The longest winning runs in football history

  • The most consecutive victories recorded at the top level was set in 2016
  • Man City hold the record for an English club
  • Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have both enjoyed lengthy spells

Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo were both at the sharp end of imperious club sides
Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo were both at the sharp end of imperious club sides / Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The legendary high-water mark of 26 consecutive wins set by Johan Cruyff's Ajax side had stood for more than half a century before it was broken in Scotland's fifth tier thanks to goals from a lab technician. Or so everyone thought.

Ajax had been made aware of the impending landmark and celebrated East Kilbride's 3-1 victory over BSC Glasgow in November 2016 by sending a club van onto the pitch. There were 27 crates of beer packed in the back along with a laptop that carried a video message from club legend and technical director Edwin van der Sar. Kilby manager Martin Laughlan gushed: "To surpass the legend Johan Cruyff's record with Ajax is surreal."

Guinness World Records did not get swept along in the fanfare, discounting Kilbride's run as they operated outside "top-level" competition.

However, Ajax were surpassed by another British club in the same year. Here's a look at all of the teams that have made it into the official standings.

10. Barcelona - 18 wins (2005-06)

Ronaldinho was at his pomp during Barcelona's winning run / CESAR RANGEL/GettyImages

Frank Rijkaard was focussing on his lingerie company and mulling over an offer from the Netherlands Antilles when Barcelona came calling in 2003. Two years later, the legendary Dutch player had entered the pantheon of great managers with an 18-game winning that propelled the club to glory in La Liga and the Champions League.

Ronaldinho clicked into the best form of his entire career during this blistering sequence, directly contributing to 21 goals in 18 games.

The two most famous strikes from Ronaldinho amid this run came at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he was so good the Real Madrid fans even stood up to applaud him. It's safe to say that Rijkaard would have been working with a slightly different calibre of player had he taken up the Antilles offer.

9. Palmeiras - 21 wins (1996)

A young Rivaldo was part of the record-setting Palmeiras team of 1996 / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Vanderlei Luxemburgo has a divisive reputation. The Brazilian manager led his national team to the 1999 Copa America title but became embroiled in an unsavoury corruption trial when his ex-girlfriend and colleague Renata Alves launched a smear campaign against him.

Luis Figo worked with Luxemburgo at Real Madrid in 2005 and described him as "the worst" coach of his career. Yet, for Rivaldo, Luxemburgo was "the best".

"Everything coaches in Europe do today," Rivaldo wrote on social media in 2020, "you already did 25 years ago." Rivaldo's faith in the Marmite manager no doubt stems from their two years together at Palmeiras, with Luxemburgo leading the Brazilian giants to a national-record 21 consecutive wins in 1996.

8. Man City - 21 wins (2020-21)

Real Madrid v Manchester City: UEFA Champions League
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have regularly strung together lengthy winning runs / Anadolu/GettyImages

Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City are no strangers to an imperious winning surge in the second half of the season. Yet, even the Catalan coach was taken aback by the club's 21-win sequence during the lockdown season of 2020/21.

At the time, the next longest winning run in the history of British club football was just 14 games, which was first set by Preston North End in 1892 before penalty areas had been introduced to the rulebook.

7. TNS - 21 wins (2023-24)

The New Saints, almost exclusively known as TNS after being sponsored for years by Total Network Solutions, were adamant that they had broken Ajax's 26-game winning record in February 2024 with a 3-0 victory over Newtown.

However, that sequence included a penalty shootout triumph which counts as a draw rather than a victory according to Guinness World Records. TNS were not impressed. "As far as we are concerned, a win is a win," a pointed club statement read.

Nevertheless, the Welsh top-flight side - one of only two professional clubs in their division - are still rubbing shoulders with some of the world's best.

6. Real Madrid - 22 wins (2014)

Carlo Ancelotti's expression may not have shown it but he enjoyed great success during his first spell at Real Madrid / GERARD JULIEN/GettyImages

"I have a very big trophy cabinet filled with the titles I've won," Carlo Ancelotti once mused, "but if I counted the ones I've lost, I'd have a house full."

Real Madrid embarked upon their 22-match winning sequence at the start of the 2014/15 campaign which ended with defeat in the Copa del Rey, La Liga and Champions League. Ancelotti was ushered out of the club that same summer.

5. Bayern Munich - 23 wins (2020)

Hansi Flick
Bayern Munich were suffocatingly triumphant in 2020 / Pool/GettyImages

"Success can't be bought," Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick once said. "It's rented. And every day the rent is due."

Bayern emphatically delivered the goods throughout 2020 under the stewardship of Flick, claiming four trophies before their winning streak came to an end seven months after it began.

The only downside to Bayern's triumphant stretch was the lack of fans for the vast majority of their winning run, with 17 of their 23 matches taking place in empty stadiums (or ghost games as they call them in Germany).

4. Coritiba - 24 wins (2011)

Coritiba v Vasco - Brazil Cup 2011 Final
Coritiba's fans celebrate a triumphant winning sequence / Heuler Andrey/GettyImages

Before Coritiba embarked upon their 24-game winning stretch in 2011, the club had never claimed more than ten consecutive victories.

Most of Coritiba's triumphs came in the regional Parana Championship but they also reached the final of the national Copa do Brazil. Yet, by June 2011, Coritiba's wins had dried up and Vasco da Gama emerged victorious.

3. Ajax - 25 wins (1995)

Team Presentation - Ajax Amsterdam
Louis van Gaal's Ajax team of 1995 was the best in Europe / VI-Images/GettyImages

Jorge Valdano was in charge of Real Madrid during Ajax's assault on European football but has long been football's poet. Finding the right words once again, Valdano hailed Louis van Gaal's technically and physically gifted side as "beauty and the beast".

Van Gaal was in his imperious headmasterly pomp at the helm of a youthful Ajax side. Seven academy graduates started the 1995 Champions League final which was won by a teenage Patrick Kluivert.

The European champions were just one game short of matching the record of Cruyff's side but - just as in his playing career - Van Gaal was forced to live in the legendary Dutchman's shadow courtesy of a goalless draw against Swiss side Grasshoppers.

2. Ajax - 26 wins (1971-72)

Dutch Eredivisie - Feyenoord v Ajax
Johan Cruyff (left) was the star of Ajax's record-breaking side / VI-Images/GettyImages

Few clubs in the history of European football have ever enjoyed a campaign as successful as Ajax's 1971/72 vintage. Released from the shackles of departed disciplinarian Rinus Michels - Piet Keizer began dancing on a nearby table when he learned that the manager had joined Barcelona - Ajax eviscerated all that came their way.

Stefan Kovacs was no pushover but loosened the leash, allowing the likes of Cruyff, Keizer and Johnny Rep to flourish with the purist form of 'Total Football'.

1. TNS - 27 wins (2016)

They had done it. A 2-0 victory over Cefn Druids cemented TNS's footballing immortality with 27 consecutive wins in 2016. Yet, for the Welsh side, "it was a bit of an anti-climax in the end" according to left-back Chris Marriott.

TNS's decisive win came at the end of December, halfway through another dominant season in the Cymru Premier.

"It had been built up and then we'd done it and you haven't actually won anything really, it just goes down as a bit of ink in a book. It's not a trophy, it's nothing like that," TNS' kill-joy captain Marriott reflected. "It was just a pat on the back and ‘See you tomorrow for training’ sort of thing."