The worst title defences ever – ranked

The worst title defences ever – ranked

There’s nothing better than being crowned champions of your domestic league.

It’s the bread and butter for any side and success means you’ve been the best team over a prolonged period of time, whereas in tournament football we all know any team can, in theory, win on any given day.

Some would say that winning titles is actually the easy bit, as the real difficulty comes when you try to defend your crown next time around. Liverpool‘s struggles during 2020/21 have shown just how difficult that can be, with Jurgen Klopp’s side enduring a nightmare defence of their maiden Premier League title win.

The Reds’ ongoing miseries did get us thinking though; what are the most calamitous title defences ever seen in Europe’s top five leagues? Obviously we had to answer that question, so read on and find out who has done it worst over the past 50 years…

Patrice Loko scored 22 goals as Nantes won the title | GERARD MALIE/Getty Images

1994/95: 79 points (1st)
1995/96 – 55 points (7th)
Difference: 24 points

Back in the mid 1990s, Ligue 1 was a bit of a free-for-all when it came to winning titles.

In the 1994/95 season it was Nantes who took home the glory, notching 79 points en route to lifting the title. But in the following campaign they could only muster 55 to finish 7th, as Zinedine Zidane’s emergence at Bordeaux crowned new champions.

Olivier MonterrubioOlivier Monterrubio
Nantes won Ligue 1 for the last time in 2001 | FRANK PERRY/Getty Images

2000/01: 68 points (1st)
2001/02: 43 points (11th)
Difference: 25 points

Not long later, Nantes were at it again.

This time they were kicking off the new millennium in style, winning (at the time of writing) their last Ligue 1 title to date. All it took was 68 points and 12 goals from Olivier Monterrubio to get the job done in 2000/01, yet the following season was a bit of a disaster.

43 points and an 11th place during 2001/02 indicative of what Nantes’ future held.

David MoyesDavid Moyes
David Moyes’ tenure at Old Trafford is not fondly remembered | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

2012/13: 89 points (1st)
2013/14: 64 points (7th)
Difference: 25 points

Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement season in 2013 couldn’t have gone any better as he secured his 13th Premier League title. The Red Devils totted up 89 points, setting up the chosen one David Moyes with all the tools needed for future success.

Instead, it all went wrong. United fell off a cliff, kept losing silly games and developed a penchant for conceding dreadful goals. Consequently, Moyes lost his job before the end of 2013/14, and Ryan Giggs was left to steer the ship home to 64 points and a 7th place finish. Shocking.

Chris SuttonChris Sutton
Blackburn won the league out of nowhere then fell off a cliff | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

1994/95: 89 points (1st)
1995/96: 61 points (7th)
Difference: 28 points

The fearsome SAS duo carried Blackburn to their first and only Premier League title in the 1994/95 season, with Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton’s 49 combined goals enough to bag 89 points.

But the momentum didn’t carry over into the following campaign, amid a succession of injuries for Sutton. He didn’t score a single league goal, and Shearer’s goals could only fire Rovers to 7th on 61 points – a huge 28 point dip.

The Real Madrid team groupThe Real Madrid team group
Madrid fell off domestically but were successful in Europe | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

1996/97: 92 points (1st)
1997/98: 63 points (4th)
Difference: 29 points

Fabio Capello’s first spell at the Bernabeu bagged a whopping 92 points and the 1996/97 La Liga crown.

1997/98 wasn’t so kind for the Italian as just five wins in Real’s final 17 games saw their campaign fall apart. Still, 63 points seemed a whole lot brighter after Predrag Mijatovic’s goal won Real Madrid the Champions League.

Montpellier's football club defender HenMontpellier's football club defender Hen
Olivier Giroud led Montpellier to a Ligue 1 title | PASCAL GUYOT/Getty Images

2011/12: 82 points (1st)
2012/13: 52 points (9th)
Difference: 30 points

The Olivier Giroud title, as it’s fondly remembered, saw Montpellier shock the footballing world in 2012.

The Frenchman scored 21 Ligue 1 goals as PSG were pipped to the title by the narrowest of margins. His exploits led to a summer move to Arsenal, and almost inevitably it wasn’t possible for Montpellier to replicate their heroics.

52 points and a 9th place finish saw a huge 30 point drop off.

Fabio CapelloFabio Capello
AC Milan won the Scudetto in 1995/96 before struggling the following year | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

1995/96: 73 points (1st)
1996/97: 43 points (11th)
Difference: 30 points

Fabio Capello had a rather good time of it in the mid 90s, as his title winning campaign at Real Madrid followed a successful final season at AC Milan.

Roberto Baggio and George Weah were the star turns as I Rossoneri snaffled 73 points and the Serie A crown, before his departure led to a rather dramatic decline. Milan finished 96/97 on just 43 points, dropping into the bottom half of the table.

Leeds UnitedLeeds United
Leeds crumbled after winning the league title | Getty Images/Getty Images

1991/92: 82 points (1st)
1992/93: 51 points (11th)
Difference: 31 points

The final campaign of the old Division One era saw Leeds United crowned champions with 82 points.

What followed was the beginning of the Premier League era and Manchester United’s dominance of the English top flight. A certain Eric Cantona was the catalyst for change, and his departure from Leeds saw the points tally in Yorkshire significantly plummet.

51 points later and Leeds had put up one of the worst title defences of all time.

Mission impossible got completed by the Foxes | ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

2015/16: 81 points
2016/17: 44 points
Difference: 37 points

Leicester’s title winning 2015/16 season remains the greatest underdog story in professional sport, and is an accomplishment that will likely never be surpassed.

N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were the stars of the show as the Foxes miraculously bagged 81 points to down some of English football’s biggest clubs.

There was no surprise to see them come crashing back down to earth the following year, though their 44 point haul did represent a pretty hefty decline.

Jose MourinhoJose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho weaved his magic at Chelsea during 2014/15 | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

2014/15: 87 points
2015/16: 50 points
Difference: 37 points

Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea lived up to the billing during 2014/15, culminating in the Special One’s third Premier League title win.

But as brilliant as his Blues side were during that season, they were equally as bad during the first half of 2015/16. Chelsea inexplicably lost their way and folded like a pack of cards as Mourinho – as we’ve now become accustomed to – began to lose the dressing room and belief of all those around him.

Languishing just above the relegation zone, Chelsea had no choice but to fire Mourinho – leaving replacement and interim specialist Guus Hiddink to pick up the pieces.

He did his best, but a 50-point finish represents the worst title defence ever.

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