AC Milan celebrating win

What Is an Invincibles Season in Football?

If you take the average 38-game Premier League season, that’s a whopping 3,420 minutes of action out on the pitch – let alone the reams of injury time that are played these days. It’s an extraordinary amount of time to remain unbeaten – that is, to win or draw every single league game in a campaign. That’s exactly what an ‘Invincibles’ season is – going through the entire league schedule without losing a game.

By its very nature, it’s an extraordinary achievement that doesn’t happen very often – so Bayer Leverkusen are on the precipice of something outstanding in 2023/24. The German champions won their first-ever Bundesliga title in high-class fashion, and after 32 games of the campaign found themselves unbeaten with 26 wins and six draws. It means that if they can avoid defeat in their remaining four games, they will join the small but elite band of clubs that have completed an Invincibles season.

Who Was the First Team to Complete an Invincibles Season?

Preston North End FC wins double
Preston North End FC

The first time that the name ‘Invincibles’ was used to describe a team that had gone unbeaten all-season long was Preston North End in the late 1800s. The Lancashire club went the entirety of the 1888/89 season without tasting defeat, a run which comprised 27 league and cup games.

It was unheard of at the time, although the media of the time were unconvinced – they were dismissive of Preston’s desire to turn professional a few years earlier, and actually used the Invincibles tag more as a tongue-in-cheek jibe than a celebration of the exploits of William Sudell’s team.

Which Football Teams Have Been Invincible?

Maccabi Haifa
Maccabi Haifa FC (Grzegorz Jereczek /

Only one German club has ever enjoyed an Invincibles season – Berliner FC Dynamo, but that was back in the days when East and West Germany were separated by the Berlin Wall. That just goes to show what an achievement Bayer Leverkusen were closing in on. There have been Invincibles seasons in European football, but only a handful in what are typically described as the ‘Big Five’ leagues.

Pro Vercelli (1912/33) & Genoa (1922/23)

Pro Vercelli and Genoa achieved it in the early days of Serie A, going 21 and 28 games unbeaten in 1912/13 and 1922/23, respectively.

Athletic Bilbao (1929/30) & Real Madrid (1931/32)

Incredibly, two different Spanish clubs achieved Invincibles seasons just two years apart – albeit back in the day when only ten clubs contested La Liga. Athletic Bilbao were the first in 1929/30, before Real Madrid replicated their success in 1931/32.

Perugia (1978/79)

How about this for an amazing fact: in 1978/79, Perugia went the entirety of the Serie A season unbeaten – and yet they still didn’t win the title!

AC Milan (1991/92)

Instead, the Griffins would draw a whopping 19 of their 30 games – winning the other eleven, but their 41-point haul (it was two points for a win back then) was not enough to supersede AC Milan at the top of the table.

It was Milan themselves that would next put together an Invincibles campaign, avoiding defeat in 34 Serie A games in 1991/92. Arrigo Saachi’s side are considered one of the best in the history of Italian football – names like Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini just some of those to shine at the San Siro.

Maccabi Haifa (1993/94)

There are two other Invincibles teams that might be regarded as the best ever, which we cover below, but first, a shout-out to Israeli outfit, Maccabi Haifa in 1993/94. Curiously, the Liga Leumit season comprised 39 games that season – and Maccabi Haifa went unbeaten in all of them. Numerically speaking, that’s the finest Invincibles season ever played on European soil (Israel is recognised as a European nation via its membership of UEFA).

Juventus (2011/12)

It’s remarkable to think that, given their dominance of Italian football around that time, Juventus hadn’t won the Serie A title for nearly a decade prior to their Invincibles campaign of 2011/12. But The Old Lady would end that drought in stunning fashion, becoming the first team to go unbeaten across an entire 38-game Serie A season.

Antonio Conte, appointed to his first major managerial role, could call upon the talents of Alessandro Del Piero, and would also sign Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal – two players that would play their way into Juventus folklore.

They would draw 15 of their 38 games, winning the other 23, and that was enough to compile a tally of 84 points – four more than nearest rivals AC Milan. That Juve vintage were the first and – at the time of writing – last Serie A side to go unbeaten throughout the duration of the 38-game campaign.

Arsenal (2003/04)

Other than that Preston side way back in the 1800s, only one other team has produced an Invincibles season in the English top-flight. That honour goes to the Arsenal team of 2003/04, who would prove so dominant over the rest of the Premier League that they had already wrapped up the title in April. The Gunners would end the season with 26 wins and 12 draws from their 38 games, winning the league by a whopping margin of eleven points. They remain the only club in the Premier League era to deliver an Invincibles campaign.

But their campaign benefitted from what can only be described as their own butterfly effect moment. Just six games into the season in a game against Manchester United at Old Trafford, it looked as if the contest was going to fizzle out in a 0-0 draw.

But then United were awarded a controversial penalty, which Ruud van Nistelrooy conspired to smash against the crossbar – the game degenerated into ugly warfare thereafter, with a number of Arsenal players booked and the club fined £175,000; the largest fine ever dished out for on-field misdemeanours in the Premier League. Little did they know it at the time, but the fierce celebrations were justified – eight months later, Arsenal had become the first Invincibles team of the Premier League era.