Soccer - European Cup Final - Real Madrid v Partizan Belgrade

Real Madrid in the 1966 European Cup final. Photo: PA

THESE were the days before oligarchs, oilmen and Chinese conglomerates. Football was still about the rich and poor, but clubs could still rise through the ranks through skill and judgement, not just by sheer wealth and power.

In 1968, Europe’s top six clubs, considering domestic strength, European success and cultural importance were:

1 – Real Madrid
The club was a long way from its glorious period at the top of Europe, but won the 1966 European Cup and the Spanish league title in 1965, 1967 and 1968. Ion the 1967-68 European Cup, they were beaten 4-3 on aggregate by Manchester United at the semi-final stage.

2 – Benfica
European Cup runners-up in 1967-68, between 1965 and 1969, Benfica won four Portuguese titles. Moreover, they still had Eusebio still in his prime.Benfica provided seven of the Portugal squad that reached the last four of the 1966 World Cup.

3 – Celtic
All-conquering Celtic won the European Cup in 1967 and between 1966 and 1969, lifted the Scottish title. In 1967, they won a treble of EC, league and cup. Managed by Jock Stein and largely comprising local players.

4 – Manchester United

In 1967-68, United lost the Football League they had won in 1967 to neighbours City, but won the European Cup for the first time. This was the last knockings of the Best-Charlton-Law team, who went into decline in 1968-69. The best supported team in England.

5 – AC Milan
Italian champions in 1967-68 and winners of the European Cup-Winners Cup. The Milan team of Gianni Rivera. Won the European Cup in 1968-69.

6 – Leeds United
Incredibly consistent and professional, Leeds reached two European finals (Fairs’ Cup) in 1967 and 1968, winning the latter against Hungary’s Ferencvaros. Would go on to win the Football League in 1969.

The others: 7 – Inter Milan, 8 – Ferencvaros, 9 – Juventus, 10 – Gornik.