The Champions League has long been regarded as the very pinnacle of club football, pitting the very best in Europe against one another.
Since its rebranding in 1992 from the European Cup, the competition has gone from strength to strength and is seen as the ultimate test for football’s greats.
Question is, are you familiar with its top scorers over the years? Fear not if you need some help, here’s your rundown of the all-time leading goalscorers in the Champions League.
Clubs: Barcelona, AC Milan, Olympiacos
First Goal: Barcelona 3-3 Manchester United, 25th November 1998
Aged 26, Rivaldo’s arrival to the Champions League party came relatively late for a player of his calibre.
But the Brazilian wasted little time in showing he had an eye for the spectacular, scoring a tremendous overhead kick against Peter Schmeichel to compete a first double in the competition. One of the great technicians, he scored plenty more stunners.
Clubs: Ajax, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid
First Goal: Ajax 2-1 Auxerre, 19th October 2010
Undoubtedly, Luis Suarez will be remembered as one of the finest strikers of modern times.
So it’s almost inconceivable to think that for half of his career, the Uruguayan wasn’t actually competing in the Champions League.
Once he stepped up to the big leagues with Barcelona, he soon became a force – bagging 15 goals in his first 19 games for the club, lifting the trophy in his maiden season alongside his running buddies Lionel Messi & Neymar.
Clubs: Manchester United
First Goal: Manchester United 4-2 IFK Goteborg, 14th September 1994
When you consider Ryan Giggs was playing Champions League football for 20 years, you could argue his goalscoring record for Manchester United isn’t what it should be.
But to say that, you can’t have watched the Welshman in full flow – as for two decades, he terrorised defenders in an era where wingers were midfielders, playing a good 15/20 yards deeper than they do now.
Aside from scoring in Moscow to help United win the competition in 2008, Giggs should perhaps be remembered best for his incredible solo goal against Juventus back in the late 90s.
Clubs: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona
First Goal: Olympiacos 3-2 Atletico Madrid, 16th September 2014
The star of the show when France lifted the World Cup in 2018, you’d be forgiven for thinking Antoine Griezmann was one of the great Champions League goal machines who regularly takes defences apart.
Alas, that’s not really been Griezmann’s bag over the course of his career, with his Champions League goals to date more of an accumulation rather than a goal grasping explosion.
His best individual tally in a season currently stands at six, notched during the 2016/17 season.
Clubs: Ajax, Barcelona
First Goal: AEK Athens 2-1 Ajax, 28th September 1994
Patrick Kluivert’s sudden emergence on the European scene coincided with Ajax’s return to greatness, though it’s fair to say that the Dutchman’s promising career would eventually fail to live up to the hype.
Still, he did score 29 Champions League goals during his time in Amsterdam and at Barcelona, though sadly it was all over once he departed Camp Nou aged just 27.
Clubs: Deportivo La Coruna, Bayern Munich
First Goal: Hamburg 1-1 Deportivo La Coruna, 8th November 2000
If you’ve ever played Championship Manager (the one that came Football Manager, for those who don’t know), you’ll be all too aware that Roy Makaay was a certified baller and a 20/20 finisher.
For further evidence, you only need to look at the number of goals he scored throughout his career – 314 – and his Champions League record, which isn’t too shabby considering his peak came fairly late on in his career.
2004/05 was when he was at his best in Europe, bagging seven goals to finish behind Ruud van Nistelrooy in that year’s scoring charts.
Clubs: Monaco, Juventus
First Goal: Monaco 5-1 Lierse SK, 21st October 1997
What do you get when you’re 6’3, unerringly quick, more than capable with both pegs and very handy in the air?
You also get a World Cup winner, European Championship winner and scorer of 29 Champions League goals – eight of which came during the 2002/03 campaign.
Clubs: AC Milan, Real Madrid
First Goal: Club Brugge 0-1 AC Milan, 4th November 2003
2007 was pretty much the year Kaka completed football.
Not only was outstandingly good and borderline impossible to tackle, he lifted the Champions League with Milan (gaining revenge over Liverpool for Istanbul ’05) and finished the competition as top scorer – scoring 10 goals from attacking midfield.
To top it all off, he was the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner – you know, the gong for being the best player in the world. Woof.
Clubs: Manchester United
First Goal: Manchester United 6-2 Fenerbahce, 28th September 2004
As far as dream debuts go, Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United bow against Fenerbahce may just be the best of the bunch.
At 7pm, 12-year-old Rooney – or so he looked, at least – had just finished his dinner of chicken dippers, chips and beans, and by 9.45pm, he had a Champions League match ball tucked under his arm after bagging a hat-trick in a 6-2 win.
He won the competition in 2008, defeating Premier League rivals Chelsea, and also scored in the 2011 final against Barcelona – a game the Catalan giants won 3-1.
Clubs: Mallorca, Barcelona, Inter, Chelsea
First Goal: Schalke 0-1 Mallorca, 26th September 2001
First things first, you’ve got cracking football trivia knowledge if you knew that Samuel Eto’o’s first Champions League goal came while he was playing for *squints* Real Mallorca.
After that, Eto’o shined in the Champions League for the rather more established likes of Barcelona, Inter and Chelsea. He fared pretty well, too, scoring for Barça in the 2006 final win over Arsenal, before lifting the trophy once more with Inter in 2010.
Clubs: PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich
First Goal: PSV Eindhoven 3-0 Auxerre, 30th October 2002
Had injuries not plagued Dutch winger Arjen Robben for much of his glittering career, he’d likely have finished with more than 31 Champions League goals to his name.
Nevertheless, his crowning glory came during the 2013 final, when he banished the memories of Bayern’s final defeat to Chelsea 12 months prior by netting a dramatic late winner against Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Clubs: Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain
First Goal: Manchester City 5-3 Monaco, 21st February 2017
As soon as Kylian Mbappe burst onto the scene with Monaco in 2016, it was clear that the Frenchman had the talent to become a global superstar.
It didn’t take PSG long to recognise just how good Mbappe was either, as they stumped up an eye-watering €145m fee when he was just 18 years old.
Mbappe is yet to hang a Champions League winners medal around his neck, but it’s a near guarantee that he eventually will en route to becoming one of the competition’s greatest ever players.
Clubs: Real Madrid, Monaco, Liverpool, Valencia
First Goal: Real Madrid 4-1 Rosenborg, 16th September 1997
A three-time winner of the Champions League with Real Madrid, even Morientes may have admitted upon his departure that his career among Europe’s elite had likely peaked.
Yes, he didn’t lift the trophy again, but the Spaniard clearly hadn’t read the script. His sole season with Monaco during 2003/04 saw him finish as the top goalscorer in the Champions League, and his nine goals helped the Ligue 1 giants surprisingly reach the final.
Clubs: Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain
First Goal: Manchester City 1-1 Napoli, 14th September 2011
The only reason Edinson Cavani hasn’t scored more goals at the highest level of European football is solely down to a lack of appearances.
The Uruguayan has been a proven goal machine for over a decade, with his best Champions League return coming during the 2017/18 season when he netted seven times for PSG.
Clubs: Basel, Roma, Liverpool
First Goal: Chelsea 1-2 Basel, 18th September 2013
Mohamed Salah’s journey to becoming one of the world’s best footballers has been truly extraordinary, with many chapters of the Egyptian’s career storybook still left to be written.
His Champions League adventure began with Basel, and his goalscoring performances against Chelsea (both home and away) in 2013 soon showed he was capable of taking on the very best in Europe.
Fast forward and Salah had a Champions League crown to his name with Liverpool – although his best personal campaign to date actually came in 2017/18, when he led the Reds to the final with ten goals.
Clubs: Atletico Madrid, Manchester City
First Goal: PSV Eindhoven 0-3 Atletico Madrid, 16th September 2008
When Sergio Aguero burst on to the scene with Atletico Madrid in 2008, he seemed destined for a career laden with Champions League winners medals.
That hasn’t happened to date, even though he’s won four Premier League titles with Manchester City, largely because lady injury luck hasn’t always favoured the Argentine. Still, 40+ Champions League goals isn’t bad going.
Clubs: Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain
First Goal: Barcelona 6-1 Celtic, 12th December 2013
By the time Neymar hangs up his boots, there will be few footballers in the world boasting a trophy cabinet as full as the Brazilian’s.
His personal Champions League résumé makes for pretty good reading too – and there’s plenty more to come from a player who, had he remained injury free, could have become one of the competition’s greatest ever goal getters.
Neymar’s best season to date came during 2014/15, when he fired home ten goals en route to winning the competition with Barcelona.
First Goal: Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Juventus, 13th September 1995
There are few words adequately capable of describing the greatness of Juventus and Italy legend Alessandro Del Piero.
A Champions League winner in his 1996 with his beloved Juve, the Italian was not only a scorer of great, important goals, he was the chief architect who knitted everything together with an elegant ease few others could recreate.
He netted 42 against Europe’s top tier, six of which came during that competition winning season of the mid 90s.
Clubs: Marseille, Chelsea, Galatasaray
First Goal: Real Madrid 4-2 Marseille, 16th September 2003
Didier Drogba’s crowning glory in the Champions League came when he netted the winning penalty to down Bayern Munich in the 2012 final – having already scored a dramatic late equaliser.
The Ivorian was coming to the end of his Blues career then, and was actually at his best in Europe during 2007/08 – netting twice in the semi-final against Liverpool to seal a dramatic extra-time win.
Clubs: Juventus, AC Milan
First Goal: Juventus 5-1 Feyenoord, 17th September 1997
Back in the good old days, Filippo Inzaghi was the ultimate predator.
Playing on the shoulder of the last man, the Italian had a razor sharp eye for goal and loved scoring in the Champions League. He did so 17 times in his first 26 appearances for Juventus in the competition, before going on to score both goals in AC Milan’s win over Liverpool in the 2007 final.
Clubs: Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United
First Goal: Ajax 2-1 Lyon, 17th September 2002
Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic the best player to never win the Champions League? Possibly.
That lack of success at Europe’s highest level is likely to irk the Swede, but there’s no disputing the impact he’s personally had on the competition. A Champions League goalscorer with six different clubs, 48 times he’s managed to bulge the back of the net.
Clubs: Dynamo Kyiv, AC Milan, Chelsea
First Goal: Dynamo Kyiv 1-4 Bayern Munich, 7th December 1994
A winner of the Champions League in 2003, Shevchenko was once regarded as the most complete footballer in the world.
He was one hell of a goalscorer for Milan but also Dynamo Kyiv, shining for both in Europe at various stages of his illustrious career.
Clubs: Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona
First Goal: Monaco 4-0 Bayer Leverkusen, 1st October 1997
Incredibly, Thierry Henry’s most prolific campaign in the Champions League came during 1997/98, before he was a household name.
In the coming years, the Frenchman would become the best player in the world for Arsenal – though he had to wait until 2009 until he got his hands on European football’s premier prize, doing so with Barcelona.
Clubs: Bayern Munich
First Goal: Maccabi Haifa 0-3 Bayern Munich, 16th September 2009
One of the best attacking midfielders in the world for well over a decade, there’s very little that Thomas Muller hasn’t achieved in the game.
Champions League winner? Yes.
Bundesliga dominator? Yes.
World Cup winner? Yes.
But one of his most impressive accolades is the amount of Champions League goals he’s scored, the highest number for any player who isn’t a recognised centre forward.
Clubs: PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Real Madrid
First Goal: Kaiserslautern 3-1 PSV Eindhoven, 4th November 1998
Ruud van Nistelrooy kickstarted his Champions League career in his native Netherlands, but it was at Manchester United where he became a real European star.
He finished as Champions League top scorer in three different seasons as a Red Devil; the 2001/02, 2002/03 and 2004/05 campaigns, and notched 12 times in nine games during the peak of his United career (02/03).
Clubs: Real Madrid, Schalke 04
First Goal: Real Madrid 6-1 Ferencvaros, 18th October 1995
Legendary Spanish forward Raul was the Champions League’s top goalscorer for a number of years, owing to a supremely successful spell at Real Madrid.
The technically gifted Spaniard scored a hat-trick on his debut, reached double figures at his best in 1999/00 and was also a three-time winner of the competition.
Cut him open and we’re pretty sure he’d bleed white.
Clubs: Lyon, Real Madrid
First Goal: Lyon 2-1 Rosenborg, 6th December 2005
For large periods of Karim Benzema’s career, he faded into the background as Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage at Real Madrid.
But throughout that time, the Frenchman was chipping away with regular Champions League goals, and was a key component of the Real side that won an astonishing four titles in five seasons.
He’s even surpassed one of Real Madrid’s greatest ever players, Raul – a reflection of his standing at the Bernabeu.
Clubs: Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich
First Goal: Olympiacos 3-1 Borussia Dortmund, 19th October 2011
Starting out his Champions League adventure at Borussia Dortmund, few would have predicted the extraordinary career that Robert Lewandowski would go on to have in Europe.
One of the best strikers of his generation, the Pole has been a regular goalscorer for the best part of a decade – and netted in an incredible nine consecutive games en route to winning the 2020 competition, eventually finishing that season’s edition with 15 goals.
Clubs: Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain
First Goal: Barcelona 5-0 Panathinaikos, 2nd November 2005
Messi made his Champions League debut in 2004, and after netting for the first time a year later, hasn’t looked back.
The legendary Argentine has eight hat-tricks to his name, the first coming in a dominant 4-1 win over Arsenal where he impudently scored all four, and he’s won Europe’s prestigious club competition four times – though arguably that figure should be far higher given the calibre of player he’s been alongside at Barcelona.
He’s now attempting to win the competition with PSG after a sensational summer move in 2021.
Clubs: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus
First Goal: Manchester United 7-1 Roma, 10th April 2007
Astonishingly, it took Cristiano Ronaldo 26 games to score in the Champions League – but the wait was well worth it as a brace helped Manchester United destroy Roma at Old Trafford.
Since then, he’s made the competition his own – finishing as top scorer on no less than seven occasions, including six in a row. He even netted a record 17 goals during 2013/14, and is comfortably the most prolific goalscorer ever.
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