had become the first sides to do the treble in Italy and Germany respectively.

Bayern then joined Barca as the only clubs to win multiple trebles by claiming the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal in the coronavirus-affected season of 2019-20.

How do Manchester City compare with past Treble winners?

Manchester City have won 74 per cent of their matches – 40 out of 54 – in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup this season, which is a better record than Guardiola’s Barcelona (68 per cent) and their local rivals United (58 per cent) managed in their Treble-winning campaigns.

In fact, United’s win rate is comfortably the lowest of any previous Treble winner, although Ferguson’s men were instead notoriously difficult to beat, having secured 21 draws and suffered only three defeats in their 57 games.

The 1971-72 Ajax team is statistically the best on our all-conquering list, with the Dutch outfit having won 42 and lost only one of their 48 matches across three competitions.

Bayern’s 2012-13 team edges their 2019-20 vintage for second place in terms of win percentage, although the latter side is top of the pile when it comes to goalscoring rate.

With the 55-goal Robert Lewandowski spearheading their attack, Bayern racked up an incredible 159 goals in 51 games under Hansi Flick.

Their tally included 43 goals in 11 Champions League matches, with a 7-2 group stage victory at Tottenham and an 8-2 quarter-final success against a shell-shocked Barcelona among several memorable wins that season.

Celtic’s ‘Lisbon Lions’ are the only other Treble-winning team to average more than three goals per game, while Jose Mourinho’s Inter stand out as the most pragmatic, having scored 98 goals in 56 matches at a rate of fewer than two per game.

Despite the exploits of Erling Haaland, Manchester City’s goalscoring rate (2.63 per game) is bettered by six previous Treble winners. Instead, they have outperformed their predecessors in defence, having conceded only 37 goals in 54 matches.

City’s total of 32 goals against in the Premier League is the joint-lowest alongside Newcastle, while they have let in only five across 12 Champions League games. Guardiola’s men have proved especially impenetrable in the FA Cup, having become the first team to reach the final without conceding a single goal since Everton in 1965-66.

Only Ajax (1971-72), Bayern (2012-13) and Barcelona (2014-15) boast a better defensive record than City in their Treble-winning seasons.

Meanwhile, United’s legendary 1998-99 side conceded 56 goals in 57 games in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, the most of any team on the list.

Which players would make a Treble-winning XI?

As a bit of fun, we have selected a Treble-winning line-up from the nine teams to have lifted the league, cup and European Cup in the same season.

Which – if any – Manchester City players would warrant a place in this star-studded side?

Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Bayern)

Neuer was a mainstay between the sticks for Bayern in both the 2012-13 and 2019-20 seasons. He kept a total of 48 clean sheets in all competitions across the two campaigns and was captain for the most recent hat-trick of triumphs.

Right-back: Javier Zanetti (Inter)

The 36-year-old Zanetti enjoyed a remarkable season as Inter skipper in 2009-10, making the most appearances of any player (54). Nicknamed El Tractor because of his endless stamina, the Argentinian was renowned for his versatility and could play anywhere across the defence or midfield.

Centre-back: Ronald Koeman (PSV)

Considered one of the greatest Dutch players of all-time, Koeman was the star man in PSV’s Treble-winning team of 1987-88. He scored an incredible 22 goals from the heart of defence, the second-most in the squad behind striker Wim Kieft (30).

Centre-back: Billy McNeill (Celtic)

An inspirational captain, McNeill led Celtic’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple in 1966-67. He played in all 49 games in the European Cup, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Cup and helped his side keep 25 clean sheets.

Left-back: Ruud Krol (Ajax)

Krol played on the left side of an Ajax defence that racked up an astonishing 28 clean sheets in 48 games in 1971-72. Much like Inter’s Zanetti, he could play in any position across the defence or midfield and was synonymous with the ‘Total Football’ style associated with Ajax and the Dutch national team.

Defensive midfielder: Roy Keane (Man Utd)

Keane was the driving force behind United’s Treble bid in 1998-99. His defining moment came in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Juventus when – despite receiving a yellow card that ruled him out of the final – he produced a virtuoso midfield display to shackle Zinedine Zidane and help United come back from two goals down to win 3-2.

Centre midfielder: Xavi (Barcelona)

Xavi made a total of 96 appearances for Barcelona across their trophy-laden 2008-09 and 2014-15 seasons, scoring 11 goals and providing 40 assists. Known as a pass-master, the diminutive midfielder dominated the 2009 Champions League final against Manchester United and was named Man of the Match.

Centre midfielder: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

While Xavi bewitched opponents with his passing ability, Iniesta was renowned for his intelligent movement as well as his skills with the ball at his feet. He was also the scorer of crucial goals at club and international level, including a last-gasp equaliser for Barcelona against Chelsea in the 2008-09 Champions League semi-final that preceded his winner for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final.

Right winger: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Messi’s numbers in Barcelona’s Treble-winning campaigns are truly staggering. The Argentinian superstar scored 96 goals and provided 50 assists in 108 appearances across the two seasons and went on to win the Ballon d’Or in both 2009 and 2015 on the back of his Barca performances.

Left winger: Johan Cruyff (Ajax)

Regarded as one of the most influential figures in modern football, Cruyff was at the peak of his playing powers in 1971-72 when Ajax won the Treble. He scored 33 goals in domestic and European competitions, including a match-winning brace against Inter in the final.

Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern)

Lewandowski put together a stunning goalscoring campaign for Bayern in 2019-20, racking up 55 goals in only 47 appearances. He also became the first player to win the European Treble and finish as sole top scorer in all three competitions.

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