The longest unbeaten runs in football history

  • There have been some unbelievable unbeaten streaks across Europe
  • Some of the continent's elite sides have proven infallible for large periods
  • Bayer Leverkusen are the latest club to etch their name into the history books
Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed an immense 2023/24 season
Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed an immense 2023/24 season / INA FASSBENDER/GettyImages

Winning silverware is all well and good but one of the signs of a truly elite team is simply refusing to be beaten.

The two things normally go hand in hand, with some of the generational sides of past years having gone on lengthy unbeaten runs en route to glory. An invincible season is perhaps the mark of true greatness, with plenty of Europe's top sides having boasted such campaigns.

From the early 20th century to the modern day, these specific squads have written their name into club legend with their stoic displays and resilience.

Here are the ten longest unbeaten runs in European football history.

10. Milan (1991-92) - 42 matches

Marco Van Basten, Michele Serena
Milan enjoyed some brilliant times during the 1990s / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

Milan boasted some truly wonderful sides across the 1990s but few matched their sensational 1991/92 team. Having suffered defeat to Bari in May 1991 at the end of a long Serie A campaign, the Rossoneri would then go on a streak of 42 games without tasting defeat.

The Italian giants went the entirety of the 1991/92 league season unbeaten en route to yet another Scudetto, and didn't taste defeat until April when they lost 1-0 to Juventus in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.

A team that boasted the likes of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi in defence, with the Dutch trio of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten in front of them, it's hardly surprising that defeats were rare.

9. Ajax (1995-96) - 42 matches

Borussia Dortmund v Ajax - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final 1st Leg
A sensational Ajax side that lifted the Champions League / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

Several of the greats of the Milan side that were so dominant in the early 1990s started their careers with Ajax, and that setup continued to provide the world with exceptional talents throughout the decade.

Their streak of 42 matches unbeaten started at the end of the 1994/95 season - a campaign in which Ajax only lost once in the KNVB Cup - with the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert firing the Eredivisie club to Champions League glory at the end of the campaign.

Their run ended in January 1996 after a 1-0 league defeat to Willem II, but that didn't stop them winning Eredivisie at a canter and reaching another Champions League final - which they lost on penalties to Juventus.

8. Juventus (2011-12) - 43 matches

Juventus' forward Alessandro Matri (2D R
Juventus bounced back under Antonio Conte / ANDREAS SOLARO/GettyImages

Having finished seventh in Serie A the season before, the arrival of Antonio Conte as head coach sparked a revolution in Turin. 42 of their 43 games unbeaten came during the 2011/12 campaign, with Juventus not tasting defeat in the league as they claimed their first title since the 2006 Calciopoli scandal.

Having missed out on European football the previous season, Juventus' run would only come to a close on the final game of the campaign, losing 2-0 to Napoli in the Coppa Italia final.

7. Rangers (1992-93) - 44 matches

Richard Gough
Rangers went 44 games without tasting defeat / Howard Boylan/GettyImages

Rangers' 44-game unbeaten run took place within the confines of the 1992/93 season. The remarkable streak began in August and spanned until March, with Old Firm rivals Celtic eventually bringing it to an end.

It proved to be a historic campaign for the Gers as they won a famous treble, lifting the Scottish Premiership, Scottish Cup and League Cup with a little help from a rampant Ally McCoist up top.

They beat Aberdeen in both cup finals and toppled them out by nine points in the league, with Walter Smith's side going unbeaten in the Champions League too despite not making it out of the group stage.

6. Dinamo Zagreb (2014-15) - 45 matches

Dinamo Zagreb v Molde - UEFA Champions League: Third Qualifying Round 1st Leg
Dinamo Zagreb conquered Croatia / Srdjan Stevanovic/GettyImages

Croatia's most dominant side, who have won 18 of the last 19 first division titles, Dinamo Zagreb were a relentless force in the mid-2010s. Their 45-match unbeaten run began during the 2014/15 season and continued into the following campaign.

Having won the the league and cup double at the end of the previous campaign, the capital side's first defeat of the 2015/16 season came at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage - a chastening 5-0 loss in Bavaria.

5. Rijeka (2016-17) - 45 matches

Stefan Ristovski
HNK Rijeka broke up Dinamo Zagreb's dominance / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

The only team to stop Dinamo Zagreb winning the SuperSport HNL in the last 18 years were HNK Rijeka. Despite losing just one league game in the 2015/16 season, that still wasn't enough to deny their title rivals glory, but they would go on to usurp Dinamo Zagreb the following season.

Rijeka matched Dinamo's record of 45 games unbeaten across the two seasons, eventually losing their invincibility at the hands of Zagreb-based Lokomotiva in the league.

However, they did beat Dinamo 3-1 in the Croatian Cup final several weeks later to claim a brilliant double.

4. Benfica (1963-65) - 48 matches

José Torres, Mario Coluna, Eusébio, José Augusto, Germano de Figueiredo, Costa Pereira
Benfica had set a post-war record in the 1960s / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Until the most recent 2023/24 campaign, Benfica were the side that had set the post-Second World War record for the longest unbeaten run in all competitions within Europe. Their tally reached 48 matches, spanning across two seasons.

The Eusebio-led Benfica won three trophies across the 1963/64 and 1964/65 campaigns, including two Portuguese first division titles and one Taca de Portugal, adding to the success of the two-time European champions from the early 1960s.

3. Bayer Leverkusen (2023-24) - 51 matches

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen have enjoyed an unrivalled season / Rene Nijhuis/MB Media/GettyImages

Xabi Alonso's side not only ended Bayern's reign of terror in the Bundesliga, they did so by becoming the first side to finish a season unbeaten in the competition en route to their first ever Meisterschale.

They managed an incredible 51-game unbeaten run across all competitions fuelled by late goals and a never-say-die attitude, which included reaching the Europa League final.

However, that's where their incredible run finished, with a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in the final keeping them waiting for their first piece of European silverware since 1988.

2. Union Saint-Gilloise (1933-35) - 60 matches

Prior to the Second World War, Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise reached a truly astounding 60 games unbeaten. They won three first division titles across three campaigns, claiming the country's most coveted prize in 1933, 1934 and 1935.

In that period there was 44 wins and 16 draws before their incredible run was ended on 3 February 1935. It's also worth noting that this run came before UEFA competitions were introduced, making it somewhat simpler to stay invincible.

1. Celtic (1915-1917) - 62 matches

Celtic still hold the record for the longest unbeaten run in European football history, and it has stood for well over a century. Like USG's, their record only accounts for domestic games with UEFA competitions having not been introduced until after the Second World War.

However, a 62-game unbeaten streak is still remarkable, with the record standing at 66 matches if charity cup clashes are included.

Notable invincible seasons across the world

Leverkusen have added their name to a lengthy list of clubs to have gone invincible throughout a domestic league season, with the likes of Arsenal (2003/04), Porto (2010/11 and 2012/13) and Rangers (2020/21) among the other European sides to have achieved the feat in the 21st century.

However, when looking at Africa, Al Ahly are the kings of invincibility. Since the 1960s, the Egyptian side have finished seven league seasons unbeaten, with Zamalek and Ismaily having also managed to to do so once each in Egypt.

In Asia, Johor D.T. of Malaysia have done back-to-back unbeaten league seasons in 2022 and 2023, completing a domestic treble during both campaigns. While only a 22-game league season, it's still an impressive record.

Uruguay's Penarol are the side to beat in South America, although there have been many seasons in which no team could. They also have seven invincible campaigns under their belt, six of which came in a 26-year period between 1949 and 1975.