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The UEFA Champions League stands as the premier platform for Europe’s elite football clubs and players, showcasing remarkable goal-scoring achievements throughout its illustrious history. In this analysis, we delve deeper into the top scorers of all time in the UEFA Champions League (UCL).
All Time Top 10 Scorers in UCL History
|No. Of Goals Scored
|Ruud van Nistelrooy
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 140 goals and is leading the chart of top scorers in UEFA Champions League. As a player for Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, it is unlikely that the Portuguese will add to this tally, which he has collected over his career at Manchester United (21), Real Madrid (105), and Juventus (14). Real Madrid beat Atlético Madrid in the final to win the Champions League trophy thanks to his 17 goals for the team in 2013–14. Two years later, he scored 16 goals. The record for the most goals scored in a single Champions League season belongs to Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar has won the competition’s best scorer title seven times, a record in both the European Cup and Champions League periods. In 51% of his league games, he scored in 93 different UCL games. Of those, he scored eight goals, tying the league record with Lionel Messi. Throughout his Champions League career, Ronaldo scored goals against 38 different opponents; his 10 goals against Juventus are the most goals by a single player against an opponent in the competition’s history. Paraphrase
Lionel Messi is currently ranked second in the UEFA Champions League’s top scorer list with 129 goals. Out of these, 120 were scored during his time with Barcelona, where he holds the record for the most goals by a player for a single club in the competition. After joining Paris Saint-Germain, he added nine more goals in the summer of 2021. However, it is unlikely that he will be able to increase his tally after joining Inter Miami in Major League Soccer. Messi has an impressive record of not missing a goal in his first game for Barcelona in the 2004-2005 season and has scored in every campaign since the 2005-2006 season.
He shares this consistency with Karim Benzema, who has also scored in every Champions League season he has participated in since 2005-2006. While Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo hold the record for the most hat-tricks in the Champions League (eight each), Messi once achieved the extraordinary feat of scoring five goals in a single game. In an exceptional season, he scored 73 goals in 60 competitive club matches, including Barcelona’s memorable 7-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in March 2012.
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Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski is quickly approaching a significant milestone of scoring 100 goals in the UEFA Champions League. However, time may be running out for him as he is still eight goals away from reaching this feat and is now 35 years old. In the 2022-23 season, Lewandowski faced a smaller number of UCL games than he is accustomed to, despite managing to score five goals in five appearances for Barcelona.
Unfortunately, Barcelona was eliminated from the UEFA Champions League during the group stage, which meant that Lewandowski had to continue his European campaign in the UEFA Europa League instead. Out of his 92 UCL goals, 69 were scored while playing for Bayern Munich. This achievement also saw him surpass Gerd Müller as the Bayern Munich player with the most goals in European competitions, as Müller had scored 65 goals.
Furthermore, Lewandowski’s outstanding performance in the 2019-20 season, where he scored 15 goals, helped Bayern Munich win the UEFA Champions League with the highest number of goals ever recorded by a Bundesliga club in a single season.
There is a possibility that Karim Benzema’s career could come to an end after he joined Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia. Benzema has managed to find the back of the net in every Champions League season since 2005-06 when he was playing for Lyon. Remarkably, he has never failed to score in any of these seasons. In the 2021-22 season, Benzema made history by becoming the first French player to claim the top scorer award for Real Madrid in the Champions League. He netted a total of 15 goals, contributing significantly to their victory in the competition. However, it is worth noting that he did not manage to score in the final against Liverpool.
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Raul, a former Spanish national team player, has netted a total of 66 goals in the UEFA Champions League, placing him as the third highest scoring player in Real Madrid’s history. In the competition as a whole, he ranks fifth in terms of goals scored, with a tally of 71. It was in November 2014 that Raul lost his title as the top scorer, as both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed him. Prior to Raul, it was Alfredo Di Stéfano who first reached the milestone of 50 European goals for Real Madrid. In his last season playing in the German Bundesliga, Raul managed to score five goals for FC Schalke 04 at the age of 33. This brought his total goal count to 71, which is more than double the number of goals scored by Fernando Morientes, who has 33 goals in the competition.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy’s overall goal tally in the UEFA Champions League was 56, but it could have been higher if he had participated in more games earlier in his career. Before joining Manchester United, he only played 11 games for PSV before turning 25. At the age of 31, Van Nistelrooy set a record for the fastest player to reach 50 goals in the Champions League, achieving this milestone in 62 matches. He surpassed Wayne Rooney (30) and Ryan Giggs (28) and went on to score a club record of 35 Champions League goals for Manchester United. Despite playing in the league for 11 seasons and for teams that have won the title ten times in total, Van Nistelrooy remains the top scorer who has never won the UEFA Champions League.
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Thomas Muller, who came close to winning the Champions League with Bayern Munich in the 2018-19 season, recently completed his impressive 15th season with the team, finding the back of the net 14 times. Since his debut in the competition back in 2008-09, he has contributed 23 assists and scored 53 goals. In comparison to fellow German player Mario Gomez, Muller has surpassed him in terms of goal-scoring, having scored more goals with a total of 26. Additionally, Muller has achieved Champions League success twice as a Bayern Munich player, lifting the trophy in the 2012-13 and 2019-20 seasons.
Thierry Henry had an impressive performance in the UEFA Champions League, scoring 35 goals for Arsenal, 8 goals for Barcelona, and 7 goals for Monaco. He made a remarkable start at the age of 20, scoring six goals in his initial five games for Monaco before moving to Arsenal. Currently, he holds the record for the highest number of goals scored by a player for Arsenal in both the Champions League and European Cup, with a total of 35 goals.
Alfredo Stefano, known as Saeta Rubia, is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players ever. As a forward and coach, he made a significant impact in the professional football world. His most notable achievement came during his tenure at Real Madrid, where he played a crucial role in the team’s triumphs in La Liga and the European Cup during the 1950s and 1960s. Serving as the key player during Real Madrid’s golden era, he received recognition by winning the prestigious European Player of the Year awards in 1957 and 1959.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s remarkable goal-scoring record of 48 goals in 121 appearances for prominent European clubs like FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Ajax, and Juventus highlights his consistency despite frequently switching teams. However, despite his exceptional performances, Zlatan has been unable to secure a Champions League victory, indicating that this prestigious title may forever elude him in his club career.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Cristiano Ronaldo is the all-time top scorer in the UCL with goals.
Francisco Gento holds the record for the most UCL titles as a player with six, all with Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo has played the most matches in the UCL with 183, followed by Iker Casillas with 177 and Lionel Messi with 163
Real Madrid is also the highest-scoring club in the UCL, having netted 1,063 goals.