The tournament was inaugurated in 1955, at the suggestion of the French sports journalist and editor of L'Équipe Gabriel Hanot as a continental competition for winners of the European national football leagues, as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, abbreviated to European Cup. The competition began as the 1955-56 using a two-leg knockout format where the teams would play two matches, one at home and one away, and the team with the highest overall score qualifying for the next round of the competition.
Entry was restricted to the teams that won their national league championships, plus the current European Cup holder. This qualification system continued until 1992. In the 1992–93 season, the tournament was renamed UEFA Champions League. In 1997-98, eligibility was expanded to include not just domestic champions but also the best performing runners up according to UEFA's coefficient ranking list.
Between 1960 and 2004 the winner of the tournament qualified for the now defunct Intercontinental Cup against the winner of the Copa Libertadores of South America. Since then, with FIFA taking over, the winner automatically qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup with other winners of continental club championships. The 2009-10 Champions League Final was won by Inter Milan who beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Madrid. Inter Milan fielded a starting XI without a single Italian player.
The 2011 Champions League Final was the 6th to be played at Wembley and the 2012 Final was held at the Allianz Stadium in Munich.
Wembley again hosted the Champions League Final in 2013 and the 2014 Final took place at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon.
Spanish clubs have now won Europe's top club prize 17 times, Italian clubs 12 times and English clubs 12 times.