Spanish clubs have moved into second place in the all-time UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League ranking after Club Atlético de Madrid sealed the nation's seventh victory in the competition.
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Club Atlético de Madrid's UEFA Europa League triumph in Bucharest was the seventh for a Liga club in the competition, leaving Spain two shy of Italy's record total of nine.
Spanish clubs have enjoyed an impressive run of success in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League since the turn of the century, with five victories in the past nine years. Prior to that, Spain had posted only two wins – by Real Madrid CF in the mid-80s – but with seven now they have moved clear of England and Germany into second place in the all-time ranking.
The side Atlético beat in Bucharest, Athletic Club, were the first Spanish team to contest the final in 1977 but lost to Juventus on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw. It took another eight years for the trophy finally to land in Spain as Real Madrid overcame Videoton FCF 3-1 on aggregate, ending their own 19-year wait for a European title. Madrid were back a year later and ensured the trophy remained at the Santiago Bernabéu as a 5-1 home win against 1. FC Köln set up a 5-3 aggregate triumph.
Two years on RCD Espanyol looked poised to take the trophy to Spain again after a 3-0 first-leg win against Bayer 04 Leverkusen but they lost by the same score in Germany and succumbed 3-2 in the resulting penalty shoot-out. That marked the start of a fallow period in the UEFA Cup for Spanish sides – it was not until 2001 that there was Spanish representation in the final again in the unlikely form of Deportivo Alavés. The Basque outsiders met Liverpool FC but despite coming from behind twice, a 116th-minute golden goal – put into his own net by full-back Delfi Gelí – resulted in a 5-4 reverse.
In 2004 Valencia CF finally became the second Spanish club to get their hands on the prize – 18 years after the first – with a 2-0 success against Olympique de Marseille. Sevilla FC followed suit in 2006 by overwhelming Middlesbrough FC 4-0 in Eindhoven and Juande Ramos's men repeated the feat 12 months later. This time their victims were Espanyol in the first all-Spanish final at Hampden Park, the Andalusian club prevailing 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
As the fourth Spanish winners, Atlético had their name etched into the trophy in 2010 when beating Fulham FC 2-1 in Hamburg in the first final of the rebranded UEFA Europa League. Now they have done it again, joining Real Madrid and Sevilla on two wins apiece.