Who are the top goal scorers in the history of the Champions League final?
Some familiar names feature in the rankings during both eras of European football’s top club tournament.
The stage is set for Saturday’s Champions League final with the Atatürk stadium to host the event for the second time. Football fans won’t need reminding about what happened the last time the final was held in Istanbul, in 2005 - curiously, between English and Italian clubs. In one of the most exhilarating European finals ever witnessed, Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan stormed to a 3-0 first half lead, only to see it erased before their own eyes as Rafa Benitez’s Spanish Liverpool pulled out one of the most remarkable comebacks ever seen.
This time, Manchester City and Inter Milan will be stepping out into the Atatürk with dreams of lifting the trophy. City, fresh from their FA Cup triumph against United last weekend, have the chance to achieve something which only one English club has ever managed - complete the classic treble of league, Cup and Champions League. Man United did it in 1999 and Liverpool came desperately close in 1977 but they remain the only English clubs to have been in such a privileged position.
As if that wasn’t enough to motivate them, City have never been crowned champions of Europe and will be determined to seize this moment. Inter meanwhile are battle-scarred veterans on the continental circuit and last won the trophy in 2010 under Jose Mourinho. They won back-to-back trophies in the mid-60s and lost two other finals - to Celtic in ‘67 and Ajax in ‘72.
Haaland eyeing second Golden Boot
One player who hasn’t stopped scoring in this current edition of the tournament is Erling Haaland. The Norwegian is the top scorer on 12 goals - two more than his previous best (with Borussia Dortmund) which earned him the Golden Boot in 2021.
He has broken a number of records along the way. He fired five past RB Leipzig in under an hour in the Last 16 and became both the fastest and youngest player to reach 25, 30 and then 35 Champions League goals in history.
The ultimate for any player though is to score in the final. Here, we take a look at the players who have scored the most goals in finals during the two different eras of the competition - the old European Champions Clubs’ Cup and the Champions League.
Di Stéfano and Puskás
Two household names and Real Madrid legends top the list of all-time goal scorers in European Cup/Champions League finals: Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás. They both scored seven goals in six final appearances between 1956 and 1962 and share the all-time record.
Di Stéfano was the first Real Madrid player to score in a European Cup final, pulling Los Blancos back level against Stade Reims in the inaugural final in Paris. The Argentine put his team ahead from the spot in the following year’s final against Fiorentina, paving the way for a 2-0 victory. He pulled the team back level in the 1958 final in Brussels and hit the winner 12 months later, as Madrid beat Reims for a second time. Di Stéfano surpassed himself in the 1960 final in Glasgow when Madrid thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in front of a crowd of almost 128,000. He was on target twice in the first half and completed his hat trick with just under 20 minutes to go.
Puskás, in his second season at the club, ended on four goals in the 1960 final and became the first player to score a hat trick in a European Cup final, 13 minutes before Di Stéfano completed his. Remarkably, Puskás repeated the feat when Madrid met Benfica in the final two years later - a hat trick in under 21 minutes in Amsterdam, but not enough to prevent the Portuguese side winning the game 5-3 and lifting the trophy.
In the Champions League era, from 1992 to the present day, the player with the most goals in UCL finals is Cristiano Ronaldo. He scored four goals with two different clubs. In May 2008, he fired Manchester United ahead just before the half hour in his first appearance in a final, against Chelsea. That game ended 1-1 and went to extra-time then penalties and although Cristiano missed his, United prevailed 6-5 to lift the trophy and the No.7 ended as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.
He didn’t find the net in the following year’s final against Barcelona - his last game for United, just a few weeks later he was unveiled by Real Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid made it to the 2014 final in Lisbon and finally secured La Décima with Cristiano converting a penalty in the final minute of extra-time. He slotted in again in the shoot-out when the two Madrid clubs met again two years later - however, as far as UEFA are concerned, penalty shoot-out goals are not counted in their official statistics.
Cristiano doubled his tally with a brace in the 2017 final against Juventus. He didn’t find the net in the following year’s final against Liverpool but Gareth Bale beat Loris Karius twice, including an unforgettable overhead-kick as Madrid ran out 3-1 winners and the Welshman took his total to three, to climb into second place on the list, just behind Cristiano.
Also on the list is Filippo Inzaghi, the younger brother of Inter coach Simone, who will be leading his team out in Istanbul against City.