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Presumably it is to each clubs’ discretion who receives a medal i.e. players, management, coaches, officials etc. There were reports after the 2014-15 final that UEFA had ‘ordered’ Barcelona’s Thomas Vermaelen to return his winners medal as he had not played in the tournament. The same applied to his colleagues Claudio Bravo, Douglas Costa and Josip Masip.http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/barcelonas-thomas-vermaelen-is-forced-to-give-back-his-champions-league-winners-medal-voetbalkrant/
My understanding is that they weren’t ‘ordered’ to return the medals, just that UEFA would not recognise them as a Champions League ‘winner’ as they had not played a single minute of the winning campaign.
A story in the Daily Express of 1 March 2013 about André Villas-Boas not having received a winners medal for his part in guiding Chelsea through the early stages of their 2011-12 Champions League victory provides a UEFA guidance on how the medals should be distributed:
It would appear that Jamal Blackman has also a Europa League winners’ medal (2012-13)http://thechels.info/wiki/Jamal_Blackman and yet he has never played for Chelsea’s first team in a competitive fixture. Peter McDonnell who won UEFA Cup and Champions Cup winners’ medals in 1975-76 and 1976-77 and made no first team appearances for Liverpool has also achieved this ‘feat’.http://www.lfchistory.net/Players/Player/Profile/496 However, McDonnell's (European Champions’ Cup) winner's medal was lost after the game, believed by some to have been stolen and given to one of Liverpool's first-team players who had missed the final. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_McDonnell
Using the above guide as a rule from a statistician’s / historian’s point it is relatively easy to determine who has ‘won’ and who has ‘not won’ just by checking the appearances for that particular season. However, who has got a medal and who hasn’t got a medal is a different matter.
Looking back at UEFA archive regulations I note that 25 medals were awarded from seasons 2001-02 to 2005-06, increasing to 30 medals from 2006-07 to 2011-12, and further increasing to 40 medals from 2012-13 to present. I have not been able to find any record of the regulations prior to 2001-02.Since the inception of the three European Cups I assume that winners’ medals were only available to those players who actually played in the final, although I am not sure what happened in the case of a player playing in only the first leg of a two legged Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final?
Since the introduction of the two from five substitute rule in the late 1960’s it appears that the match day 16 would receive a medal although I am sure UEFA must have made exceptions for players missing out on the second leg of a UEFA Cup final e.g. Steve Perryman (Tottenham 1983-84). From 1995-96 to 1996-97 the substitute rules increased to three from five, and from 1997-98 (to present) to three from seven.
Whether a player deserves or feels he deserves a medal or not is subjective. Roy Keane was suspended (also injured) from the 1998-99 Champions League final but received a winners’ medal. He has said that “I do not feel like I’ve won a European Cup. I received a medal but didn’t feel I deserved it. It was not just me who missed out through suspension that night but Paul Scholes as well” Most people would disagree with the “didn’t feel I deserved it” quote given his contribution to Manchester United’s success that season, particularly in the semi final v Juventus. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/football/214014/I-never-won-my-medal.html
In Liverpool’s Champions League success in 2004-05 Neil Mellor played a major contribution in the group stage victory versus Olympiakos. By the time of the final he was recovering from injury. He missed out on a winners’ medal, although how much of this was due to “either UEFA incompetence or light-fingered pitch invaders” isn’t clear. However, he does say that he has one of AC Milan’s ‘losers’ medals! Liverpool actually used 27 players that season so based on the allocation of 25 medals at least two players were always going to miss out.http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/p/preston/6069698.stmhttp://www.theguardian.com/football/2006/jan/24/newsstory.sport4
So, in conclusion who has a winners’ medal and who is a winner are not necessarily the same.
In order to try and clarify things a bit further does anyone have UEFA’s rules / regulations prior to 2001-02.? Also, when did medals for only the match day 16 (or 18) cease?