Top 10 Association Football Clubs Never to Win a National League Title

Tags: #Football ,   #Soccer ,   #PremierLeague ,   #WestHam ,   #bundesliga

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2022-12-02 06:00:18

The history of association football is so long that almost every club has a trophy in its cabinet. Sometimes, it's only a lower league trophy or local cup, but most well-known clubs have also won a national league title. However, some teams with a major reputation and long tradition haven't managed to be the best in their home country at least once. Now it's time to rank them, and we're pretty sure you'll be surprised who made our top ten list.

10. Notts County

In 2009, it looked like Notts County will be back in style. However, what happened is rather bizarre

Founded in 1862, Notts County F.C. is the oldest association football club in the world. Yet, that didn't help them win a single title! Even though it was one of the best clubs in the country in the 19th century, the team obtained only a single major trophy – FA Cup in 1894. However, their best league result was third place in 1891! They lost the title by three points that season, despite winning only 50% of their games! Ten years later, they achieved the same.

Since 1992, the club hasn't played in the top division of English football, and in 2021, it's in the fifth tier. In 2009 Notts County the club was taken over by a Middle Eastern consortium and even won League Two. Many believed that the club would soon reach the Premier League after spending millions on top players such as Sol Campbell or Kasper Schmeichel. However, the money soon dried, and the organization came back to obscurity.

9. Udinese Calcio

Udinese won now-defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup

Udinese is among the top 10 best-known Italian clubs, but they haven't managed to win a title. Furthermore, they never obtained a major trophy in Italy or internationally. Their most significant league success was ending up in 3rd place, which led them to UEFA Champions League place in 2013. Yet, the syndrome of provincial clubs struck again, as they couldn't keep the momentum. Even worse, the team is now usually on the brink of returning to Serie B.

Udinese wasn't particularly successful in Europe, but they have the European League quarter-final in 2009 and a trophy for winning the Intertoto Cup in 2000. This cements Udinese's status as the big underachievers, especially as some obscure clubs such as Casale, Novese, Pro Vercelli, or Cagliari have all been Italian champions.

8. Birmingham City F.C.

The most crucial match in Birmingham City history!

Birmingham is the second biggest city in the United Kingdom, but somehow, Birmingham City F.C. never managed to put itself high on the football map. That's even more appalling when the city rival Aston Villa managed seven league titles and as many FA Cups! In contrast, Birmingham City never challenged for the championship. Their best season was 1955-56 when they finished sixth, losing the FA Cup final. Still, they have major trophies, winning the Football League Cup twice.

Once the billionaire businessman Carson Yeung became the chairman in 2009, it looked like the club's future might be bright. However, they soon dropped from the Premier League, and Yeung was imprisoned for money laundering. Since then, Birmingham City has challenged for promotion only once, while barely managed to save itself from relegation several times. At this moment, even the most delusional fan couldn't even think about winning the promotion, let alone competing for the title in the Premier League.

7. Toulouse FC

Toulouse couldn't resist Liverpool

The French football championship is historically among the most exciting, with about 30 teams winning it since 1894! Furthermore, there are only a few teams barely managing to attain ten titles! Knowing that, it's shocking that Toulouse FC is not among them. The club won exactly nothing in its 50+ years-long history unless you count three League 2 titles. Yes, Toulouse FC was the vice-champion in 1955, but that was another, now-defunct club.

Like Atalanta, Toulouse managed to reach the third position a couple of times, leading them to the Champions League in 2008. However, they were easily beaten by Liverpool in the third qualifying round. Since then, it's all gone downhill, including relegation to League 2. Nevertheless, hope is not lost since their financial status significantly improved after the change of ownership. The club already has one of the best training centers in France and manages to attract talented players. It looks like Toulouse time is finally coming!

6. S.C. Braga

Braga has a very unique stadium

As we all know, Porto, Sporting, and Benfica have dominated Portuguese football since forever. Still, you may be surprised that they won all but two league titles! Unfortunately for Braga, the only other clubs to win it were Belenenses and Boavista. Despite being founded in 1921, their biggest league success came in 2010, when they were second, behind Benfica. This is a bit surprising, as Braga is one of the best clubs in the country, and they won three cup finals. 

Furthermore, Braga successfully competed in European competitions, conquering the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2008 and losing the UEFA Europa League final in 2011. However, we're pretty sure they are still dreaming about that league title, and we wouldn't bet against them to win it in the not-so-distant future!

5. Atalanta B.C.

The proudest moment of Atalanta's history!

Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio spent most of its long history in the top Italian division, Serie A, and managed to win a single Coppa Italia in 1963. Recognized as the best provincial club, Atalanta rarely managed to challenge the top teams. Yet, that changed a lot in recent years, as they finished third three times in a row, sometimes barely missing the second place. In 2020, they were only five points behind the eventual champions, Juventus.

Atalanta also has impressive European competition results, including Cup Winners' Cup semifinals in 1988, despite playing in Serie B. However, they were also among the eight best clubs in the Champions League in 2021, which massively boosted their reputation. That's why winning a title doesn't seem impossible, but even without it, the fans can be very proud of what the team represents now.

4. West Ham United F.C.

What a moment for West Ham history!

There are so many football clubs in London, but West Ham United is the only major one that never won the title. That's almost unthinkable, as they produced so many legendary players, including the three members of the 1966 World Cup champions, England. The team was rarely a title challenger, with 1985-86 their best season. That year they finished third, only four points behind the champions, Liverpool.

Nonetheless, West Ham built its reputation thanks to its results in other competitions. Their biggest achievements include three FA Cup wins and a European Cup Winners Cup title. While it seems that the first title is still out of reach, the club is now rarely out of the Premier League, and it even finished sixth in 2021. This is their best result in the last 35 years!

3. Villarreal CF

This is how Villarreal won the UEFA Europa League in 2021

It's hard to win anything in Spain as when Real Madrid and Barcelona aren't on top, Atletico Madrid takes their place. However, other clubs like Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, or even Real Sociedad and Real Betis managed to snatch the league title from their hands. This leaves Villarreal as the most prominent Spanish club never to lift this trophy. Their best La Liga result came in 2008 when they finished second, 10 points in front of Barcelona.

Villarreal has been very successful in European competitions in the 21st century, winning UEFA Intertoto Cup twice. However, their biggest achievement is very recent, as they conquered the UEFA Europa League in 2021. They also left their mark in UEFA Champions League, reaching the semifinals in 2006. Despite lacking a national title, Villarreal is still considered an overachiever and one of the best teams that never won the Champions League.

2. Parma

Hopefully, they are back forever!

No other club on our list has such a tumultuous history as Parma, or Parma Calcio 1913, as its current name. Originally called Verdi Foot Ball Club, it was liquidated and brought to life several times. In 2015 the club was re-founded for the last time (so far) and returned to Serie A in only three years! Many might remember that Parma was one of the top clubs in Italy in the nineties, during the best days of Seria A. Lead by top talents such as Hernan Crespo, Roberto Sensini, Dino Baggio, Gianluigi Buffon, and many others, they finished in 1997, two points behind Juventus. Unfortunately, they never managed to challenge for another title.

What's absurd is that Parma is still among the most successful Italian clubs, with eight major trophies won. This includes three Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, two UEFA Cups, European Cup Winners' Cup, and European Super Cup. No other club ever accumulated so many European trophies without ever winning a league title! It seems that everyone has a soft spot for Parma, and we wish them to get back to their winning ways.

1. Bayer 04 Leverkusen

The day that will hurt Bayer for many years

There's no doubt that Bayer Leverkusen is among the top five most recognized German football clubs. Still, it looks like they are under a curse. The team has finished second in the league five teams, but without triumphing once! Not that they didn't have a chance, especially in 2000 when they entered the last round three points clear of Bayern Munich led by Oliver Kahn. This meant that they needed only a draw against Unterhaching, which would stay 10th no matter the result. However, Bayer lost, Bayern won and snatched the title!

Bayer has such a bad reputation that many don't even know that they won the German cup once (against Hertha's reserves!) and the UEFA Cup. However, they also lost the Champions League final in a tight match against Real Madrid. While these results are not to be underestimated, there's no doubt that the club is seriously hurting, as they won their last major trophy 30 years ago. Maybe just that one triumph will change everything for them!

If you ask supporters of all these teams to tell you if the lack of titles bothers them, we're pretty sure they'll admit that. With journalists and rival teams' fans constantly bringing it, there's no doubt that they are desperate for success. If they manage to translate their frustration into motivation, things will change, and their nightmare will turn into a fairytale!

What is your favorite football team that never won a title or didn't do it for a long time? Which of these top ten teams do you think will win the title in the next ten years or so?

Photo: Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash



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