The treble is one of football’s epic triumphs. It’s when a team completes the stunning feat of winning their domestic league and cup before triumphing in the big continental cup as well. Only a few dozen clubs have achieved this worldwide but it’s in Europe where the achievement takes special merit. Given that many of the world’s best clubs and players compete across the continent, winning 3 major trophies in the same season is almost unheard of. It’s why only 7 Europeans club have achieved the feat but who resides in this exclusive club?
It’s hard to believe that Celtic were the first ever football club to compete the treble anywhere in the world. Yet, under the guidance of Jock Stein, it is exactly what the Scottish side managed to do. The side, known as “The Lisbon Lions”, were nigh on unstoppable claiming the Scottish First Division and Scottish Cup with relative ease. It was their exploits in Lisbon that echoes through club folklore as two late goals from Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers gave them a stunning 2-1 win against Inter Milan to complete the first ever trouble. The side also scored 196 goals that season across all competitions – a then world record showcasing how dominant Celtic were at the time.
Dutch football was in its golden age in the 1970s and nothing underlined this more than Ajax claiming the treble in the 1971-72 season. It was a squad oozing with legendary names including the likes of Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan and Johan Cruyff. With such enigmatic characters in the squad, it was little surprise to see Ajax win the Eredivisie title as well as beat Den Haag in the Dutch Cup final. It would be Cruyff that gave them European glory on home soil as he scored two goals to defeat Inter Milan and lift the trophy in Rotterdam.
PSV Eindhoven (1987-88)
There have been fewer greater team efforts than that of PSV Eindhoven in the 1987-88 season. A mix of homegrown and European stars, the Dutch side romped away with the Eredivisie title winning the league by 9 points. They almost come unstuck in the Dutch Cup against Roda JC before Soren Lerby netted in stoppage time to secure a 3-2 victory. It was also a close-run thing in Europe after advancing on away goals to reach the final itself. In a close-run affair in Stuttgart, PSV edged out Benfica in sudden-death penalties with Anton Janssen scoring the winning effort to secure immortality for PSV.
Manchester United (1998-99)
Fewer teams had quite a fairytale quite like Manchester United. With Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm and the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in their prime, few could stop them. After overcoming Arsenal in a close Premier League title race, United defeated Newcastle to win the FA Cup that season. It would be in Barcelona where the story reached its epic conclusion. Trailing 1-0 to Bayern Munich heading into stoppage time, goals from both Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the space of 90 seconds turned the game on its head. It gave United an all-time epic Champions League win and one of the country’s greatest sporting moments in recent memory.
Inter Milan (2009-10)
Inter Milan dominated Italian football in the 2000s and no season was more dominant than their 2009-10 season. They survived a close-run duel with Roma in Serie A to win the league by two points before seeing them off 1-0 in the Coppa Italia final as well. Heading into Europe, Jose Mourinho was desperate to capture the Champions League title for a second time – which he did. This came in Madrid where Inter beat Bayern Munich 2-0 thanks to a brace from Diego Milito. It gave Inter a unique memento to savour as they became the only Italian side to ever complete the treble.
Bayern Munich (2012-13, 2019-20)
Has a team dominated a decade quite like Bayern Munich in the 2010s? The German side has ruled their football scene with an iron fist winning the Bundesliga 10 straight seasons from 2012-2022 and often claimed the DFB Pokal trophy along with it. During this dominant spell, the German side have also won two Champion League titles too –in 2013 and 2020. Their first win came over arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in 2013 thanks to a late Arjen Robben strike. They would then beat PSG 1-0 in 2020 thanks to a Kingsley Coman strike. With Bayern’s squad consisting of top stars such as Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski, it is no wonder Bayern have been successful in the last decade or so.
Barcelona (2008-09, 2014-15)
For much of the 21st century, Barcelona has been a club players have dreamed for playing for. With their inventive tiki-taka style and benefitting from having the likes of Xavi and Lionel Messi in their squad, Barcelona were unplayable during some seasons. It was why they were able to overcome Real Madrid and claim multiple La Liga trophies as well as Copa Del Rey titles. It was their European escapades that secured Barca’s fearsome reputation. They first off defeated Manchester United in 2009 to secure their first treble. Afterwards, the star-studded trio of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi helped the Spanish side beat Juventus 3-1 to claim their second treble and prove they were one of the best sides to ever grace world football.