Borussia Dortmund won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and reached the Champions League final in 2013 but are now in a battle to avoid relegation. It's a remarkable decline and has got us thinking about previous examples of giants of the game who fell on hard times.
10. Aston Villa
A few European champions have been relegated after lifting the European Cup, with the likes of AC Milan and Marseille demoted due to assorted off-pitch shenanigans, while the departure of Matt Busby and the decline of several star players led to Manchester United's demotion six years after their victory in 1958. However, the last European Cup winners to be relegated purely down to on-pitch performance, and indeed the team who went from continental champions to the second tier in the shortest period of time, is Aston Villa. Under caretaker manager Tony Barton, Villa beat Bayern Munich in the 1982 final thanks to a Peter Withe goal and a heroic goalkeeping performance by young substitute goalkeeper Nigel Spink. But after just five years they were relegated, sliding down the league and eventually dropping in 1987. They of course returned to the top flight the following season and challenged for the league title a couple of times, but their fall from top to bottom was spectacular.
If you surveyed 100 Portsmouth fans and asked if they think the glory of winning the FA Cup was worth it, one wonders how many would say yes. Under Harry Redknapp, Pompey beat Cardiff in the 2008 final, after getting through Manchester United in the last eight. However, Redknapp left for Tottenham later that year and shortly afterward the sheer scale of the financial problems at Fratton Park began to emerge, with a list of angry unpaid creditors so long it might as well have been written on toilet rolls. Players were sold, assorted managers came and went, but the fiscal catastrophes and accompanying points deductions saw Portsmouth relegated three times in four seasons, to where they currently reside in League Two.
8. River Plate
When the most successful team in the history of Argentinean football are relegated, particularly when the country's league structure was more or less altered to ensure such a catastrophe never occurred, you know something has gone seriously wrong. River have a whopping 36 league titles to their name along with nine domestic cups and two Copa Libertadores titles. And yet, after a series of institutional crises around 2008 their performances on the pitch suffered to the extent that by 2011, they were involved in the relegation playoff with second-tier side Belgrano de Cordoba. After losing the away leg 2-0, they could only draw 1-1 at El Monumental and their relegation was confirmed, sparking riots that led to 55 fans and 35 police officers suffering injuries. They were promoted the following season and normal service was resumed when they claimed the title again in 2014.
Still the holder of the world record for most domestic titles won at 54, Rangers were once a force in the European game as well. They were the first British team to reach a European final, losing the 1961 Cup Winners' Cup -- a trophy they won in 1972 -- and indeed reached the UEFA Cup final as recently as 2008. However, after a series of financial calamities that led to the liquidation of the club in 2012, they were relegated to the Scottish Third Division, most of their players departed, and they had to begin the long climb back to the top flight. While the fall wasn't for football reasons, it was made all the more stark by them winning the Scottish title for three seasons in a row before administration, points deductions and relegations struck. It will be some time before they can challenge old rivals Celtic in the same way they used to.
6. RC Strasbourg
Things looked fairly bleak for Racing Club Strasbourg in 1976. The club were relegated to the second tier amid financial problems, but a promotion, a third-placed finish and even more remarkably a French title win under manager Gilbert Gress came in 1979. That could have been the cue to establish themselves as one of the forces in French football. Gress has been described as a "rock 'n' roll" manager who revolutionised the game in France, with a group of solid but unspectacular players (including one Raymond Domenech) and won the title. However, things started to go south after chairman André Bord signed star forward Carlos Bianchi against Gress' wishes, and although they reached the quarterfinal of the 1980 European Cup, a clash of personalities led to Gress' sacking later that year.
The decline was relatively steady. Strasbourg were relegated in 1986, and despite eventual promotion and a period of stability in Ligue 1, they slipped down the divisions and liquidation in 2011 led to demotion to regional, amateur leagues. Renamed RC Strasbourg Alsace, they have begun the steady climb back up the leagues, but the glory days of Gress are far behind them now.
5. KV Mechelen
The last Belgian team to win a European trophy, KV Mechelen have had two great periods in their history. The 1940s, when they won three domestic titles, and the late 1980s, when they again lifted the Belgian championship, won the Belgian Cup and extraordinarily, the Cup Winners' Cup and European Super Cup in 1988. Their remarkable run to that trophy saw this tiny team from provisional Belgium beat Dinamo Bucharest, Atalanta from Italy and most implausibly Ajax in the final, overcoming a side that featured Danny Blind, Aron Winter, Arnold Muhren and a young Dennis Bergkamp. Their success was largely down to large investment from businessman John Cordier, but when his other businesses failed, he sold many of their brighter lights. They were relegated in 1992 and slipped to the third tier a couple of years later. They rose again to the Jupiler Pro League in 2007 and lost in the final of the 2009 Belgian Cup.
4. Nottingham Forest
Many of the clubs on this list have fallen for financial or other non-football reasons, but Nottingham Forest became the first and to date only European champions to be relegated to the third tier of their domestic league, which they managed through good old fashioned incompetence and terrible management. Forest, of course, won the European Cup in 1979 and 1980 under Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, and while they sustained some success after Taylor's departure (they won the League Cup in 1989 and 1990, making a couple more cup finals in the following years), Clough's powers waned and they were relegated in 1993. Eventually, after a few yo-yo years, they dropped out of the Premier League for good in 1999, eventually slipping to League One in 2005. If there's such a thing as a natural level in football, you could say that Forest -- as one of the bigger teams in the English Championship -- are roughly there now. The 18 years under Clough were a glorious anomaly.
3. Stade de Reims
Everyone knows Real Madrid won the first five European Cups, but perhaps fewer people know their opponents in the first and fourth of those finals were the dominant French team of the time, Stade de Reims. And it was easy to see why they won the French title six times between 1949 and 1962, with players like Raymond Kopa, Just Fontaine and Jean Vincent in their ranks. They were defeated by Real in the inaugural final in 1956, and after Kopa had switched sides were beaten in 1959 as well. Their success continued for a short while, winning the French title in 1960 and 1962, but they suffered a shock relegation in 1963, leading to the disbanding of their great side. They spent the following 15 years bouncing around between the top two divisions, before suffering a 33-year spell outside the top flight starting in 1979, and worse very nearly disappeared from existence entirely in the early 1990s. They were reborn under the name Stade de Reims Champagne, starting again in semi-professional leagues, before eventually returning to Ligue 1 in 2012.
2. FC Magdeburg
As far as East German giants go, FC Magdeburg were up there, dominating the old DDR Oberliga in the mid-1970s, and in their glory days they were frequent challengers for trophies on the continent. In 1974 they became the first and only East German side to win a major European trophy and did so with some style as well, beating an AC Milan side managed by Giovanni Trapattoni and captained by Gianni Rivera. They followed this up by becoming regulars in the latter stages of the UEFA Cup (they were knocked out in the quarter-finals in three successive years), but couldn't repeat their previous successes. When Germany became unified, so did the football leagues, and when the Eastern sides were integrated into the Bundesliga in 1991, they could finish only 10th in the table and thus didn't even qualify for the new second tier. From there they slipped even further, and despite the odd glimpse of past glories (a DFB Pokal run in 2001 in which they beat Bayern Munich), they have largely sloshed around in the German fourth tier, where they currently reside.
1. Leeds United
An empire built on sand, a team put together with money that wasn't really there, borrowed and begged and mortgaged on a glorious future that never arrived. One could argue that Peter Ridsdale was an essentially well-meaning chairman, attempting to bring success to Leeds with financial ambition, the trouble being that another definition of ambition is "wanton irresponsibility." With a team of home-grown youngsters like Alan Smith, Jonathan Woodgate and Harry Kewell -- combined with expensive recruits such as Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane and Mark Viduka -- Leeds reached the Champions League semifinal in 2001. But after failing to qualify for the tournament two years running and thus missing out on the income against which Ridsdale had borrowed, stars were sold off and the team plummeted, eventually to the depths of League One.