15 March 2012
Chelsea’s dramatic victory over Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday night means England remain the only nation never to be without a quarter-finalist in the competition since it became for clubs other than champions, in 1997-98.
With both Manchester clubs eliminated in the group stage and both Arsenal and Chelsea struggling in the first legs of their second-round ties, there was a lot of handwringing (in England at least) that the English game was now a lame duck in Europe and that a fallow period surely lay ahead.
But actually in the 15 seasons since the Champions League allowed more than one club from some nations, England is the only country with at least one quarter-finalist each year. (See chart below for full details).
Italy and Germany have both endured three seasons with no quarter-finalists during the same time and even Spain had no representative at all in the last eight once, in 2004-05.
Since 1998, England has now provided 32 of the 120 quarter-finalists (or 26.67 per cent), more than anyone else, with Spain in second place (27), followed by Italy (20), Germany (16) and no other nation in double figures.
Only eight other nations have even had one quarter-finalist, with Cyprus becoming the newest ‘debutant’ this season thanks to Apoel’s heroics.
In one way this season’s quarter-finalists can be viewed as statistically freaky: in the era when clubs other than champions have been allowed to play, never before have as many as seven different nations been represented in the quarter-finals.
Spain, with two clubs, lead the way this time and there is one club from each of England, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal and Cyprus.
As few as four nations have been represented in the quarter-finals four times, most recently in 2008-09 when England had four quarter-finalists, Spain two, and Germany and Portugal one each.