The Champions League is the most important football competition and it is contested by clubs from the main European championships. The first Champions League took place in 1955. Real Madrid won and it still is the most-titled team with 10 trophies. From 1955 to the 1991-1992 season, the competition was called European Cup and it was a straight knockout tournament. From the following season, the tournament took the name of Champions League. In the following years, several reforms of the regulation followed; the current formula was eventually introduced in 2009. The Champions League takes place each year starting from July, with three qualification rounds and play-offs that take the 10 winning teams to join the 22 clubs that reached the top positions in the national championships. After the group stage, the knockout phase begins. The final is played on a Saturday, between May and June. Each participating club receives over 8 and a half million euros. The winning team receives almost 37 and a half million euros.
In 1963, AC Milan was the first team to take the trophy to Italy. AC Milan is also the club that boasts the highest number of Italian victories, having won 7 cups. In 1985, the first victory in the Champions League of Juventus against Liverpool was marked by accidents caused by hooligans and by the death of 39 supporters. An unforgettable match was that of 1999, which gave the cup to Manchester United: the British were losing 1 to 0 against FC Bayern München, but in the last three minutes of injury time they cancelled out the early goal for the Germans and won 2 to 1. The 2005 final was also exciting, between AC Milan and Liverpool: AC Milan was winning 3 to 0 but the English team launched an incredible comeback and won at the penalties. The Champions League final with the highest number of goals dates back to 1960, between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt, with the victory of the Spanish team by 7 to 3. Francisco Gento, Real Madrid player between the 50s and 60s, has the record of the highest number of won European Cups: 6. Top goal scorer ever is Cristiano Ronaldo. The cup associated with the Champions League is one of the most important international football trophies, and it is affectionately known as “old big ears”, due to the particular shape of its handles.