Who has scored the most goals ever in the Champions League?
The 2022 UCL saw Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema push towards all-time records, although his European total is still some way behind Ronaldo and Messi.
The record for scoring the most goals in Europe’s top club competition, the Champions League, has changed hands several times during the last 16 years. Before that, however, it had been held by one player for over four decades.
Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stéfano scored 49 goals in 58 games in the old European Cup, netting his last one in his penultimate game in the tournament, against Zurich in May 1964. It was eventually equalled and surpassed by another Los Blancos player, Raúl González, who made the record his own in September 2005. By that time, the competition had turned into the Champions League; he reached a half century of goals after finding the net in the group stage against Olympiacos.
Madrid’s Benzema climbs up the UCL ranks
After his heroics against Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of the round of 16 clash in the 2021/22 campaign, Karim Benzema was at it again at the double...or should I say, treble. Away to Chelsea in London didn’t look like an easy place to go in the away leg of the quarter-finals, but the French striker had his side two goals ahead within 23 minutes. No sooner had the second half begun and he had his third, taking his total in this competition to 82, as he and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski continue their battle for third place on the all-time list. Another goal, in extra-time after an impressive Chelsea fightback in the second leg, secured a semi-final place for Los Blancos, where again he’d be tested by an English side.
The first leg against Pep Guardiola’s City in Manchester was quickly slipping away from the visitors but then a chance fell to the Frenchman. He made no mistake. And then again he pulled his team back into the tie, which ended 4-3, with a delicious Panenka penalty. As he reached 600 games for Madrid, he put away his 85th goal, one behind the great Pole. And that meant that he was closing in on Ronaldo’s UCL records for a single campaign. The second leg handed him a winning penalty and a Parisian final against Liverpool awaited him to go again. Although another medal was to be won, it was a single Vini goal that served the glory.
As Benzema looks to continue his incredible form into the new season, Polish striker Robert Lewandowski (also on 86) has swapped Bayern for Barça and will be aiming to go toe-to-toe with him in both LaLiga and in the Champions League. What a battle it could be! And let’s keep an eye too on the pretenders to the future throne: Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland, both who have plenty still to do.
Messi overtakes Raúl
By the time of what would be his final season in Europe, Raúl’s Champions League tally stood at 71 goals and his record was still intact. But not for very much longer. Raúl’s last goal in the tournament came against Inter Milan in the return leg of the quarter final in April 2011 in his final season for Schalke 04.
By November 2014, Raúl’s grip on the record was already under threat. Leo Messi pulled level with him with a brace in the Matchday 4 group game against Ajax, then became the all-time top scorer in his own right a fortnight after bagging a hat trick against APOEL on Matchday 5.
But breathing right down Messi’s neck was Cristiano Ronaldo, who was just three goals behind when Raúl’s record fell and just one goal behind by the time of the semi-finals. Since then, the Champions League goals record has almost been like a game of snakes and ladders between the Portuguese star and the Argentinean. Cristiano eventually overtook Messi in September 2015, with a hat trick in the 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk which brought up his 80th goal in the competition. After that, he has steadily pulled away.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the first to three figures
Cristiano became the first player to reach 100 Champions League goals in Real Madrid’s 4-2 win over Bayern in April 2017. It would take Messi another 11 months to get to three figures.
As it stands, Cristiano is on 140 goals in the Champions League and Messi is 15 behind on 125 although both are still active and at new clubs, although neither featured past the round of 16 last season, and only Messi is involved in the 2022/23 campaign.
Champions League all-time top goal scorers
Note that in the 2022/23 campaign Ronaldo will not be able to add to his tally given that he will be featuring in the Europa League with Manchester United. Here’s a reminder of all his goals.
*No longer active