Manchester United made history in 1999 after becoming the first English team to win the Continental treble, but the Champions League trophy they won that season is in Liverpool’s gallery. Here’s why…
Imagine a world where someone you utterly despise is in possession of your most treasured item. Well, Manchester United fans don’t need to.
It turns out the Champions League trophy United lifted in 1999, the one that secured English football’s first-ever Treble and cemented Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as one of history’s all-time greatest teams, is sitting in Liverpool’s trophy gallery.
You see, UEFA established a rule whereby a team would get to keep the Champions League trophy after either winning it five times or winning it three times consecutively.
Liverpool’s victory in 2005 was their fifth in total, and so the iconic trophy, held aloft by Manchester United six years earlier on that famous night in Barcelona, became official property of Liverpool Football Club.
It’s just as well seeing as the cup has a big dent in it, caused by Liverpool striker Milan Baros dropping it as the Reds celebrated their shootout victory over AC Milan in the team hotel after the game.
The rule was first introduced in 1968, coincidentally after United’s first triumph, and Real Madrid, Ajax, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Barcelona and Liverpool all have a version of the original trophy in their galleries.
Like Liverpool, Milan and Barcelona were awarded the cup by winning the competition five times, but Bayern and Ajax earned theirs by winning three European Cups on the bounce – and funnily enough they did it back-to-back, with Ajax sealing victory in 1971, 1972 and 1973, and Bayern winning in 1974, 1975 and 1976.
Real Madrid meanwhile were awarded the incumbent European Cup trophy, which was a lot smaller than the big-eared beauty we know and love today, after winning the first five editions of the tournament. After that, UEFA redesigned the trophy and set about establishing fixed plans for clubs to keep the trophy on a permanent basis.
The rule was abrogated ahead of the 2008/09 season, denying Real Madrid, who won three Champions League three times in a row between 2016 and 2018, the opportunity to permanently keep another cup.
These days, the original trophy remains in UEFA’s hands, with the tournament winners awarded a replica.