It's Europe's most prestigious and coveted trophy, and the yardstick by which greatness is measured. Since its inception in 1955, only 22 clubs have lifted the cup affectionately known as 'Big Ears'; Real Madrid reign supreme with 13 triumphs in their illustrious history.
But enough about teams. Which individuals have fired their outfits to glory most frequently in the Champions League era? We take a look at the most prolific goalscorers in the history of the competition: featuring Dutch destroyers, Italian poachers, Ivorian talismen and more...
25. Ryan Giggs (28)
Giggs spent his entire professional career at Old Trafford, making a club-record 963 appearances for Manchester United between his debut in 1991 and his retirement in 2014. The winger-turned-midfielder played 145 times in the Champions League, with his 28 goals enough for him to squeeze into this list.
Giggs got off the mark on the continental stage with a brace against IFK Göteborg in 1994/95, but United missed out on a place in the knockout phase on goal difference. His five goals in 1998/99 helped United lift the Champions League trophy alongside the Premier League and FA Cup, but he didn't find the net in the club's next triumphant campaign of 2007/08.
22= Roy Makaay (29)
The spearhead of the Deportivo La Coruna side that won the 1999/00 La Liga title, Makaay's 22 goals that year helped Javier Irureta's men beat Barcelona, Valencia and Real Zaragoza to the crown. He scored twice in Europe the following campaign to help Deportivo reach the quarter-finals, but only found the net once as the Spanish side reached the same stage in 2001/02.
Makaay exploded into life a season later, though, scoring nine times despite Deportivo's exit at the second group stage. His hat-trick against Bayern Munich persuaded the Bavarians to sign him in summer 2003; Makaay struck an impressive 17 goals in 32 Champions League matches for Bayern, although he again failed to advance beyond the last eight.
22= Patrick Kluivert (29)
Kluivert could hardly have asked for a better first season as a footballer: the striker broke into the Ajax first team in 1994/95, just in time to help them scoop an Eredivisie and Champions League double. Kluivert was the team's top scorer in the league that year, while he also scored the only goal of the game to beat Milan in the European showpiece.
The Dutchman scored nine Champions League goals during his three campaigns in Amsterdam, before later netting 20 for Barcelona between 1999 and 2004. Kluivert later helped PSV to the quarter-finals in his penultimate season as a professional, although he failed to score in any of his three European outings for the Eindhoven outfit.
22= David Trezeguet (29)
Trezeguet only played five games in Monaco's triumphant Ligue 1 campaign of 1996/97, but he became a first-team regular the following season, when his four goals helped the principality club into the semi-finals. He didn't feature in the tournament again until 2000/01, by which time the Frenchman had sealed a £21m transfer to Juventus.
Trezeguet represented the Bianconeri in eight editions of the Champions League, although he was never able to get his hands on the famous trophy - the closest he came was in 2003/04, when Juve lost the final to Milan on penalties. In total, the World Cup-winning frontman scored 25 times for the Italian side in Europe's foremost club competition.
19= Wayne Rooney (30)
Rooney is Manchester United and England’s record goalscorer, won five Premier League titles and lifted the Champions League trophy in 2008. Some question whether he should have achieved more in the game after making an astonishing breakthrough as a teenager, but it's difficult to quibble with 30 goals in Europe's foremost competition.
Rooney produced one of the best ever Champions League debuts, notching a hat-trick on his maiden outing against Fenerbahce in 2004. The England international never managed more than five goals in a season, but he did play in three finals as United beat Chelsea and lost twice to Pep Guardiola's brilliant Barcelona.
19= Kaka (30)
Given that he was an attacking midfielder rather than a centre-forward, Kaka’s haul of 30 goals in 86 Champions League appearances is extremely impressive. The Brazilian joined Milan when they were reigning European champions, and his first season in the competition in 2003/04 brought four strikes in 10 outings.
Kaka's best campaign for the Rossoneri came in 2006/07, when his 10 goals helped Milan lift the trophy for the seventh time in their history. Injuries limited his effectiveness during a four-season spell at Real Madrid, with the ex-Sao Paulo man scoring only five times in 24 continental clashes.
19= Samuel Eto’o (30)
The Cameroon striker became the first player to complete a European treble twice (with Barcelona and Inter), the second to score in two Champions League finals and the fourth to win the trophy in successive years with different teams.
Eto’o joined Barcelona in 2004 but it was in the 2005/06 season that he made his mark in the Champions League, scoring six goals en route to the Catalans' second crown. He scored 10 times in the tournament for Inter, including two in the triumphant 2009/10 season, and also netted Champions League goals for Mallorca and Chelsea.
18. Arjen Robben (31)
Robben retired in the summer after 10 years of exemplary service at Bayern Munich, and as one of the 20 highest scorers in the competition since 1992: the Dutchman struck 26 goals for Bayern, one for Real Madrid, two for Chelsea and two for PSV.
Robben's most significant came in the 2013 final at Wembley, when he was responsible for the match-winning effort in Bayern’s 2-1 defeat of German rivals Borussia Dortmund.
17. Fernando Morientes (33)
Serial winner Morientes was part of Real Madrid's victorious teams of 1998, 2000 and 2002. His best individual season in the competition came in that middle year, the Spaniard netting six times as Los Blancos saw off Dynamo Kiev, Rosenborg, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Valencia.
Morientes memorably helped to knock out Madrid while on loan at Monaco in 2003/04, notching in both legs of the sides' quarter-final clash before going on to finish as the competition's top scorer. He also struck Champions League goals for Liverpool and Valencia.
15= Neymar (35)
A much-maligned figure who divides opinion like few others players in today’s game, it’s debatable whether Neymar has fulfilled his considerable early promise. It’s hard to argue with his return of 61 goals in 101 games for Brazil, however; so too a record of 35 in 57 matches in the Champions League.
Ten of those strikes came in Barcelona’s triumphant campaign of 2014/15, with Neymar scoring the third in a 3-1 victory over Juventus in the final. His goals-per-game record at PSG is superb, with the 27-year-old having netted 14 times in just 17 appearances.
15= Edinson Cavani (35)
Although he has a reputation for being somewhat unreliable in front of goal, Cavani’s record of 35 Champions League strikes isn’t to be sniffed at. The Uruguayan scored five times in the 2011/12 edition – his only season in the competition with Napoli – before making the net bulge on four occasions in his maiden European campaign with PSG.
He’s since added another 25 goals to that tally, putting him joint-15th in the all-time rankings. His best scoring season in the tournament came in 2017/18, but Cavani’s seven goals weren’t enough to help PSG into the quarter-finals.
14. Sergio Aguero (39)
Aguero scored his first Champions League goals at the age of 19, as Atletico Madrid won 3-0 at PSV. He's since scored in 11 consecutive campaigns, with the majority of his goals coming for current club Manchester City.
The Argentine bagged six goals in five group games as City qualified for the knockout phase for the first time in 2013/14, and the following year hit a hat-trick in a coming-of-age 3-2 victory over Bayern Munich. He continues to spearhead City’s efforts to translate their domestic dominance to the continental stage.
13. Alessandro Del Piero (42)
Del Piero scored six in the 1995/96 Champions League as Juventus lifted the trophy, beating Louis van Gaal’s Ajax in the Rome final. He netted in the 1997 final too, but his goal wasn't enough to prevent Borussia Dortmund winning a maiden European Cup.
In 1998, Del Piero finished as the Champions League's top scorer with 10 goals - including a hat-trick in the semis against Monaco - as Juventus reached a third consecutive final. He and the Bianconeri made it that far once again in 2003, but despite converting his penalty in the shootout against Milan, Del Piero was on the losing side for a third time.
11= Thomas Muller (44)
Muller made his Champions League debut in March 2009, finding the net as Bayern Munich recorded a 12-1 aggregate victory over Sporting. The Bavarians reached the final the following season but Muller missed a huge chance against Jose Mourinho's Inter, who ultimately won 2-0.
In 2012, the German looked to have scored a winner in the final when he headed home off the crossbar with just seven minutes remaining against Chelsea, but Didier Drogba equalised and Bayern went on to lose the penalty shootout. He and Bayern went one better the following year, Muller scoring eight times as Jupp Heynckes' men lifted the trophy.
11= Didier Drogba (44)
Drogba scored five Champions League goals in his one season at Marseille before joining Chelsea for £24m. He repeated that tally in his first season at Stamford Bridge, but only managed to score once in 2005/06.
The Ivorian later netted Chelsea’s first European hat-trick in 19 years in their 3-1 win against Levski Sofia the following season, and although he was sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic in the 2008 final, he made amends by scoring the equaliser and winning penalty against Bayern Munich in the 2012 showpiece.
10. Filippo Inzaghi (46)
Inzaghi twice won the Champions League with Milan but initially made his name with Juventus, where he became the first player to score two hat-tricks in the competition. After an injury-hit first year at San Siro, the poacher bagged another Champions League hat-trick the following season against Deportivo La Coruna as Milan reached the final, where they beat Juventus on penalties
The World Cup winner’s standout moment came in 2007 when he scored both of Milan’s goals in a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in the final in Athens; Inzaghi turned in Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick just before half-time and rounded Pepe Reina for his second late on.
8= Zlatan Ibrahimovic (48)
Ibrahimovic scored both goals on his Champions League debut in the 2002/03 season as Ajax beat Lyon in the group stage. Despite that promising start to life in Europe’s premier club competition, the Swede failed to make his mark on the tournament at either Juventus or Inter and, despite being one of the most decorated players in the modern game, has never won the competition.
Ibrahimovic joined Barcelona in 2009 but his relationship with Pep Guardiola turned sour and he was shipped back to Italy, joining Milan. He scored against Barça in 2011/12 and did the same after joining PSG the following summer, while 10 goals in 2013/14 represented his best ever campaign in the competition.
8= Andriy Shevchenko (48)
Shevchenko broke onto the Champions League scene with a first-half hat-trick at the Camp Nou as Dynamo Kiev swept Barcelona away 4-0 in 1997/98. He top-scored the following season with eight goals as Dynamo made the semi-finals, where they were beaten by Bayern Munich.
Shevchenko signed for Milan that summer and scored their winning penalty in the shootout against Juventus in 2003, securing the club's sixth European crown in what was his finest moment in the Champions League. The Ukrainian went from ecstasy to agony two years later, though, this time missing a pivotal penalty in the final against Liverpool, while we was once again a runner-up with Chelsea in 2008.
7. Thierry Henry (50)
Henry helped Monaco reach the semi-finals of the Champions League in 1997/98, scoring seven goals in nine appearances to earn a move to Juventus. He struggled to settle with the Italian giants, though, and was reunited with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal after just half a season in Turin.
Henry became Arsenal’s record goalscorer in October 2005 with a double against Sparta Prague; the Gunners reached the final that season and Henry netted five goals, including a wonderful solo effort against Real Madrid. He eventually won the competition at Barcelona in 2009, contributing six strikes in 12 outings.
6. Ruud van Nistelrooy (56)
Despite his prolific record in the Champions League, which included three top-scoring seasons, Van Nistelrooy never won Europe's biggest prize. He notched five goals for PSV in the 1998/99 group stage, including a hat-trick against HJK Helsinki in November 1998, before moving to Manchester United in summer 2001.
His first season at Old Trafford brought 10 Champions League goals as United reached the last four, with the Dutchman then netting 12 the following season despite the fact that Alex Ferguson's men were eliminated a round earlier. His scoring rate remained impressive at Real Madrid, Van Nistelrooy striking 13 times in 19 European assignments.
5. Karim Benzema (65)
Benzema has won the Champions League on four occasions and is the competition's third-highest scorer among active players. He made his name in the tournament with Lyon, bagging his first professional goal in the final group game of 2005/06, before swapping Ligue 1 for La Liga and Real Madrid in 2009
The Frenchman's first hat-trick for the Spanish giants came in a 4-0 group stage victory over Auxerre in 2010, while he found the net seven times in 2012/13 as Madrid reached the semi-finals. During Los Blancos' four victorious seasons, the oft-maligned Benzema contributed 21 goals.
4. Robert Lewandowski (66)
Lewandowski came to the fore in 2012/13, scoring 10 goals in 13 matches for Borussia Dortmund – including their crucial 87th-minute winner against Ajax in the opening group game. He then became the first player to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final as Dortmund edged out Real Madrid 4-3 on aggregate, but Jurgen Klopp's side lost out to Bayern Munich in the Wembley final.
Lewandowski joined the Bavarians in 2014 and has subsequently won four Bundesliga titles, but the Champions League has hitherto proved elusive. Not that the Pole hasn't done his bit: 66 goals means only three players have outscored him in the tournament since 1992 – and he’s breathing down the neck of No.3.
3. Raul (71)
Raul won three Champions League titles and top-scored twice in the competition for a Real Madrid side at the height of their Galactico era. He was the first player to score in two Champions League (as opposed to European Cup) finals and reached the 50-goal mark in the competition before anyone else.
Raul played for hometown club Madrid for 18 years before joining Schalke in 2010, where he continued finding the net in Europe’s premier club competition, adding five more to the 66 he scored for the Spanish giants.
2. Lionel Messi (115)
On Messi's Champions League debut, Barcelona lost to Shakhtar Donetsk. But since that ignominious beginning, the Argentine has plundered 115 goals in the Champions League, lifted the trophy four times and scored in two finals.
It wasn’t until 2007/08 that the Flea started to shine in continental competition, his six goals helping Barça to the semi-finals, where they lost to Manchester United. They had their revenge the following season, with Messi scoring in the final – his ninth strike that season – to beat Alex Ferguson's side 2-0. He scored four against Arsenal in 2010 and five against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012, while his brace against Chelsea in 2017/18 made him only the second man to pass the 100 mark.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (130)
Messi and Ronaldo were neck-and-neck for many years but Ronaldo has started to pull away from his long-term rival, coinciding with Real Madrid’s recent success in the competition. The Portuguese's first goals in the tournament came in March 2007 as Manchester United hammered Roma 7-1, and he scored in the final the following season as the Red Devils beat Chelsea on penalties.
Ronaldo has dominated the Champions League since his 2009 move to the competition's most successful club, scoring a record 17 goals in 2013/14 and becoming the tournament’s all-time top scorer in 2015. The Juventus frontman is now seeking to become only the second player (after Clarence Seedorf) to win the Champions League with three different clubs, although his first two attempts haven't gone to plan.
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