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The 10 Biggest Teams to get Relegated (Ranked)

Written by on May 6, 2024

Highlights

  • Relegation has a devastating impact on football clubs, from financial difficulties to losing star players.
  • Some of the biggest teams in world football have tasted relegation at least once, including one current Premier League giant.
  • Juventus are the biggest team in football history to have suffered relegation when they did so back in 2006.



Relegation is devastating to any club in football, from general job losses within a club to their star players leaving. It is a horrible feeling for all involved. The supporters feel it the most, having paid their hard-earned money to watch their side play home and away. To a fan, their football club is their identity, and when that is under threat, it results in a feeling like no other. Some may bounce straight back up, while others drop even further.

Sunderland and Leeds United, for example, tumbled more than just the one division in English football after failing to get to grips with the Championship. For any relegated club, bouncing straight back up is one of the main aims due to financial issues in the lower divisions. Top leagues pay the most money, and as that income reduces dramatically, clubs struggle to acclimatise.


Over the years, there have been some huge upsets regarding big teams going through the relegation trap door, while the 2023/2024 Premier League season sees the likes of Nottingham Forest, Luton Town and Burnley trying to beat the drop. This article now ranks the biggest relegations in the world of football.

Ranking factors

This list has been compiled based on several criteria:

  • Size of club and trophies won
  • How relegation impacted them
  • Media impact (how much each relegation was reported by various media outlets)

Some teams have been excluded, such as Newcastle United and Aston Villa, as other sides’ relegations have been as a result of a scandal which has had a greater global reach. If a team is caught up in a scandal, the global reach of that far outweighs a standard relegation.


Ranking the 10 Biggest Teams to Suffer Relegation

Rank

Team

League

Year

1

Juventus

Serie A

2006

2

Rangers

Scottish Premiership

2013

3

Villareal

La Liga

2013

4

West Ham

Premier League

2003

5

Sampdoria

Serie A

2011

6

Leeds

Premier League

2004

7

Schalke

Bundesliga

2021

8

Corinthians

Brasileiro Serie A

2007

9

Marseille

Ligue 1

1995

10

River Plate

Primera Division

2011


Related

6 Most Shocking Relegations In Premier League History (Ranked)

The Premier League has seen some awful teams in years gone by, but some stunned the footballing world into silence with unexpected relegations.

10 River Plate (2010/11)

River Plate fans trying to break into the stadium.

River Plate is one of the biggest names in world football, never mind South America. The club boasted an incredible 33 league titles going into the 2010-11 campaign and had won more than any other club in the country. After a remarkable 110 years in the top division, River Plate, for all its riches, spiraled out of control. Their defeat in the relegation play-off against Belgrano sparked predictable violent riots. The club was chaotic both on and off the pitch.

Many believed that relegation could be a good thing for this prestigious club, but only if they could bounce straight back to the top division. As with any other side to get relegated, star players had to be sold and for River Plate, their prized asset was Erik Lamela. The club were determined to hold out for a high fee and eventually accepted £10m plus £2m in bonuses from Serie A side Roma. During their first season in the second division, after all the chaotic scenes surrounding the club, they secured promotion back to the top division at the first attempt.


Top scorers Fernando Cavenaghi (19) and David Trezeguet (13) helped fire River Plate back to where they belong. The club won the title in 2023, and their relegation during the 2010-11 campaign is now seen as a new dawn for the club, turning their fortunes around and becoming a force to be reckoned with in the top flight once again. In Argentina, relegation is worked out by the teams placed in 17th and 18th playing the 3rd and 4th placed teams in Primera B Nacional, with the winner of each tie then competing for a spot in the Primera Division the following season.

Primera Division Table (2010/2011)

Position

Team

Points

17

River Plate

57

18

Gimnasia y Esgrima (LP)

33

19

Huracan

30

20

Quilmes

39


9 Olympique Marseille (1994/95)

MixCollage-12-Dec-2023-03-31-PM-9298

At the time, Marseille were European champions and the most expensive club ever assembled in France. The club were forcibly relegated by the football authorities after Marseille was caught in a bribery scandal. The scandal led to the 1992-93 league title being taken off Marseille and awarded to second-placed Paris Saint-Germain, who declined it. As a result, no team was classed as winning the title that season.


The bribery took place in a match between Valenciennes and Marseille. The president of Marseille, Bernard Tapie, and general manager, Jean-Pierre Bernes, contacted members of the Valenciennes squad and asked them to under-perform in the match, so Marseille could be fresh for their Champions League final clash with AC Milan six days later. While others accepted the bribe, Jacques Glassmann refused and later informed the authorities of what happened. Despite the forced relegation to the second division, Marseille remarkably recovered and were promoted back to the top flight the following season. They have remained in the top flight ever since.

8 Corinthians (2006/07)

Carlos Tevez in action for Corinthians.

Just two years after winning the Brazilian championship, Corinthians suffered perhaps one of the most surprising relegations in the league’s history. In 2005, the club signed an investment deal with Media Sports Investments, the same company that held third-party ownership over a certain Carlos Tevez. Under the ownership group, they went on to win the title, but things would soon turn sour.


Two years later, the club was in turmoil as Media Sports Investments were embroiled in a money laundering scandal, and the club broke off their partnership. As money began to run out, the performances on the field suffered. On the last day of the 2006/07 season, a win against Gremio would guarantee their survival, but a defeat meant relegation for a club crowned champions not long before. In 2008, Corinthians gained promotion back to the top flight and have won three league titles since.

Brasileiro Serie A Table (2007)

Position

Team

Points

17

Corinthians

44

18

Juventude

41

19

Parana

41

20

America RN

17


7 Schalke (2020/21)

The home of FC Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.

A giant in the German leagues, having won the Bundesliga on seven occasions and the German Cup five times, a relegation to the second tier seemed unlikely to those watching on from afar. Schalke have had the likes of Manuel Neuer, Raul, and Julian Draxler pull on their shirt and were Champions League semi-finalists in 2010-11. From those dizzy heights, Schalke nose dived to an all-time low during the 2020-21 season following a disastrous start to the campaign. The club were struggling financially and could only manage three wins during the whole of the season. Their fate was sealed, and they were relegated to the second tier of German football. Schalke bounced straight back up but faced another relegation during their return to the Bundesliga and have struggled to get going in the second tier, languishing in 13th position.


Bundesliga Table (2020/21)

Position

Team

Points

16

Koln

33

17

Werder Bremen

31

18

Schalke

16

6 Leeds United (2003/04)

A fan wears a Leeds United hat.

As the nineties drew to a close and the noughties were upon us, Leeds United were one of the biggest teams in Europe. They boasted stars such as Robbie Fowler, Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane and Mark Viduka. Leeds were brilliant to watch and reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2001. The club missed out on qualification for the competition the following season, and it contributed to a crippling financial situation.


Just three years after those famous Champions League nights, Leeds became one of the biggest names relegated from the Premier League in what is still seen today as a guide on how not to run a football club. It only got worse for the club in the resulting years, and they were almost expelled from the football league but miraculously survived. Leeds started the 2007-08 season with a whopping 15-point penalty, but from near extinction, the club began its remarkable turnaround. In 2020, Leeds returned to the Premier League after a 16-year absence. Although they were relegated in the 2022/2023 season, Leeds are battling it out at the top of the Championship table and hoping to secure an immediate return to the top-flight.


Premier League Table (2003/04)

Position

Team

Points

18

Leicester City

33

19

Leeds United

33

20

Wolves

33

Related

Football giants who were relegated and what happened next

Santos have been relegated for the first time in their 111-year history but they aren’t the only big side to suffer the drop

5 Sampdoria (2010/11)

Sampdoria fans waving flags.

Like Leeds, Sampdoria is a prime example of how quickly things can change in the world of football. During the previous campaign, the club finished fourth in Serie A and qualified for the Champions League play-off round. The four-time Coppa Italia champions saw their form change dramatically in the 2010-11 season. They were no longer edging out games with a steely determination. They had lost their will and way to win. As 2011 came around, Sampdoria had registered just three victories and did not reach the Champions League group stages.


The club eventually finished 18th and were relegated to Serie B. Sampdoria managed to bounce back at the first time of asking, and remained in Serie A for the following ten seasons before being relegated to the second tier after finishing bottom in the 2022/23 campaign.

Serie A Table (2010/11)

Position

Team

Points

18

Sampdoria

36

19

Brescia

32

20

Bari

24

4 West Ham United (2002/03)

West Ham United fans looking dejected.


West Ham looked to be a club very much on the up after a fantastic 2001-02 campaign that saw them finish seventh. They had the likes of Paolo Di Canio, Frederic Kanoute, Trevor Sinclair and David James on their books, mixed in with some terrific youngsters such as Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe.

The club revealed that then manager Glenn Roeder was suffering from a brain tumour after collapsing during a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Following the news, club legend Trevor Brooking took charge, and their fortunes began to turn. That run of form saw them have a small chance of staying in the Premier League heading into the final day. West Ham required at least a seven-goal win to secure safety. It wasn’t to be, as a 2-2 draw with Birmingham City saw them relegated to the Championship.


West Ham returned to the Premier League after winning the Championship play-off final in 2005. They remained in the top flight for the following six seasons before suffering another relegation in 2010-11. They bounced straight back up, and the Hammers have remained in the Premier League ever since and went on to win the Europa Conference League.

Premier League Table (2002/03)

Position

Team

Points

18

West Ham United

42

19

West Brom

26

20

Sunderland

19

3 Villarreal (2011/12)

Villarreal fans holding up scarves in the stadium.


Perhaps one of the biggest shocks in recent years in La Liga. The Villarreal squad was more than competitive and had a fruitful campaign in 2010-11, finishing the season in 4th place.

Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar combined for a fearsome partnership in 2010-11, scoring 29 goals and providing eight assists between them. Hwever, Rossi suffered two horrible knee injuries which saw him miss the majority of the season, while Nilmar also struggled with injuries and struggled to find the form of the previous campaign.

After going through three managers during the 2011-12 season, the season that brought so much optimism ended in disaster as they ended the campaign in 18th place and relegation to the second tier of Spanish football.


La Liga Table (2011/12)

Position

Team

Points

18

Villarreal

41

19

Sporting Gijon

37

20

Racing

27

2 Rangers (2012/13)

A stall selling Rangers scarves before the game at Ibrox.

In June 2012, after a failure to reach a CVA agreement with creditors, Rangers entered the process of administration and liquidation, something that shocked the football world. The club was eventually saved from extinction but had to begin life in the third tier of Scottish football, and faced an almighty battle to get back to where they belong.


Back-to-back promotions saw Rangers make it to the Scottish Championship and just one more promotion away from the Scottish Premiership. The Gers were unable to make it three promotions in a row as they finished the season in third place. However, they wouldn’t have to wait much longer to be back in the Premiership, gaining promotion the following season. They remained in the Premiership in the following seven seasons and won the league under Steven Gerrard during the 2020-21 season.

1 Juventus (2005/06)

Undoubtedly one of the biggest relegations in the world of football, and one of the biggest scandals that European football has ever seen. Club officials were found to have taken steps to manipulate referees in favour of Juventus. The Calciopoli scandal saw Juventus relegated to Serie B and stripped of two of their 20 league titles. They bounced straight back to Serie A thanks to the firepower of Alessandro Del Piero, who bagged 20 goals during the 2006-07 campaign.


Juventus would have to wait for their fifth season back in the top flight before lifting another Serie A title. However, that was the start of nine consecutive league titles for the Old Lady as Juventus re-announced themselves as Serie A’s top club.

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