As the competition moves within days of its much-anticipated conclusion at Wembley, Goal profiles the most prolific players in its history
By Chris Myson
After another thrilling season of continental football, we are finally closing in on the campaign’s showpiece event – the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium.
This year’s competition has again produced some memorable moments as the continent’s biggest and best clubs battle to be crowned European champions for 2013.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were again prominent as their sides made it to the semi-finals and battled with Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller to win the Golden Boot award.
But where do they currently rank against the best goalscorers in the history of the European Cup and Champions League?
Here, in a star-studded list, Goal provide the lowdown of the top 10 all-time scorers in the tournament, with only goals from the group stages onwards being counted – no qualifying rounds.
|10. Alessandro Del Piero – 42 goals
The former Juventus icon netted 42 times for the current Italian champions in Europe’s elite club competition during his lengthy career at the top, winning the Golden Boot award twice.
He helped them to win the trophy in 1996, playing the full game in the eventual triumph over Ajax on penalties and also participated in three other finals for Juve, although they all ended in defeat.
Despite being a prolific goalscorer in the competition, he only scored once in his four appearances in the Champions League final, against Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
|9. Filippo Inzaghi – 46 goals
Strangely, Inzaghi is one of just two players in our list who never won the Champions League Golden Boot during his career, so making his way into the overall top 10 serves to highlight his consistency in front of goal on an annual basis.
The striker’s most significant contributions saw him net a double and win the man-of-the-match award as Milan defeated Liverpool in the 2007 final in Athens, avenging their infamous Istanbul defeat in the final of two years before, a game which he had missed out on.
The Portugal legend led Benfica to a string of European Cup finals over the course of the 1960s in an historically-important spell which saw the Portuguese giants challenge Real Madrid’s early dominance of the tournament.
A three-time Golden Boot winner in 1965, 1966 and 1968, Eusebio’s 47 goals came over the course of just 64 European matches.
|7. Andriy Shevchenko – 48 goals
The Ukraine icon won the Golden Boot twice, but with a large seven-year gap (in 1999 and 2006), while he was also on the winning and losing end of penalty shoot-outs in the final.
In 2003 he scored the decisive spot-kick as Milan beat Juventus at Old Trafford to win the trophy, but two years later it was his miss that sealed Liverpool’s remarkable comeback against the San Siro giants in Istanbul.
|6. Alfredo Di Stefano – 49 goals
Famously part of the side who won the first five competitions between 1956 and 1960 to go along with his own personal goalscoring exploits, he arguably goes down as the most decorated player in the tournament’s history.
Di Stefano scored a hat-trick in the memorable 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 final to help seal the fifth-successive trophy at Hampden Park, which was amongst numerous other great moments in his continental career.
|5. Thierry Henry – 50 goals
It was for the Gunners that he scored the majority of his European goals, but having failed at the last hurdle with Arsenal in 2006, he finally won the competition in 2009 with Barca – starting in the Rome final against Manchester United.
|4. Cristiano Ronaldo – 50 goals
Ronaldo won the Golden Boot as he helped Manchester United to win the 2008 competition and led them to another final in 2009, where Sir Alex Ferguson’s men lost to Barcelona.
While he has not been able to enjoy the same level of team success in the tournament so far since moving to the Santiago Bernabeu, he has become an even more prolific player, having now netted over double the amount of goals for Madrid in Europe than he ever did at United.
Ronaldo beats Henry in our list due to playing in fewer games to reach the 50 mark – he has played 92 in the competition to date, compared to the Frenchman’s final total of 114.
|3. Ruud van Nistelrooy – 56 goals
A winner of the Golden Boot three times in the space of four seasons in 2002, 2003 and 2005, backing Van Nistelrooy to score became a common theme of a European night, with him eventually racking up a stunning total of 56 goals.
The big frustration for the Dutchman when he looks back on his career will be his failure to win the tournament, despite having spent his peak years at Manchester United and Real Madrid, two of the continent’s biggest and most successful club sides.
|2. Lionel Messi – 59 goals
Despite still being only 25, the Argentine superstar is already second, above all but one of the continent’s great goalscorers of past and present on 59 goals from 79 Champions League games.
The remarkably consistent Messi has won the Golden Boot in each of the last four seasons, although one of Cristiano Ronaldo or Robert Lewandowski is set to break that streak this time around.
Having already won the tournament three times with Barcelona, the potential list of team and individual honours Messi could rack up by the end of his playing days could be truly spectacular.
The striker scored a total of 71 times in a stunning European career in front of goal and will always be synonymous with a tournament he won on three occasions for the Spanish capital giants.
While Raul’s place at the top of the charts may not be ever-lasting with the likes of Messi and Ronaldo making up fast ground, it looks like he is going to hold on to the top spot for a while longer yet.
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