This past week’s round of Champions League action saw yet another record smashed, as Lionel Messi became the competition’s leading goal scorer for home games after Barcelona demolished Manchester City 4-0. That has given way for some time to reflect on the UEFA Champions League’s most decorated and prolific players, with a list of the All-Time Champions League Top Scorers. This article will start at number 10 and finish with number 3, as the top two (you know who) will have a whole article dedicated to their sparkling careers.
Clubs represented in UCL: Juventus, AC Milan
Goal ratio: 0.57
Champions League titles: 2 (both AC Milan, 2002/03 and 2006/07)
The ultimate opportunist; Inzaghi was a pure number nine with fantastic anticipation and instinctive finishing inside the area. He was not flashy or easy on the eye to watch as some of the other names on this list were, but he had an eye for goal that made him one of the most prolific strikers to ever play the game. “Super Pippo” was an intelligent and determined goal scorer, but not skilful by any stretch of the imagination. This drew criticism for many years, the likes of Johan Cruyff stating, “He can’t play football at all. He’s just always in the right position.” His positioning was not always on the mark, though, leading Sir Alex Ferguson to comment the frequent offside calls he would draw. “The lad must have been born offside,” said Ferguson. Subjectiveness aside, one thing’s for certain: Inzaghi scored goals, lots of them, and the two-time Champions League winner will be remembered for his crafty finishing ability.
Clubs represented in UCL: Benfica
Goal ratio: 0.71
Champions League titles: 1 (1961/62)
Boasting 790 career goals for club and country is Portuguese legend Eusebio, widely considered as one of the greatest footballers of all time. The quick and technical right-footed player was known as ‘o Rei’ (the King) and is Benfica and Portugal’s most renowned player in history. A Champions League winner in 1962 (then known as the European Cup), Ballon d’Or winner in 1965, two-time European Golden Shoe winner and 11-time domestic champion, Eusebio achieved it all at club level. His success drew acclaim from the most accomplished of footballer’s, including Pele and Alfredo di Stefano. Shortly after Eusebio’s passing in 2014, di Stefano gave the highest of praise, saying, “For me, Eusebio will always be the best player of all time.”
Clubs represented in UCL: Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain
Goal ratio: 0.4
Champions League titles: 0
Number eight is the first active player to appear on the list, the mercurial Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He holds the poorest goal ratio on the list at just 0.4, which only looks average as a result of the quality of the others, while representing the most clubs in the competition at six. Mediocre looking statistics like that can’t take away from the immense talent that he possesses; the lack of silverware he has in European competition could easily be countered with a plethora of domestic trophies and individual accolades he has collected over his career. Zlatan has scored in some of the biggest derbies in world football, including Italy’s Milan derby, Spain’s El Clasico, France’s Le Classique and, most recently, England’s Manchester derby. He has won trophies in every country that he has played in and will finish his career with perhaps the most spectacular of highlight reels, with one of his four Champions League strikes against Anderlecht for PSG in 2013 belonging somewhere high on the list:
Clubs represented in UCL: Dynamo Kiev, AC Milan, Chelsea
Goal ratio: 0.48
Champions League titles: 1 (AC Milan 2002/03)
The strike partner of number 10 from our list, Filippo Inzaghi, on the night AC Milan won the competition in 2003 is next, Ukraine’s Andriy Shevchenko. The all-time leading goal-scorer for the Ukrainian national team contrasts from Inzaghi with his technical prowess, but they also complemented each other, as Shevchenko was capable of linking well with his teammates while also offering quality in his finishing. He burst onto the European scene with a hat trick against Barcelona in 1997, just 21-years-old at the time, when Dynamo Kiev thrashed the Catalans 4-0 at the Camp Nou. The following year it was Real Madrid to face his wrath, Shevchenko scoring three goals over the two legs to take the Ukrainian side to the semi-finals. This earned him a move to AC Milan, where he would win the competition, the Ballon d’Or in 2004 and join the list of players to score four goals in one Champions League game, when Milan beat Fenerbache 4-0. His time at Chelsea was far less productive, though, registering just four Champions League goals from 15 appearances, a rare feat for the mostly prolific Shevchenko.
Clubs represented in UCL: Real Madrid
Goals ratio: 0.84
Champions League titles: 5 (1955/56, 1956/57, 1957/58, 1958/59, 1959/60)
Real Madrid icon Alfredo di Stefano dominated European football in the mid and late 50’s, winning an unprecedented five European cup trophies in a row, scoring goals in each final. A complete footballer capable of playing almost anywhere on the pitch, the Argentine holds a glorious goal scoring ratio of 0.84, a statistic which only one other player on this list comes close to. He is a two-time Ballon d’Or winner, in 1957 and 1959, and Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer in Spain’s El Clasico, with 18 goals. He is also the club’s 3rd highest all-time goal scorer, behind Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo. His overall goal ratio for Real is almost as impressive as his Champions League ratio, at 0.78, with 308 goals scored from 396 games for the competition’s current holders.
Clubs represented in UCL: AS Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona
Goal ratio: 0.45
Champions League titles: 1 (Barcelona 2008/09)
Arsenal and France’s all-time leading goal scorer, Thierry Henry, ranks in at 5th on the list of Champions League top scorers. The elegant Frenchman oozed class on the pitch, making the most difficult of skills appear routine with his effortless style. A World Cup and European Championship winner with France, Henry won league trophies with each of his three European club teams and won two Golden Shoe awards while holding the record for most English Premier League Golden Boots, with four. He had one unsuccessful attempt at winning the Champions League with Arsenal in 2006, losing to the side that he would end up winning the coveted trophy with just three years later, Barcelona. What separates Henry from most of the names to appear on this list is the fact that he was never an ‘out-and-out striker’, often drifting out wide to the left and playing as a winger, which also helped him to collect a huge number of assists throughout his career. Henry’s legacy has been immortalized outside The Emirates stadium in the form of a bronze statue of the former Arsenal striker as a part of the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
Clubs represented in UCL: PSV, Manchester United, Real Madrid
Goal ratio: 0.77
Champions League titles: 0
Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy was as pure as a number nine as they come, well reflected by being a leading goal scorer in seasons in Holland, England and Spain, as well as a three-time Champions League top scorer. He hit 20 goals or more in a league campaign on seven occasions, often doing so by using the offside rule to his full advantage. Van Nistelrooy belonged to an era that had perhaps expired by the time he burst onto the scene, or at least for Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United; they let their best goal scorer at the time move to Real Madrid to allow for Rooney and Ronaldo to step up in more fluid attacking roles, this despite the Dutchman’s phenomenal goal scoring record of 150 goals in 219 games with The Red Devils. One must acknowledge his transfer away from United was peculiar, yet calculated; United signed no direct replacement for van Nistelrooy the following season, only bringing in midfielder Michael Carrick, yet that team would go on to win the Champions League and three league titles in a row.
Clubs Represented in UCL: Real Madrid, Schalke
Goals ratio: 0.5
Champions League titles: 3 (all Real Madrid, 1997/98, 1999/00, 2001/02)
Widely regarded as the greatest Spanish player of all time and one of the most important in Real Madrid’s history is Raul, the 3rd-highest goal scorer in the history of the Champions League. He is the highest Spanish goal scorer in European leagues, with 256 in total, 228 coming in La Liga and 28 in the German Bundesliga. A two-time top goal scorer in the Champions League, winning the competition three times and scoring in two finals. He can be considered a poacher, but not in the same vein as Inzaghi or van Nistelrooy, offering more in his overall game. He was a creative, tireless and hardworking leader out on the pitch; he never received a single red card in his career. Dubbed by fellow Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro as “The Ferrari” for his complete skillset, Raul only recently retired from the game at the end of 2015, after returning from his first retirement after a spell in Qatar with Al Sadd.