Atlético Madrid 0 SpVgg Fürth 2; Lucchese 1 Manchester City 0; Triestina 3 Ajax 0; Benfica 0 Rot Weiss Essen 1. Not, as might be supposed, the scorelines from some long-forgotten round of the Uefa or Intertoto Cup, but a rather different measure of footballing success.

They are the number of World Cup winners each has provided. It gives an alternative method of ranking clubs, one in which Triestina have supplied more champions of the global game than every African, Asian and Eastern European outfit between them. It offers a field in which Barcelona are superior to Real Madrid (10 World Cup winners to 9), in which Juventus (with 24) are officially the most decorated club on the planet and in which, as in their respective totals of European Cups, Liverpool possess a 5-3 lead over Manchester United.

Is it another artificial statistic? Yes. Certainly clubs in countries that have never won the World Cup are at an automatic disadvantage. Some men with medals (or those retrospectively granted the mantle of global champions, in certain cases long after they died) were irrelevant squad members who contributed comparatively little to their success. Some soon used their new-found status to secure a move to a bigger, wealthier or more glamorous club. Some possessed such talent that their employers can claim little of the credit (in one case, that of the unattached Argentinian Alberto Tarantini, they don’t receive any either). Yet it can still come as a surprise to learn that the small Rio de Janeiro club Bangu had a double World Cup winner: Zozimo, a Brazilian squad player in 1958 and 1962.

And while the lists often indicate how little has changed — Italy sides of the 1930s were built on contingents from Juventus, Inter and Roma; Peñarol and Nacional were Uruguay’s dominant outfits in 1930, 1950 and virtually every point before, between and since — they do provide a snapshot of a point in time.

Some proved Himalayan highs for those accustomed to living their life in the valleys. Reflected glory is still glory. Many in England are familiar with the idea that West Ham won the World Cup in 1966. It involves an element of exaggeration, of course, but Geoff Hurst remains the only player to score a hat-trick in the final; factor in Martin Peters’s strike and no other club has ever contributed four goals in the decider, let alone the winning captain (Bobby Moore) as well.

Yet if West Ham won the World Cup, so did Kaiserslautern. West Germany’s Red Devils supplied five members of Sepp Herberger’s surprise winners in 1954; more remarkably, all played in the ‘the Miracle of Bern’, the final defeat of the favourites Hungary. The captain Fritz Walter, his brother Ottmar, the left-back Werner Kohlmayer, the right-half Horst Eckel and the centre-half Werner Liebrich may remain proof that constructing a team around a core from one domestic side can breed the understanding required to go all the way.

Kaiserslautern’s subsequent fall from grace — relegation from the Bundesliga has become a regular hazard — is rather overshadowed by the subsequent fortunes of the other clubs Herberger raided to construct a champion team. To 21st-century eyes, they must rank as the most remarkable World Cup winners: they had a solitary representative each from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, and none from Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hannover, Stuttgart, Werder Bremen or Wolfsburg.

It was because, in an amateur game, there were regionalised leagues — four Oberligas in West Germany and a fifth in West Berlin — so talent was not concentrated at a select few clubs in the way that, even then, it was in many other countries (a process that has since been accelerated by such factors as the abolition of the maximum wage, the Bosman ruling and the growing power of the Champions League).

Players had fewer reasons to move and Herberger cast his net wider. His chosen men reflected a nation trying to find its feet again after the Second World War; two, who were born in Eastern Europe, had migrated west but 14 plied their respective trades and played football in the towns or cities of their birth.

While ignoring all of the Hannover side that had just won the German title, Herberger plucked players from 15 clubs (in comparison, the victorious 1950 Uruguay squad came from just six), a total that was only topped when the South American exodus to Europe had begun and Brazil and Argentina selected from several leagues. Whereas they picked from Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan, Herberger went to SpVgg Fürth, Hessen Kassel, FSV Frankfurt, BC Augsburg and Pirmasens. All are historical oddities, clubs given a global status because of the time and environment. After the Bundesliga began in 1963, their days of producing Germany internationals were at an end.

FSV, forever overshadowed by their neighbours Eintracht, had the Poland-born former prisoner of war Richard Herrmann. Hessen Kassel were represented by the locally born Karl-Heinz Metzner, winner of just two caps. They have never played in the Bundesliga. Nor have FK Pirmasens, surely the smallest club ever to supply a World Cup winner. Coming from a town which then had a population of around 50,000 people (admittedly similar to that of Villarreal, whose rather more famous club provided Spain’s 2010 World Cup-winning left-back Joan Capdevila) and just north of the French border, they are now in Germany’s fifth tier, a regional league in the Rhineland and Saarland, with an average gate of around 400.

Yet there is even a school of thought that the last line of Herberger’s defence should have come from the same obscure origins. Toni Turek and Heinz Kwiatkowski had started the first two games in goal, neither earning rave reviews. The third choice Heinz Kubsch, Pirmasens’s finest and a man who combined his goalkeeping duties with life as a non-smoking cigar store proprietor, was tipped for a call-up. Instead he contrived to dislocate a shoulder trying to help a fellow goalkeeper after Kwiatkowski fell into Lake Thun. But for that freak rowing-boat accident, perhaps Pirmasens would be level with Liverpool: only one of their World Cup winners actually started the final.

The man whose goal decided it, Helmut Rahn, is further evidence that few of West Germany’s class of 1954 had strayed far from home. Born in Essen, winger Rahn played for Rot-Weiss Essen. They, too, won’t be found on many footballing maps nowadays, playing in Germany’s fourth flight, the consequence in part of financial problems.

Perhaps the remarkable element, showing football’s obdurate refusal to let clubs die, is simply that those who spawned World Cup winners and then encountered harder times still exist. Germany, the spiritual home of the compound noun, has plenty of compound clubs, whose origins lay in the overhaul that brought professionalism and a streamlined league system. SpVgg Fürth, for whom Herberger’s left-half Karl Mai played, merged with TSV Vestenbergsgreuth to form Greuther Fürth. BC Augsburg, whose forward Ulrich Biesinger was among Herberger’s understudies, joined forces with TSV Schwaben Augsburg to become FC Augsburg, who were promoted to the Bundesliga last season.

Juan Carlos Calvo, one of Uruguay’s forwards in 1930, played for Miramar; half a century later, they combined with Misiones to form a new entity, Miramar Misiones. His teammates all came from clubs that retain prominence eight decades on.

The same is true of all of the victorious Italians in 1934 — though Inter were known as Ambrosiana-Inter then — and the majority in 1938. The exceptions were the trio from Triestina and the first-choice goalkeeper Aldo Olivieri, then at Lucchese. Now in Serie D, they have only spent eight years in Serie A in their history and are in their 62nd successive season in the lower leagues. Indeed, google Lucchese and the New York mafia family appears before the football club. Victory against Hungary was aided by the men from the outsiders: Olivieri and the Triestina winger Gino Colaussi, who scored a first-half brace in the 4-2 win. Compile a score from the 19 World Cup finals and Triestina beat Manchester United 2-0.

Having reformed after bankruptcy, Triestina are now in Serie D. Italy’s last World Cup win, in 2006, came as Juventus were being demoted to Serie B for their part in the calciopoli scandal. The lesson from the Azzurri’s four triumphs is simple: a strong Juventus means a strong Italy. Of the bianconeri’s 24 World Cup winners, only Didier Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane were not natives. Of the 22 Italians, 18 took the field in the finals. Only in 1938, when Alfredo Foni and Pietro Rava formed a pair, did they contribute fewer than five.

If the best way for Italy to prosper is to pick from Juventus, the most encouraging precedent for anyone else is to find room for a Roma player. The giallorossi’s 16 World Cup winners places them behind only Juve and Inter (20). More pertinently, they have featured in eight different triumphs, only four of them Italian. Every winning squad from 1990 to 2006 contained at least one Roma footballer.

The sequence was broken only with the revival of an old-fashioned formula in 2010. Spain benefited from the presence of an octet of men from the Nou Camp — a ninth, David Villa, was Barcelona-bound soon after the tournament — just as Nacional had eight Uruguayans in the 1930 squad. Only Juventus, with nine in 1934, and Peñarol, with the same number 16 years later, have ever delivered a bigger contingent to a World Cup-winning squad. The concurrent prowess of Spain and Barcelona brought suggestions that Pep Guardiola’s group were the greatest ever club side. In another, they were simply the Kaiserslautern of their day.


Uruguay 1930 Nacional 8, Peñarol 5, Bella Vista 3, Montevideo Wanderers 2, Miramar 1, Olimpia 1, Racing Club 1, Rampla Juniors 1

Italy 1934 Juventus 9, Inter 4, Roma 3, Bologna 2, Fiorentina 1, Lazio 1, Milan 1, Napoli 1

Italy 1938 Inter 5, Roma 4, Bologna 3, Triestina 3, Juventus 2, Genoa 2, Lazio 1, Lucchese 1, Pisa 1

Uruguay 1950 Penarol 9, Nacional 5, Cerro 3, Central 2, Danubio 2, Rampla Juniors 1

West Germany 1954 Kaiserslautern 5, Hamburg 2, Köln 2, SpVgg Fürth 2, Augsburg 1, Bayern Munich 1, Borussia Dortmund 1, Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Fortuna Düsseldorf 1, FSV Frankfurt 1, Hessen Kassel 1, Nürnberg 1, Pirmasens 1, Rot-Weiss Essen 1, Schalke 1

Brazil 1958 Flamengo 4, Botafogo 3, São Paulo 3, Santos 3, Vasco da Gama 3, Corinthians 2, Bangu 1, Fluminense 1, Palmeiras 1, Portuguesa 1

Brazil 1962 Santos 7, Botafogo 5, Fluminense 3, Palmeiras 3, São Paulo 2, Bangu 1, Portuguesa 1

England 1966 Liverpool 3, Manchester United 3, West Ham 3, Blackpool 2, Leeds 2, Arsenal 1, Chelsea 1, Everton 1, Fulham 1, Leicester 1, Sheffield Wednesday 1, Southampton 1, Tottenham 1, Wolves 1

Brazil 1970 Santos 5, Botafogo 3, Cruzeiro 3, Corinthians 2, Fluminense 2, Palmeiras 2, Atlético Mineiro 2, Flamengo 1, Gremio 1, Portuguesa 1

West Germany 1974 Bayern Munich 7, Borussia Mönchengladbach 5, Köln 3, Eintracht Frankfurt 2, Schalke 2, Fortuna Düsseldorf 1, Real Madrid 1, Werder Bremen 1

Argentina 1978 River Plate 5, Independiente 4, Huracán 3, Talleres de Cordoba 3, San Lorenzo 2, Racing Club 2, Newell’s Old Boys 1, Valencia 1, unattached 1

Italy 1982 Juventus 6, Inter 5, Fiorentina 5, Milan 2, Cagliari 1, Roma 1, Torino 1, Udinese 1

Argentina 1986 Independiente 3, River Plate 3, Boca Juniors 2, Argentinos Juniors 2, Newell’s Old Boys 1, Atlético Nacional 1, America 1, Elche 1, Estudiantes 1, Ferrel Carril Oeste 1, Fiorentina 1, Lecce 1, Nantes 1, Napoli 1, Real Madrid 1, Vélez Sarsfield 1

West Germany 1990 Bayern Munich 6, Köln 4, Inter 3, Borussia Dortmund 2, Werder Bremen 2, Roma 2, Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Nürnberg 1, Stuttgart 1

Brazil 1994 São Paolo 3, Deportivo la Coruña 2, Palmeiras 2, Barcelona 1, Bayer Leverkusen 1, Bayern Munich 1, Bordeaux 1, Corinthians 1, Cruzeiro 1, Flamengo 1, Fluminense 1, Kashima Antlers 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1, Reggiana 1, Roma 1, Shimuzu S-Pulse 1, Stuttgart 1, Vasco da Gama 1

France 1998 Auxerre 3, Monaco 3, Arsenal 2, Juventus 2, Marseille 2, Bayern Munich 1, Chelsea 1, Inter 1, Metz 1, Milan 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1, Parma 1, Real Madrid 1, Roma 1, Sampdoria 1

Brazil 2002 Corinthians 3, São Paolo 3, Grêmio 2, Atlético Mineiro 1, Atlético Paranaese 1, Barcelona 1, Bayer Leverkusen 1, Cruzeiro 1, Flamengo 1, Lyon 1, Inter 1, Milan 1, Palmeiras 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1, Parma 1, Real Betis 1, Real Madrid 1, Roma 1

Italy 2006 Juventus 5, Milan 5, Palermo 4, Roma 3, Lazio 2, Fiorentina 1, Inter 1, Lazio 1, Livorno 1, Udinese 1

Spain 2010 Barcelona 8, Real Madrid 5, Valencia 3, Athletic 2, Liverpool 2, Arsenal 1, Sevilla 1, Villarreal 1


With thanks to Uli Hesse