Man United=Kentucky, Real Madrid=Duke and Other European Football College Hoops Doppelgängers


march madness

There are two sporting competitions, in tournament format that captivate us unlike any other this time of year: college basketball’s NCAA Tournament, also known as “March Madness,” and the UEFA Champions League. In late winter and early spring, sports fans all across the globe are transfixed by both tourneys. This week will see both March Madness and the UCL transpire, so it’s a whole sports buffet on tap right now. 

We root for our specific teams first and foremost, and then debate if we should support our primary rivals in our respective leagues/conferences as they take on the rest of the nation/Europe. Let’s say you’re a North Carolina/Liverpool supporter- do you show solidarity for the other ACC/English Premier League teams in the competition? 

uefa champions league

It’s a debate with no right or wrong answer, exactly like the pairings we’ve made below. So have at it in the comments section. 

The time has come for college basketball/European soccer doppelgangers. And this isn’t the first time that we’ve done the soccer/football/futbol synergies with college basketball, or with teams in other sports as well. Be sure to check out our 2014 World Cup round of 16 nations-college basketball program doppelgangers, as well as our 8 Copa America 2016 countries-Chicago pro sports franchises analogies.

real madrid

Duke Blue Devils = Real Madrid

The biggest brand name in both sports, featuring the most well-known (and often polarizing) individuals in each respective game. Madrid are Los Reyes Del Europa (the Kings of Europe), because they have the won more European Cups than anybody. Duke have been the most dominant school during the modern of the NCAA Tournament.

Both programs reside at the top of the monarchial structure in their respective games; so much so that their very names literally include references to royalty. We tried to do our listings in descending order from strongest analogy to weakest, and none came more naturally than Duke/Real Madrid.

Kentucky Wildcats = Manchester United 

We couldn’t help but pair up the winningest program in college basketball, who boast of eight national championships, with the European capital of trophies.  United have won a record 20 League titles, 12 FA Cups, 5 League Cups and a record 21 FA Community Shields. However, the last half decade of seasons has seen a substantial decline. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, as league champion in 2013, United have only won the following: one FA Cup, one Community Shield, one League Cup and one Europa League title.

Yes, those are trophies, but extremely minor ones, especially so when compared to the standards that United supporters hold.

It’s the same deal in Lexington. Since the Wildcats last national title in 2012 (almost the same year), they have two Final Fours and a national runner-up and three Elite 8s. That’s impressive almost anywhere else, but at UK that’s disappointing.

liverpool-fckansas basketball jayhawks

Kansas Jayhawks = Liverpool

These two blue bloods in their respective sports are a natural link-up. Both play an extremely exciting style, with the ability to beat anybody on the planet…unfortunately, both also have the ability to lose to just about anybody you can find at the same time. both teams play in a venue that’s a cathedral to their sport, as each stadium has seen so much history.

Liverpool have won 6 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 19 League titles, 7 FA Cups, 9 League Cups (that’s a record), and 15 FA Community Shields.

Kansas currently has the longest streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances of all-time (32), the longest current streak of consecutive NCAA winning seasons (38), the most winning seasons in Division I history (100), the most conference championships in Division I history (62), and the most consecutive regular season conference titles in Division I (14).


Gonzaga Bulldogs = Paris Saint Germain

The younger more emerging power, who’s worked themselves up from nothing to near the top of the sport’s food chain. They pretty much dominate a weak league/conference (West Coast Conference/Ligue 1) and then often go deep in the big tournament. However, neither has won it all yet, and until they do, they will still have a bit of an underdog quality to them.

Yes, this is despite PSG’s spending the GDP of a G7 country on players.

michigan wolverinesjuventus

Michigan Wolverines = Juventus

Both excel at making deep tournament runs, and often find themselves in the final. However, both have real problems closing the deal once they get there. Juve won it all in ’84-’85 and ’95-’96, but also lost the title game seven times (’72-’73, ’82-’83, ’96-’97, ’97-’98, ’02-’03, ’14-’15, ’16-’17).

Michigan claimed the 1989 national title, but finished runners-up on six occasions (1965, 1976, 1992, 1993, 2013 and 2018).


Illinois Fighting Illini = Tottenham Hotspur 

As good as it gets among sides that have never won it all, with only that single runner-up appearance to hang their hats on. If you know what “Spursy” means, well then you also know what it feels like to be an Illini basketball fan. Drought is the other commonality here.

Spurs haven’t a trophy of any sort since 2008 while Illinois hasn’t even reached a sweet sixteen since 2005.

bayern munich

Villanova Wildcats = Bayern Munich  

Again Bayern deserved a bigger super-power, but hey “dems the rules” and I don’t make them. On the other hand though, Bayern and Nova are a trendy pick by many to win the whole tournament, so they’re actually not as far off in terms of equal strength as one might think upon first glance.

Both the Main Line program and the Bavarian giants dominate their respective league with absolute authority.

Purdue Boilermakers = Manchester City

Both sides are and always will be overshadowed by bigger brands in their own respective region. City will always be second to United in Manchester while the Boilers won’t probably ever have the same size fanatical following as the Hoosiers in the state of Indiana.

That said, both programs are adept and winning trophies, and they’re both looking as strong right now as they ever have.


Butler Bulldogs = Borussia Dortmund

This is where you go to make a big name for yourself, and then move on to bigger things. At Butler, it’s the long line of head coaches that use this as a stepping stone job. For BVB, it’s all about the players

Indiana Hoosiers = AC Milan

Glory days were amazing, but that was a very long time ago, and they aren’t coming back; ever.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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