Winning the Premier League, La Liga or Serie A is the dream of many young players when they grow up, but some aspire to go further in the hope that they will also conquer the game on the European stage.
Over the years, a number of players have done just that in the UEFA Europa League – picking up a multitude of winners medals to cement their place in the history books.
Those with that insatiable habit for winning the competition are the subject of the latest UEFA Europa League Breakfast Show, presented by official tournament partner, Kia. This week’s edition featured broadcaster Jules Breach, who helped pick out the top five players who are, and forever will be, associated with winning the UEFA Europa League.
Competition wins: 2 (Chelsea, Atletico Madrid)
Fernando Torres scored the opening goal of the 2013 Europa League final for Chelsea against Benfica, with a stoppage time winner from Branislav Ivanovic eventually sealing glory for the Blues.
Torres later returned to boyhood club Atletico Madrid in 2016 and it was there that he won the Europa League for the second time in 2017/18. Although not a regular starter, he played 12 times in the competition that season and came off the bench as Atleti beat Marseille in the final.
That final also proved to be his very last appearance in European football.
Competition wins: 2 (Porto, Atletico Madrid)
Radamel Falcao enjoyed the distinction of winning the Europa League in back-to-back seasons during the early 2010s, and was close to unplayable at that stage of his career.
The Colombian striker scored an incredible 17 goals in the Europa League for Porto in 2010/11, including the winner in the final against Braga. He then joined Atletico Madrid for an estimated €40m that summer and incredibly won the competition again with his new club.
Not only was Falcao a back-to-back winner, he was back-to-back top scorer – netting 29 goals in the competition in those two seasons alone.
Competition wins: 3 (Sevilla x3)
Jesus Navas will retire a Sevilla legend when he hangs up his boots, having won the UEFA Cup/Europa League during both of his spells with his boyhood club.
Navas was only 20 when he got his hands on the trophy for the first time, with Sevilla beating Middlesbrough in the 2006 final. The club won it again 12 months later by defeating Espanyol in a penalty shootout during an all-Spanish final.
His third title came in 2020, having re-joined Sevilla from Manchester City, and marked a successful transition from flying winger to reliable full-back.
Competition wins: 3 (Juventus, Parma x2)
Former Italy midfielder Dino Baggio won the UEFA Cup three times during the 1990s, beginning with Juventus in the 1992/93 season when he scored three times across the two-legged final against Borussia Dortmund.
Baggio joined Parma in 1994, becoming part of a famous cult team, and scored five times en-route to UEFA Cup glory in his first season – he was the team’s top scorer alongside Gianfranco Zola.
He completed a hat-trick of UEFA Cup wins in 1999 when a second cult Parma side thrashed Marseille 3-0 in the final in Moscow.
Competition wins: 5 (Atletico Madrid x2, Sevilla x3)
Former Sevilla and Atletico Madrid forward Kevin Gameiro has won four Europa League titles during his career, but the competition record belongs to the late Jose Antonio Reyes with five.
Reyes started his career at boyhood club Sevilla but had left to join Arsenal before the club’s mid-2000s dominance of the UEFA Cup. He went on to win his first title with Atletico in 2010 and claimed a second in 2012, although he had left halfway through the season to re-join Sevilla.
He started both the 2014 and 2015 Europa League finals for Sevilla – captaining the side in the latter – in victories over Benfica and Dnipro respectively, but illness ruled him out of the final in 2016 – appearances earlier in the competition, however, earned him a fifth medal.
The Spaniard tragically died in 2019 at the age of just 35, but will forever be remembered for his achievements in football – particularly in the UEFA Europa League.