Top Teams That Have Never Been Relegated in Football History
Which are those top teams that have never been relegated? You might expect to hear names like Manchester United, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. It’s so! They are among the teams that have never been relegated, but they are not the only ones.
In fact, in every major league around the world, there are teams that have never been relegated. The number may differ from one league to another, but there is no league without never-relegated teams.
Top Teams That Have Never Been Relegated
As already mentioned above, this post is dedicated to only teams that compete in the top tier of their own countries league system and have never been relegated from it. Teams are categorized based on their country and the top-tier league they compete in.
England (The Premier League)
Just guess! Manchester United? Ja! You’re right! But still, there are other Premier League teams that have never been relegated. Here are they: Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton. However, none of these teams have been playing in the professional league for the same period of time.
The oldest of’em is Arsenal who have been in the Premier League since 1919, then Everton since 1954, after that, Liverpool since 1962, and after Liverpool, Manchester United since 1975, and finally Tottenham Hotspur since 1978.
One thing to remember is that all of these teams have been relegated at least once before the establishment of the Premier League. In fact, they have never been relegated from the Premier League, but they fell from the top-tier league they were playing in some time during their history before the Premier League emerged. As with Liverpool, they just relegated to the Second Division in 1954 after World War II due to their deteriorating performance.
And Manchester United, have they ever been relegated? Ja! And five times in their history in 1894, 1922, 1931, 1937, and 1973. In 1973-74 season, they were competing in the English top division, however they performed so poorly in that season that they only earned four wins in twenty games they played, and finally they were relegated in the same season.
Despite all this, there is still one English team that has never been relegated in its history - never in its true meaning! That team is Morecambe FC. Although the team currently competes in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system, it has never ever been relegated.
Italy (Serie A)
The only team never relegated from Serie A is Inter Milan. It means all the other teams including the giants, Juventus and AC Milan, have been relegated some time in their history. Inter Milan have been in Serie A since 1909, however they are not the oldest club in Serie A, as both AC Milan and Juventus have been in the Italian top-tier league since 1900.
And if Juventus were not relegated to Serie B in 2006, due to Calciopoli scandal that revealed relations between team managers and referee organizations, they should have been among the Serie A teams that have never been relegated.
One point to consider here is that Juventus were not relegated for their poor performance, so the fact that they have once been relegated from Serie A doesn’t mean they are a lesser team than Inter or Milan.
In fact, they are one of the most decorated clubs in Italy with the most number of Serie A titles won, even more than Inter. Great players such as Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved have played some time for Juventus during their careers, and most noticeably when the club was relegated to Serie B to help it get back to where it belonged!
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Germany (The Bundesliga)
As you might have guessed, Bayern Munich is among the top German clubs that have never been relegated. But how about the rest of them? Here they are: Bayer Leverkusen, Vfl Wolfsburg, and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
However, again one thing to remember is that the only club that has not truly been relegated is TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, as the other three top German clubs, had at least one relegation from the top-tier league they played in before the foundation of the Bundesliga. However, the fact that they have never been relegated from the Bundesliga remains true.
Bayern Munich is often considered as the most successful club in Germany with the most number of league titles and cups won. The Bundesliga giants were relegated just once in their history in 1955 from Oberliga 1 - the top tier league in the German football league system before the formation of Bundesliga in 1963 - to Oberliga 2.
However, they promoted to Oberliga Süd again in the next season. And, Bayern Leverkusen had two relegations before competing in the Bundesliga, once in 1955-56 season from Oberliga 1 to Oberliga 2 and once in 1972-73 season from Regionalliga 2 to Verbandsliga 3.
The Netherlands (The Eredivisie)
Ajax is for sure among the top Dutch clubs that have never been relegated from the Eredivisie. The rest are PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, and FC Utrecht. All these teams have been present in the Eredivise from the time the professional league was formed (1956) except for FC Utrecht.
Another Dutch football club named VV DOS competed in the professional Dutch league since, however, in 1970 it merged with FC Utrecht and it is now FC Urtecht that is known to have been in the Eredivisie since its formation.
Ajax, one of the most successful clubs in the Dutch professional football, has actually experienced relegation in its history once, in 1914, before the formation of the Eredivise, and after the formation of the Dutch professional league, Ajax was just once in danger of relegation, namely in 1964-65 season, when they actually managed to finish the season mid-table.
Of the four teams mentioned above, three of them, namely Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord, are known as the “Big Three” in the Dutch professional football and are the only clubs in the Netherlands that not only have never been relegated from the Erdevisie but also have competed in all the editions of the Dutch professional league.
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If you’re a football fan, you might have probably guessed that the two LaLiga giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid, are by high chances among the Spanish top clubs never relegated from La Liga. But is there any other club honored with the “No-relegation” title?! Yes indeed! That is Atletico Bilbao.
And unlike other professional clubs that have been mentioned so far, these clubs have never - in its true meaning – been relegated, meaning that even before the formation of LaLiga, they never experienced relegation to lower divisions.
For Barcelona and Real Madrid, maybe that’s not a huge achievement since both giants are way better than the other teams in LaLiga, but for a third team which is Atletico Bilbao, it is, especially if you consider that the club has remained in LaLiga since 1929 along with the two LaLiga giants - almost a century - and that the number of LaLiga titles it has won (8 titles) is less than one third of the titles the two other giants have won - they have actually won more than 24 LaLiga titles so far.
Portugal (Primeira Liga)
Like in Spain, in Portugal there only exist three teams that have never been relegated from the country’s top-tier league, Primeira Liga. Guessing them might not be easy, so we get directly to the point!
They are S.L. Benfica, FC Porto, and Sporting CP who have been in the professional Portuguese league since its formation in 1934. One interesting fact about the professional Portuguese league is that it was first formed as an experimental league and later, in 1938, became an official one. It changed its name to Primeira Liga in 1999 and before that had longer names like Campeonato Nacional da Primeira Divisão.
As in the Netherlands, there is a “Big Three” in Portugal too, and exactly like in the Netherlands, it is composed of three top Portuguese teams - mentioned above - that have never been relegated in their history.
There is a reason why these teams are called the “Big Three”: S.L. Benfica has won 37 Primeira Liga titles, FC Porto 28, and Sporting CP 18, and although that’s enough for them to be “Big”, each one of them have won Taça de Portugal (Cup of Portugal) more than 15 times so far just to add the icing to the cake!
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Scotland (The Scottish Premiership)
Four Scottish teams are eligible for that “No-relegation” title; they are Celtic FC, Aberdeen FC, Motherwell FC, and Kilmarnock FC, however, in truth, only one of these clubs, namely Celtic, has never been relegated from the top-tier leagues it has played in.
The other three clubs have actually not been relegated from the Scottish Premiership, but they relegated at least once in the top-tier leagues they played in before the establishment of the Scottish professional league.
And knowing that the Scottish Premiership is only seven years old - It was founded in 2013, that may not be an achievement for the Scottish clubs mentioned abvoe, except Celtic, to have not been relegated from the Scottish professional league, however, Aberdeen FC is almost like Celtic in terms of the duration it has not been relegated.
Celtic has never been relegated, namely from the time it was founded in 1887; Aberdeen FC has not also been relegated since 1905. So, both teams have not been relegated for more than a century which is indeed an achievement for them. For the other two Scottish clubs, it is less than 40 years that they have not been relegated.
Russia (Russian Premier League)
Russia is not a force in Europe, however, it is important enough to be mentioned here. Among the top Russian clubs are Spartak Moscow and Lokomotiv Moscow who are also among the clubs never relegated from the Russian Premier League since its foundation in 1992.
There are still two other Russian clubs who have not been relegated from the top-tier Russian league since they have joined it: PFC CSKA Moscow and FC Rubin Kazan. However, like many other clubs already mentioned, all these teams have experienced relegation at least once from the top-tier Russian league they played in, namely Soviet Top League, before the formation of the Russian Premier League.
Each of the teams mentioned above has also won the Russian Premier League title at least once since it has competed in the Russian professional league. PFC CSKA Moscow is the leader with 6 times, and after that in descending order come Zenit St. Petersburg (5 times), Lokomotiv Moscow (3 times), Rubin Kazan (2 times), and Spartak Moscow (1 time).
Among these teams, it is only Zenit St. Petersburg that is not on the list of Russian teams never relegated from the Russian Premier League, despite the fact that it is the second leader in terms of the number of league titles won. The top Russian team was relegated once from the Russian Premier League in 1992, the exact same year that the professional league was founded.
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Argentina (Primera Division known as Professional Football League since 2020)
Only one team and that is Boca Juniors, one of the most decorated and most successful Argentinian football clubs that has never been relegated since its promotion to the Primera Division in 1913.
So just with a rule of thumb, the Argentinian club has been in the top-tier league of its country for more than a decade. And during this time, it has won more than 30 Primera Division titles plus over 10 domestic cups.
Great players such as Diego Maradona and Carlos Tevez have played some time during their footballing career for the Argentinian club.
There is still another top Argentinian club, namely River Plate, that like Buca Juniors, is one of the most decorated football clubs in Argentina with more than 30 Primera Division titles already won, however and despite being no lesser a club than Buca Juniors, River Plate was relegated to Nacional B - the second tier in the Argentinian football league system - for the first time in 2011 after more than a century of competing in the Argentinian top-tier league, Primera Division, a relegation that actually resulted in a River Plate fans riot clamped down by the Argentinian police force.
Brazil (Brazilian Championship A Series)
A big name in the international arena, Brazil is not that known as the European countries at the club football level, however, that doesn’t mean there is no successful Brazilian club team, as one of the Brazilian clubs, namely Santos FC, is the first team in the history of football to have reached the milestone of 10,000 goals scored.
Also another Brazilian club, namely Sao Paulo FC, once won the FIFA Club World Cup in 2005 defeating the English giants, Liverpool, in the process.
Both above-mentioned teams along with another Brazilian team, Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, are on the list of the top Brazilian teams that have never been relegated from the Brazilian top-tier league, Brazilian Championship A Series.
All the three clubs have played in the Brazilian top-tier league for more than a decade, and the interesting point to consider about them is that all the three joined the Brazilian top-tier league in 1987.
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France (Ligue 1)
Can you believe that there is no French club, even among top clubs like PSG and Lyon, that has never been relegated? All French clubs have been relegated once in their history!
However, the reason why we mention France in this post is that although there is no top club in the country to have never been relegated, the country have always been a major force both at the club and international level with teams like PSG, players like Neymar, and legends like Zinedine Zidane.
Ok! Let’s see how many times the top French clubs have been relegated. PSG, the most successful club in France, was just once relegated in 1972, but they returned to Ligue 1 in 1974-75 season, and since then they have never been relegated, meaning that they have competed in the top-tier French league for almost a century and a half which is indeed an achievement.
Lyon was also once relegated in its history, actually in 1952-53 season, just one year after they had been promoted from the second division.
Other Big Teams Never Relegated
Although we focused almost only on top European clubs that have never been relegated from the top-tier leagues in their country, there are also teams in other top-tier leagues in the world that have achieved the same honor, and deserve to be mentioned in this post, teams like Dinamo Zagreb from Croatia, Sparta Prague and Slavia Prague from Czech Republic, Al-Ahly from Egypt - and this one has not been relegated since 1948 which is more than a century and half, Olympiacos FC from Greece, FC Dinamo Bucuresti from Romania, Red Star Belgrade from Serbia, FC Dynamo Kyiv from Ukraine, and Penarol from Uruguay.
And although some great teams in the world have been relegated once or twice during their history, that hasn’t weighed heavily on their reputation as a great team.
Teams like AC Milan, Juventus, Eintracht Frankfurt, Rangers, and River Plate have all been relegated once in their history, but they could actually remain in the top-tier league of their countries for over 75 years.