MANCHESTER CITY are probably the most successful team in Europe this season in that they won all three domestic trophies on offer. But City did not have the best league record across the continent, that honour arguably belongs to Red Star Belgrade of Serbia and Greece’s PAOK Salonika.
In real terms, Red Star, with 33 wins from 37 games, have a win rate of 89.19% which would give them a points haul of 102 (92% of available points). But the Serbian championship is a two-phase affair and the second phase includes the addition of 50% of points from the first. Hence, Red Star have 60 points, but in assessing their success, Red Star are certainly the most prolific team in Europe in 2018-19 and were only denied the “double” by their fierce rivals Partizan in the Serbian cup final.
PAOK, champions for the first time since 1985, were unbeaten in 30 games and won 26 times. Furthermore, they clinched the “double” by beating AEK Athens in the cup final. PAOK’s league performance was, effectively, the best in Greek football history. Their points won percentage amounted to 91.11%. They had to beat off the challenge of Olympiakos whose own points percentage was 83.33%. PAOK’s triumph was largely based on a strong defence, their 14 goals conceded represented just 0.47 per game.
The following clubs also won the “double” – Ajax, Bayern Munich, Red Bull Salzburg, Slavia Prague, Celtic, Galatasaray and The New Saints (Wales).
Manchester City, with 98 points (85.97%) are fourth by percentage of points won. The second-placed English team, Liverpool, are in the top 10 with 85.09%. Liverpool lost just one game, the only team from the top five leagues to enjoy such a record in 2018-19.
Top 10 by percentage of points won
|Pts won %|
|Red Star Belgrade||Serbia||91.89|
|Young Boys Bern||Switzerland||84.26|
*Campaign still in progress
CIES Football Observatory’s latest report reveals that since 2000, the top points haul belongs to Juventus in 2014, 89.5% which is marginally ahead of Bayern Munich’s 89.2% in 2013.
CIES adds that champions are winning more and more points in the big-five European leagues. Between 1999-00 and 2003-04, the champions from these leagues obtained 69.9% of points. Over the last five years, the figure is 80.5% – providing further evidence of the imbalance that is growing in European football.
For the first time, the champions in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain all regained their titles in 2018-19. But in the top five leagues, the winning margins appear to be falling. While Italy and France saw their champions – Juventus and PSG – increase their advantage over the runners-up by seven and three points respectively, Spain was down three, Germany 17 and England 18.
Manchester City’s title win was the tightest to be decided on points (Malta’s championship, won by Valletta, was determined by a play-off), with 0.877% of points (1) separating them from Liverpool. Bulgaria’s Ludogorets, similarly, won their title by one point (0.925% of points).
The biggest margin of victory was recorded by Dinamo Zagreb, who won the Croatian title by 25 points, representing 23.14% of points. Young Boys Bern were Swiss champions by 18.5% while another nine finished top by more than 10% of available points.
In terms of win rates, only nine clubs managed to achieve an 80%-plus rate, with Red Star Belgrade winning 89% of their games in the Serbian league. They won 33 games, while Manchester City and Liverpool, on 32 and 30 respectively, were close behind. Young Boys Bern, Dinamo Zagreb and Paris Saint-Germain all won 29 league games.
Only three clubs netted over 100 goals in 2018-19 with Ajax topping the list with 119 from 34 games, a goal-per-game ratio of three and a half. Ajax had the best goal difference +87 followed by Wales’ New Saints with +83.
Have there been any surprises – is European football predictable the continent over? Poland had a new champion, Piast Gliwice, and PAOK were champions of Greece for the first time since the 1980s. But the roster looks remarkably familiar: Red Bull Salzburg have won 10 in 13 Austrian Bundesliga titles; Dinamo Zagreb have won 13 in 14 in Croatia; Benfica have been Portugal’s champion for four of the last five years; Bayern have won the Bundesliga for seven consecutive seasons and Juventus have won eight in a row in Italy.
Unlikely league champions do not come around very often, although in England, Leicester pulled off an unexpected title win in 2016 – a triumph that will, undoubtedly, look more impressive as time passes. In Germany, the last team to surprise was probably Wolfsburg, while Italy has to go back to 1984-85 when Hellas Verona lifted the Serie A title. Spain’s last league champion from outside the establishment was Deportivo La Coruna in 2000. Despite people harkening back to the days of level playing fields, success has often, throughout history, gravitated towards the clubs with money, critical mass and influence. The problem is, the modern era makes it more difficult than ever for a romantic tale to emerge.