Across the whole of Europe, some massive football clubs, such as Athletic Bilbao, Monaco, Newcastle, Stuttgart and Villarreal are in danger of being relegated from their country’s top tier. The term “too good to go down” is often bandied about, but history shows that big teams with big players can often find themselves relegated due to one bad season. We’ve taken a look at some of the best teams ever to go down.
Perhaps the most notorious and infamous relegation in the history of football was that of Juventus in 2006. The likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Del Piero, Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet guided Juventus to 91 points and a league title win, but when it emerged that the club’s former general manager Luciano Moggi and their chairman Antonio Giraudo were found to have been bribing and manipulating referees, Juve were stripped of their title and were relegated to Serie B.
Wigan Athletic: 2012/13
Wigan Athletic aren’t exactly a huge club and in that sense, them getting relegated shouldn’t be a huge shock, but the fact they were relegated just days after winning the FA Cup final is extraordinary. Ben Watson’s late goal gave the Latics a famous 1-0 win over Manchester City at Wembley and just days later, a defeat to Arsenal sent them down.
The decline of Monaco from a side competing in the Champions League final to one being relegated was a gradual one. The club fell away little-by-little post-2004 and in 2010/11, things finally tipped over. The club sacked manager Guy Lacombe in January 2011 with the club in 17th place. Laurent Banide came in to replace Lacombe but he didn’t do much better and Monaco were relegated in 18th place.
Middlesbrough reached the final of both the League Cup and FA Cup in 1997 and that may have led to their downfall in the league. Despite having the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli, Emerson, Juninho and Nicky Barmby on their books, injuries mounted up so badly that Boro postponed a December fixture against Blackburn, for which they were docked three points. It was a terrible move for Boro not to play that game as those docked points sent them down. Even if they would have played the youth team in that game and lost 20-0, Boro would have still stayed up!
Atletico Madrid: 1999/00
In 1996, Atletico Madrid won the league and cup double in Spain, but just a few years later, they were relegated. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who joined for around £12 million from Leeds United in the previous summer, was a success as he scored an incredible 24 league goals, but that wasn’t enough to keep Atleti in the top-flight.
Leeds United: 2003/04
Cast your mind back to May 2001 and you might remember Leeds United competing in the semi-final of the Champions League. Fast forward three years and the Yorkshire-based side were relegated. Missing out on Champions League qualification left the club in major financial difficulties, which meant they needed to sell the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Keane in 2002, whilst Robbie Fowler and Jonathan Woodgate followed them out of the door soon after. In the end, the squad had been stripped bare and Leeds went down.
Newcastle United: 2008/09
The 2008/09 season was a disaster for Newcastle United. Manager Kevin Keegan resigned after falling out with the club’s board and he was replaced by Joe Kinnear. Results went from bad to worse and when Kinnear stood down due to medical issues, the club drafted in Alan Shearer as manager to try to save them from relegation. However, a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the last day of the season sent the Magpies down for the first time since they joined the Premier League in 1993.
West Ham United: 2002/03
After finishing seventh in the 2001/02 season and with a squad full of exciting young talent, big things were expected from West Ham in 2002/03. Veteran stars like Paolo Di Canio, Trevor Sinclair and David James were joined by the likes of Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermaine Defoe and Glen Johnson, but that wasn’t enough for West Ham. Glenn Roeder’s side were terrible and when the manager had to remove himself from his position to have surgery to remove a brain tumour, Sir Trevor Brooking took over but couldn’t keep West Ham up.
Manchester United: 1973/74
The 1973/74 season was Manchester United’s 29th consecutive season in the top division of English football and was the first full season in charge for manager Tommy Docherty, who’d taken his role in December 1973. Things went badly wrong for Docherty and United went into the final two games of the season in big trouble. They had to beat Man City to stay up but former United legend Denis Law scored for City with a back-heel in the 81st minute. A few minutes later, the crowd at the game stormed the pitch, hoping to force the game to be replayed but despite the early finish, it was decided that the result would stand and United were sent to the second division.
Luiz Felipe Scolari started the season at the helm of Brazilian side Palmeiras, but he didn’t finish it! Despite winning the Copa do Brasil, Palmeiras were dreadful in the league and even replacing Scolari with Narciso wasn’t enough as the famous club were relegated, finishing a massive 11 points from safety.
River Plate: 2010/11
Premier League fans will know both Erik Lamela and Roberto Pereyra well, but many won’t know that they were part of the first ever River Plate side to be relegated. The Argentinian relegation permutations are very complicated but basically, a 3-1 relegation play-off loss on aggregate to Belgrano sent River Plate to the Primera B Nacional for the first time in the club’s famous history.
The forward pairing of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini helped Sampdoria qualify for the Champions League at the end of the 2009/10 season, but things went very wrong for the Italian side the following year. Cassano fell out with the club’s president Riccardo Garrone and was sold in January, as was Pazzini. It was an unwise move by Garrone to let the duo leave as Luigi Delneri’s men only won three more games between January and May. That terrible run saw them finish in 18th place and as such, they were relegated.
In 2010/11, the strike duo of Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar helped guide Villarreal to fouth place in La Liga. However, the next year, Rossi was ruled out with a serious injury whilst Nilmar kept picking up knocks that forced him to miss a lot of football. Their absence, plus the sale of Santi Cazorla, hit the team hard. They lost all six of their Champions League games and were relegated from La Liga as they lost 15 of their 38 domestic games under the guidance of three different managers.
Manchester City 1937/38
This relegation happened a long time ago but it was very noteworthy at the time. During the 1936/37 season, Manchester City won the First Division title by three points. The next season, they finished second-from-bottom and were relegated. They were actually the team that scored the highest number of goals that season (80) but their terrible defence let them down.