11 clubs who rule world football

Real Madrid are among the most famous clubs on the planet
Real Madrid are among the most famous clubs on the planet / Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/GettyImages
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The true giants of football don't just rule in their own country, they have huge international appeal that makes known the world over.

Whether that comes from on-field, success alone, historical significance, culture, players or a little bit of everything, they rule the world.


Real Madrid

Real Madrid have won more European titles than anyone else
Real Madrid have won more European titles than anyone else / Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

For pure success and prestige, no club on the planet beats Real Madrid.

Los Blancos have won more European Cup and Champions League trophies more often than anyone. They defined the competition in its earliest years with five in a row and are the only club in the modern Champions League era (post-1992) to both retain it and win three in a row.

Real are known all over and there is a reason why so many players from all over the world, whether from Europe, Africa, South America or Asia, have dreams of joining them.


Manchester United

Man Utd a footballing juggernaut even without on-field success
Man Utd a footballing juggernaut even without on-field success / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Already an historic institution of success and trailblazers for English football in continental competition in the 1950s, Manchester United rose as the country's biggest, best and most globally famous club thanks to their Premier League dominance.

Success on the pitch, underpinned by a core philosophy to entertain, made the Red Devils so popular all over the world, rising hand in hand with the Premier League's international explosion.

'Manchester United' remains one of the famous brands on earth. Despite a lack of success on the pitch in the last decade, the club's commercial appeal is as strong as ever.


Paris Saint-Germain

PSG have a cool edge that no else does
PSG have a cool edge that no else does / Catherine Steenkeste/GettyImages

Paris Saint-Germain are the nouveau-riche to the upper echelons of world and European football. But what PSG have in abundance is suave and style as a supremely fashionable club.

The Parisian giants have superbly leaned into the identity of their surroundings and have become synonymous with one of the most famous cities in the world.

Their ability to throw down insane money in the transfer market has certainly helped too.


Santos

Santos are a symbol of Brazilian club football around the world
Santos are a symbol of Brazilian club football around the world / Ricardo Moreira/GettyImages

Think club football in Brazil, think Santos. They are the team that gave the world Pele and Neymar more than half a century apart, two of the most iconic players in world football history, as well countless other stars in between.

Pele in particular will remain the face of Santos as an ambassador for the rest of his life.

The club has even extended into popular culture. Bob Marley played an exhibition match with the club not long before his death and was pictured wearing the famous white shirt.


Chelsea

Chelsea have long had a cosmopolitan identity
Chelsea have long had a cosmopolitan identity / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Chelsea owe their international appeal to a sudden glut of trophies that arrived at Stamford Bridge in the mid-2000s. But even for a decade before then the Blues were building something special and were among the first Premier League clubs to embrace international stars.

Chelsea have been one of the biggest and most widely known clubs in the world for around 20 years and draw incredible support from every continent.

What's more, they have taken that dominance into the women's game as well and are one of the world's shining examples of how to do it right.


Juventus

No Italian club can match the achievements of Juventus
No Italian club can match the achievements of Juventus / Marco Canoniero/GettyImages

Juventus are Italy's most successful club and have won Serie A 36 times - overall, they have finished in the league's top two in 57 seasons and most recently were crowned champions for nine years in a row from 2012 to 2020.

No other Italian side comes close to that record, with the next best not even reaching 20 titles.

Juve showed their enormous pull and appeal when Cristiano Ronaldo chose to go there in 2018.


Boca Juniors

Boca Juniors have an aura like few others
Boca Juniors have an aura like few others / Marcelo Endelli/GettyImages

Boca Juniors are a pillar of club football in Argentina, responsible for shaping or developing many of the world's best players. Their iconic blue and yellow colours and La Bombonera home with is iconic atmosphere are two other reasons why they are internationally revered.

Boca was an important chapter in the journey of Diego Maradona and launched the careers of Carlos Tevez and Juan Roman Riquelme to name just two more of their most famous sons.

Boca are recorded to have won more than 70 official trophies.


River Plate

River Plate is a production line of top class players
River Plate is a production line of top class players / SOPA Images/GettyImages

Right with Boca is Buenos Aires neighbours and Superclasico rivals River Plate, who are similarly revered for their impact on Argentinean football.

River have been in the Copa Libertadores final three times in the last seven years and won it twice to underline their current status as South America's consistently best side.

Historically, the club has produced two Ballon d'Or winners in Alfredo Di Stefano and Omar Sivori, plus Argentina's World Cup-winning captain Daniel Passarella. Modern superstars Radamel Falcao, Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain and Hernan Crespo are others who have passed through.


Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich lead Germany's international appeal
Bayern Munich lead Germany's international appeal / ATPImages/GettyImages

Bayern Munich have ensured that German club football has consistently stayed on the world map for the last 50 years - the first and most recent German team to be crowned European champions.

Bayern are unbeatable in the Bundesliga, having secured a 10th consecutive league title in 2022 and have made international superstars out of players decade after decade - Robert Lewandowski is just the latest in a long line.

The club's international reach has been furthered because of commendable charity projects, having established a foundation in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. That generosity has also been extended to other football clubs within Germany, even helping Der Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund stave off financial oblivion in 2003 by lending them money.


Barcelona

Barcelona have a global football influence
Barcelona have a global football influence / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Barcelona are almost treated like a religion. In their own words, it is 'more than a club' and their influence has infiltrated football at every level throughout the world.

A style of fluid possession-based play became synonymous with Barcelona in the 1970s and is the club's single biggest legacy to this day. Every age group is taught to play one way and it is seen as the pinnacle of football technique that is so attractive everyone wants to replicate it.

Barcelona owe much of their current global appeal to former superstar Lionel Messi, which will never die despite his 2021 departure.


Liverpool

Liverpool have had glory years in the past and the present
Liverpool have had glory years in the past and the present / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Liverpool are the team of the past and of the present.

The Reds have been there and done it all before, becoming the first English club to truly make a consistent mark in international football by winning four European Cups in the space of eight seasons in the 1970s and 1980s. But now they are back at the top of the hill doing it all again.

Liverpool never really lost their international appeal in relatively barren years in the 1990s and, even into the 2000s, but what Jurgen Klopp has built is an identity similar to that which delivered all the club's initial success decades ago.


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