How Wolves and legendary boss Stan Cullis accidentally created the Champions League | The Sun

THE Champions League is unquestionably one of the most exciting and fiercely competitive tournaments in world football.

Some clubs have historically thrived at Europe's top table with Real Madrid, AC Milan, Liverpool and Bayern Munich the most successful teams.

But what many don't know is how Europe's top competition – originally called the European Cup – actually came to be.

And it's an incredible story of pride and wounded egos.

So settle in, as we transport you back to 1953 for an international match between England and Hungary.

The Three Lions had only ever lost once on home soil – to the Republic of Ireland in 1949.


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But the arrival of the Olympic champions and No1 ranked team in the world would test that.

Hungary turned up at Wembley on a 24-match unbeaten streak.

In a clash now known as the "Match of the Century", Hungary would go on to win 6-3 in front of 105,000 fans.

Just six months later, Hungary thumped England 7-1 in Budapest – to this day, the Three Lions' heaviest defeat.

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The captains that day were Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas.

That season, they led their teams to their respective league titles, as Wolves stormed to the First Division crown under Stan Cullis, while Budapest Honved scored 100 goals en route to a fourth straight championship.

Under their brand new floodlights, Wolves were keen to welcome foreign opponents – and regularly thumped them.

Cullis' side beat the South Africa national team, Celtic, Argentine side Racing Club, Maccabi Tel-Aviv – winning that one 10-0 – and Spartak Moscow, while playing out a goalless draw with First Vienna.

So, on the back of Hungary's two storming wins over England, Wolves and Honved did battle as each nation's best side were pit against one another at Molineux.

Honved raced to a 2-0 lead within 14 minutes, with things looking bleak for England… again.

Johnny Hancocks pulled one back from the penalty spot early in the second half before Roy Swinbourne scored twice in as many minutes late on to secure a famous 3-2 victory.

The win salvaged some pride for England, before Wolves boss Cullis announced his side were "champions of the world".

Those four words angered a hatful of clubs, players, managers and journalists across the globe.

French journalist Gabriel Hanot strongly voiced his disagreement – saying Real Madrid and AC Milan would trounce Wolves.

Hanot suggested "a European championship be organised between clubs" to determine who is truly the best on the continent.

Jacques de Ryswick – his colleague at L'Equipe – drew up a proposal for the tournament and its format.

And just a year later – in 1955-56 – the first European Cup took place, featuring 16 of the finest teams on the planet.

In a cruel twist of fate, Wolves were NOT invited as they surrendered the First Division title the season prior.

Chelsea were instead primed to take part, only to be urged to withdraw by the Football League due to fears European fixtures would hinder attendances for the weekend domestic matches.

With no Blues – and no Wolves – Real Madrid would go on to be crowned champions of the first European Cup, beating Reims in the final after scraping past Milan in the semis.

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