It’s often said that the task of putting the ball in the back of the net is the hardest one in football. For some players though, the knack of goal scoring just seems to come easy. That’s certainly the case for these 10 who have made a living out of banging in goals at the very highest level. Here we take a look at the top scorers in Champions League history.
Before we get into the players, we want to be clear that our rundown focuses on the Champions League era and therefore you’ll find no mention of those legendary European Cup sharpshooters.
The top scorers in Champions League history are…
Number 10. Thomas Muller
Germany legend Muller has been with Bayern Munich since the age of just 10-years-old and over the years he hasn’t half racked up an impressive goal count. Since settling into the first-team, Muller has netted 47 goals in Europe’s elite competition from 120 games. What have those goals contributed towards? Two Champions League winners medals. That’s what. First of all there was the 2012/13 triumph; in that season Bayern swept aside Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona on route to the final before coming out on top of the all German tie with Dortmund in the final. Muller bagged eight goals that year.
Then, last season, Muller was a huge part of the team that beat PSG in the final. He played the full 90 in the 1-0 win but the most memorable moment from that campaign was perhaps the 8-2 mauling of Barcelona. Muller bagged two goals in that game. Given he’s still playing, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see another goal or two added to his tally.
Number 9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Given Zlatan’s advancing years, his placeon this list of top scorers could be under threat within a season or two. Thankfully for him, it looks like he could well fire AC Milan back to the big time; this would give him the chance to maintain his lead over Sergio Aguero and Neymar who are sitting just outside of our top 10. Even if those two do eventually catch Ibrahimovic, they’ve got some way to go to equal his reputation at the top table.
The Swede has notched Champions League goals for no fewer than six clubs over the years. Despite his 48 goals coming for some of the world’s most decorated clubs, Ibrahimovic has never gone beyond the semi-final.
Number 8. Andriy Shevchenko
Ask any Liverpool fan about Andriy Shevchenko and the Champions League. They’ll tell you all about Istanbul in 2005 and his missed penalty that proved decisive. Speak to AC Milan or Dynamo Kyiv fans and you’ll get a different answer. That’s for sure. His overall goal haul is actually on par with Ibrahimovic (48) but he reached that mark in 20 fewer appearances hence we rank him higher.
Istanbul will obviously be alow point for Shevchenko but, boy oh boy, he’s had some highs in Europe too. For starters, he won the competition in 2002/03 with Milan. He’s also had a couple of magical nights too. We want to mention two of them. Back in his Kyiv days, an 18-year-old Shevchenko scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 win at the Nou Camp. Then 12 years later, he went one better and notched four goals in a 4-0 win away at Fenerbahce. That’s something only 15 players have managed.
Number 7. Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry is probably the greatest foreign import to have graced the Premier League but his talents were not confined to England. 50 goals in 112 top level European games is proof of that. Henry netted seven goals to fire Monaco to the semi-finals in 1997/98. In 2005/06 he scored five as he captained Arsenal to the final. Finally, one of the best strikers of all time managed to get his hands on the illustrious prize with Barcelona. Again, he scored five goals that season.
Number 6. Ruud van Nistelrooy
When van Nistelrooy arrived at Old Trafford in 2001 he walked into a club that had lifted the Champions League just two years prior with that turnaround against Bayern Munich. He wasn’t about to be outdone though. In his PSV days, he’d notched eight goals at that level including a hat-trick against Helsinki in 1998.With United he added a further 35 to his tally; this saw him finish as the competition’s top scorer in three different seasons. It also makes him United’s all time top scorer in the tournament.
After switching Manchester for Madrid, van Nistelrooy took his career tally of elite European goals to 56. That means he scored 13 for Real. He never made the final.
Number 5. Karim Benzema
Some people are trained to score goals. Others are born to do it. Karim Benzema falls into the latter category and has been knocking in goals against Europe’s elite for 16 years after netting on his Champions League debut at the age of 17. It seems like a lifetime ago that the French forward was plying his trade in a Lyon kit but he already had 12 European goals to his name prior to heading to Madrid.
In Spain, Benzema has cemented his place alongside the truly great strikers. He’s scored a further 55 goals in the big time; that puts his overall total at 67. In addition to that, he’s lifted the trophy four times playing a key role as Real positioned themselves as the most dominant team in the world.
Number 4. Raul
It wasn’t so long ago that Real Madrid great Raul stood top of this list. He’s since been surpassed by three who are still playing the game but it shouldn’t take any shine off his own achievements. Raul was a superstar after all. He netted 71 goals in twice as many goals; it saw him conquer Europe three times with Real. He scored crucial goals in two of those finals! He was a record breaker for a reason; the reason being he was incredibly good at scoring goals.
Number 3. Robert Lewandowski
If you know anything about out and out goal scorers then it should be little surprise to you that Robert Lewandowski sits high up this list of the top scorers in Champions League history. The guy is a machine; he proved that last year as his 15 goals fired Bayern to glory.
Lewandowski has reached the final twice; once with Borussia Dortmund where he lost out to Bayern and then last year as he lifted the trophy with the Bavarians. A more unique honour the centre forward holds is being the only player to net four goals in the tournament with two different clubs. He scored four in 14 minutes against Red Star in 2019. Prior to that, back in his Dortmund days, he hit a quadruple of goals in a semi-final win over Real Madrid; there was 59 minutes between the goals that day though!
Number 2. Lionel Messi
Out of all the players on this list, Lionel Messi boasts the best goals to games ratio at 0.8. It’s not enough for top spot but it’s not half bad. All in all, Barca’s little magician has 118 goals to his name. Those goals have helped his team to four Champions League titles and, whilst they look a way off adding any more to their cabinet, it’s fair to say his place in the competitions history books is assured.
The Argentine has top scored in the tournament across six different campaigns. His most impressive total is 14 goals from the 2011/12 season; it was actually a year earlier when perhaps we saw him at his unplayable best. He only scored 12 that year but his displays in both the semi-final and final were absolutely sparkling. The semi saw him net a brace in the Bernabeu; the first a routine goal as he got across the near post and the second a mesmerising solo run followed by a slipped finish. Then, in the final, he netted another goal in Barca’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United. He and his team were untouchable that night,
Number 1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Whatever Messi can do, CR7 can do it better. That’s at least what the man himself would tell you. Whether you’re team Messi or team Ronaldo when it comes to the GOAT debate, there is only one winner of this list. That’s the Portuguese. His record is absolutely phenomenal. As of the time of writing, the Juventus star hasscored 134 goals in the Champions League from 173 games.
He’s not only about numbers though. In addition to scoring goals he’s also won the tournament on five occasions. The first came in 2007/08 with Manchester United where he scored in normal time but actually saw his spot kick saved in the shootout. The other four came in five trophy filled years at Madrid. He netted in two of those finals too. Beyond scoring lots of goals and in big games, Ronaldo scores iconic goals too. In fact, it’s too hard to narrow it down. What is the most iconic? The counter-attack he started and finished against Arsenal in 2009? The overhead that brought Turin to its feet as a Madrid player? The hat-trick against Atletico? Whatever your thoughts, you just have to take your hat off to the man,
There you have it, the top scorers in Champions League history.