Champions League's top scorers ever

There are many popular lists of top scorers of all time and of course it is extra interesting in the greatest league (or really tournament in this case) of all - UEFA Champions League, or the European Champion Clubs' Cup as the former was called (or just the European Cup).

Until 1992, it was a regular knockout tournament without group stages, just winning or disappearing games with teams that were actually the league champions in their countries. In 1992 the group stage was introduced and between 1992 and 1999 the number of games and different phases was constantly increased. It is only from 1999 that we have the format with two group stages and then knock-out matches. As a result, there were far less matches played in the old days, which means that today's football players play many more matches than the players before 1992, and therefore the total number of goals is not really comparable.

Two players outperform everyone else - guess which ones

If we first look at the total number of goals, there are two players who are way above all others, and of course we are talking about Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The fact that both of these mega-stars have always played in clubs that have gone very far in the tournament they have played a lot of matches in the Champions League as well - and obviously the team has gone a long way because of these two players.

Ronaldo still have a quite clear lead over Messi with 128 goals compared to Messi with 114. However, Messi has a slightly better goal average than Ronaldo, 0.81 goals per game against 0.76. In terms of titles, Ronaldo has five Champions League titles in total against Messi's "only" four titles.

At an honorable third place is Real Madrid's old star Raúl with 71 goals, and in fourth place is Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema with 64 goals each. Both Lewandowski and Benzema are still active players and will most likely play some more seasons so either of these should take over the third place within a couple of years.

Top 10 Champions League top scorers ever

  • 1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal - 128 goals
  • 2. Lionel Messi, Argentina - 114 goals
  • 3. Raúl, Spain - 71 goals
  • 4. Robert Lewandowski, Poland - 64 goals
      Karim Benzema, France - 64 goals
  • 6. Ruud van Nistelrooy, Netherlands - 56 goals
  • 7. Thierry Henry, France - 50 goals
  • 8. Alfredo Di Stéfano, Argentina - 49 goals
  • 9. Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine - 48 goals
      Zlatan Ibrahimović, Sweden - 48 goals
Notable in this list is that Real Madrid's old Argentine superstar Alfredo Di Stéfano is in the top 10 list, despite his active years being 1955-1964 when so many fewer matches were played. The reason is of course that Real Madrid was totally dominant in world football during this time, including winning the five(!) First European Cups played, between seasons 55/56 to 59/60.

Old stars with best goal average

If you instead look at the number of goals scored per match, the table looks completely different and in the top layer you will find some of the absolute best forwards high up. As best ever we find "Der Bomber" - Gerd Müller. The old German goal king with an outstanding career in both Bayern Munich and the German national team (with an average of 1.10 goals per match there) has a goal average of pretty amazing 0.97 goals per match.

Second in the list we find for most people the unknown Brazilian José Altafini, who had a goal of 0.86 in his clubs Juventus and Milan between the years 59-76, and then follows the Hungarian big star Ferenc Puskás with a 0.85 goals per match average, and then in this article previously mentioned Alfredo Di Stéfano with a goal scoring ratio of 0.84.

Our modern super stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are doing pretty well even in this list with a goal average of 0.81 and 0.76. Regarding this list, one can speculate that the large number of Champions League matches they have played makes it more difficult to maintain a high goal average.

Champions League's best goal average

  1. Gerd Müller, Germany - average 0.97 (34 goals in 35 matches)
  2. José Altafini, Brazil- average 0.86 (24 goals in 28 matches)
  3. Ferenc Puskás, Hungary - average 0.85 (35 goals in 41 matches)
  4. Alfredo Di Stéfano, Argentina - average 0.84 (49 goals in 58 matches)
  5. Lionel Messi, Argentina - average 0.81 (114 goals in 141 matches)
  6. Ruud van Nistelrooy, Netherlands - average 0.77 (56 goals in 73 matches)
  7. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal - average 0.76 (128 goals in 169 matches)
  8. Jean-Pierre Papin, France - average 0.76 (28 goals in 37 matches)
  9. Robert Lewandowski, Poland - average 0.74 (64 goals in 86 matches)
  10. Eusébio, Portugal - average 0.73 (46 Goals in 63 Matches)

Note that this article was written in July 2020, when the Champions League season 2019/2020 was paused due to the Corona pandemic, with quarterfinals to final remaining to play. Of course, the leaderboards here will change over time, for those of you who are interested in the a current list this article on Wikipedia is recommended.