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The 10 Champions League Top Scorers Of All Time

The 10 Champions League Top Scorers Of All Time

For many football fans, the UEFA Champions League is the pinnacle of the sport. Each year, this elite knockout competition gathers together the most talented players in world football, pitting historic clubs against each other in games that arguably showcase a higher technical skill level than in any other soccer competition on earth.

The list of previous winners of the Champions League is a roll call of legendary clubs: Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, and more. And those clubs have been represented by some extraordinary players, from legendary shot-stoppers to talismanic central midfielders and skillful, prolific attackers. In this article, it will be the latter that we will be focusing on.

We're going to guide you through a list of the Champions League all time top scorers, from the tournament's inception to the present day. We'll look at which players have topped the Champions League top scorers chart at the end of each season since the competition began, and we'll also briefly explore the origins of this prestigious continental club format.

A Brief History Of The Champions League

What is now known as the Champions League began life as the European Cup in 1955. While matches between domestic title winners from different European nations had been going on since the 19th century, the concept of a formalised annual competition wasn't seriously considered until Gabriel Hanot, the French journalist and editor of L'Equipe (who also founded the Ballon d'Or) started pushing UEFA to introduce this format in the early 1950s.

UEFA (European football's governing body) were eventually convinced, putting together the first ever European Cup in 1995. Sixteen teams from across Europe took part in the competition, with Real Madrid beating Stade de Reims in the final of the inaugural cup. Madrid dominated the tournament at first, winning every edition until 1960, when Eusebio led Benfica to two consecutive triumphs. In 1968, Manchester United became the first English team to win the European Cup, and English sides soon began ruling Europe, with Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa picking up every trophy from 1976-77 to 1981-82 between them.

In 1992, a round-robin group stage was introduced to the tournament, and UEFA decided that a big rebrand was in order. The European Cup changed its name to the UEFA Champions League, a brand new logo and theme tune was created, and a new era began. The first winners of the Champions League were Ligue 1 side Marseille. While they remain the only French team to have won the European Cup, the triumph is shrouded in controversy thanks to suspicions of doping amongst players before the final.

In the years since, the Champions League (also sometimes branded as the UCL) has established itself as Europe's premier club competition, and the trophy has been passed around between a wide range of clubs from across Europe, including Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund, and Porto.

Champions League Top Scorers By Season: Every Golden Boot Winner

Every single Champions League campaign provides some stunning moments of drama, many of them provided by the array of world-class forwards who take to the field each year. The list below is made up of some of the best attackers to ever play in the UCL.

Year Player Club Goals
1955-56 Milos Milutinovic Partizan 8
1956-57 Dennis Viollet Manchester United 9
1957-58 Alfredo Di Stefano Real Madrid 10
1958-59 Just Fontaine Reims 10
1959-60 Ferenc Puskas Real Madrid 12
1960-61 Jose Aguas Benfica 11
1961-62 Heinz Strehl FC Nurnberg 8
  Alfredo Di Stefano Real Madrid 8
  Justo Tejada Real Madrid 8
  Ferenc Puskas Real Madrid 8
1962-63 Jose Altafini AC Milan 14
1963-64 Vladica Kovacevic Partizan 7
  Sandro Mazzola Internazionale 7
  Ferenc Puskas Real Madrid 7
1964-65 Eusebio Benfica 9
  Jose Torres Benfica 9
1965-66 Florian Albert Ferencvaros 7
  Eusebio Benfica 7
1966-67 Jurgen Piepenburg Vorwarts Berlin 6
  Paul Van Himst Anderlecht 6
1967-68 Eusebio Benfica 6
1968-69 Denis Law Manchester United  9
1969-70 Mick Jones Leeds United 8
1970-71 Antonis Antoniadis Panathinaikos 10
1971-72 Johan Cruyff Ajax 5
  Antal Dunai Ujpest 5
  Lou Macari Celtic 5
  Silvester Takac Standard Liege 5
1972-73 Gerd Muller Bayern Munich 11
1973-74 Gerd Muller Bayern Munich 8
1974-75 Gerd Muller Bayern Munich 5
1975-76 Jupp Heynckes Borussia Monchengladbach 6
1976-77 Gerd Muller Bayern Munich 5
  Franco Cucinotta Zurich 5
1977-78 Allan Simonsen  Borussia Monchengladbach 5
1978-79 Claudio Sulser Grasshopper 11
1979-80 Soren Lerby Ajax 10
1980-81 Graeme Souness Liverpool 6
  Terry McDermott Liverpool 6
  Karl-Heinz Rummenigge Bayern Munich 6
1981-82 Dieter Hoeneß  Bayern Munich 7
1982-83 Paolo Rossi Juventus 6
1983-84 Viktor Sokol Dinamo Minsk 6
1984-85 Torbjorn Nilsson IFK Goteborg 7
  Michel Platini Juventus 7
1985-86 Torbjorn Nilsson IFK Goteborg 6
1986-87 Borislav Cvetkovic Red Star Belgrade 7
1987-88 Gheorghe Hagi Steaua Bucuresti 4
  Petar Novak Sparta Prague 4
  Rene van der Gijp Neuchatel Xamax 4
  Ally McCoist Rangers  4
  Rabah Madjer Porto 4
  Michel Real Madrid  4
  Rui Aguas Benfica 4
1988-89 Marco van Basten AC Milan 10
1989-90 Romario PSV Eindhoven 6
  Jean-Pierre Papin Marseille 6
1990-91 Peter Pacult Tirol Innsbruck 6
  Jean-Pierre Papin Marseille 6
1991-92 Sergei Yuran Benfica 7
  Jean-Pierre Papin Marseille 7
1992-93 Romario PSV Eindhoven 7
1993-94 Ronald Koeman Barcelona 8
  Wynton Rufer Werder Bremen 8
1994-95 George Weah Paris Saint-Germain 7
1995-96 Jari Litmanen Ajax 9
1996-97 Milinko Pantic Atletico Madrid  5
1997-98 Alessandro Del Piero Juventus 10
1998-99 Andriy Shevchenko Dynamo Kyiv 8
  Dwight Yorke Manchester United 8
1999-2000 Mario Jardel  Porto 10
  Rivaldo Barcelona 10
  Raul Real Madrid 10
2000-01 Raul Real Madrid 7
2001-02 Ruud van Nistelrooy Manchester United 10
2002-03 Ruud van Nistelrooy Manchester United 12
2003-04 Fernando Morientes Monaco 9
2004-05 Ruud van Nistelrooy Manchester United 8
2005-06 Andriy Shevchenko AC Milan 9
2006-07 Kaka AC Milan 10
2007-08 Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 8
2008-0 Lionel Messi Barcelona 9
2009-10 Lionel Messi Barcelona 8
2010-11 Lionel Messi Barcelona 12
2011-12 Lionel Messi Barcelona 14
2012-13 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 12
2013-14 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 17
2014-15 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 10
  Neymar Barcelona 10
  Lionel Messi Barcelona 10
2015-16 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 16
2016-17 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 12
2017-18 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 15
2018-19 Lionel Messi Barcelona 12
2019-20 Robert Lewandowski Bayern Munich 15
2020-21 Erling Haaland Borussia Dortmund 10
2021-22 Karim Benzema Real Madrid 15
2022-23 Erling Haaland Manchester City 12
2023-24 Kylian Mbappe Paris Saint-Germain 8

Champions League All-Time Top Scorers: The Top 10

Performing in the European Cup is the ultimate test of a top striker. Below, you'll find a list of incredible forwards who have passed that test again and again.

#10. Kylian Mbappe, Andriy Shevchenko, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (48 goals)

The number 10 spot is shared by a Frenchman, a Ukrainian, and a Swede, all of them legends in their home nations and renowned goalscorers on the continent. Of the three, Mbappe's record is particularly impressive, given that the 25-year-old has played far fewer UCL games than the retired pros he sits amongst; Mbappe has recorded 73 appearances to date in comparison with 100 (Shevchenko) and 124 (Ibrahimovic). Over the coming years, we can expect the France star to climb much further up this table…

#9. Alfredo Di Stefano (49 goals)

Spanish giants Real Madrid won the first five editions of the European Cup, thanks largely to the efforts of their naturalised Argentine forward Alfredo Di Stefano. A legend of the global game who racked up over 500 goals for club and country, Di Stefano is widely viewed as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

#8.  Thierry Henry (50 goals)

Thierry Henry may have never won the Champions League (the furthest he reached was a devastating final loss in 2005-06), but he certainly made a mark on it. The Frenchman scored 50 goals in the competition and was named in UEFA's Team Of The Year in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

#7. Thomas Muller (54 goals)

An icon of the German game whose intelligence and efficiency in front of goal caused him to coin the term 'Raumdeuter' ('space investigator') to explain his role in the team, Muller has left his stamp on the European game over 15 years of elite-level performance for Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.

#6. Ruud van Nistelrooy (56 goals)

Van Nistelrooy won the Champions League Golden Boot award three times in four seasons between 2001-02 and 2004-05, a remarkable record that shows his prowess on the European stage. In total, he notched 56 UCL goals for Manchester United, PSV and Real Madrid.

#5. Raul (71 goals)

Retired Spanish international Raul is a certified Real Madrid legend who racked up over 700 appearances for Los Blancos between 1994 and 2010, many of those in the Champions League. In total, he played 142 games in Europe's elite knockout competition, and scored a seriously impressive 71 goals.

#4. Karim Benzema (90 goals)

Before moving to Saudi Arabia last summer, 2022 Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema (who was the Champions League top scorer the same year) led the line for the Galacticos for years, scoring 90 UCL goals in 152 appearances. Alongside fellow Madrid stars such as Luka Modric and Casemiro, he won a total of five Champions League trophies.

#3. Robert Lewandowski (94 goals)

Lewandowski is a goal machine, known for his excellent finishing skills, powerful hold-up play and aerial ability. For Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona and Bayern Munich (where he played the majority of his career), Poland's all-time record goalscorer registered 94 goals in 120 Champions League games. He's still playing for Barca, so don't be surprised to see him cement third spot with a few more goals before he retires.

#2. Lionel Messi (129 goals)

Viewed by many to be the greatest player of all time, Argentina's 2022 World Cup-winning captain spent over two decades in Europe, racking up insane numbers and creating magical moments both in La Liga and in the Champions League. In total, the four-time Champions League winner scored 129 goals in 163 European games, the vast majority for Barcelona.

#1. Cristiano Ronaldo (140 goals)

CR7's career has been defined in part by the battle for supremacy with Lionel Messi, and UCL goal tally is one area in which he comes out champion. Ronaldo is the European Cup's all-time top goalscorer, with a remarkable 140 goals in 183 appearances for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. If anyone is ever able to break his record, it will be an outstanding achievement.

For more on the exploits of Ronaldo and Messi, check out our guide to La Liga's all-time top goalscorers.