50 Greatest Players in Champions League History

Mikhail Turner@MikhailTurnerContributor IIIMay 8, 2012

50 Greatest Players in Champions League History

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    Some of the world's greatest players have participated in Europe's premier club competition, the Champions League.

    All of these players on this list have left, or are leaving, their mark on the competition in some form.

    There is a wide variety of reasons as to why players are on this list, with some achieving success over lengthy periods of time in the competition and others making maybe one or two significant contributions.

    Whether these players have scored the most goals or had the most appearances or the most number of Champion League trophies, they have all achieved something noteworthy.

    In no particular order, here are the 50 greatest players in Champions League history.


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    Raul has scored the most goals in the competition, 71, and has the most appearances, 144. He's also won the competition on three separate occasions.

Roberto Carlos

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    Roberto Carlos is another member of the over-100 club as he has 128 appearances in the competition. He can also add three Champions League trophies and some superb displays at left-back to his resume.

Andriy Shevchenko

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    Andriy Shevchenko is third on the all-time scoring list in the competition and ninth on the list of appearances with 116.

    He played for three different clubs in the competition, Dynamo Kyiv, AC Milan and Chelsea, and won the competition once.

Paolo Maldini

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    This Italian legend definitely deserves to be on this list. Paolo Maldini won the competition five times and is high up on the list of appearances with 139 to his name.

David Beckham

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    People will always doubt David Beckham's playing ability, but he has achieved a lot during his career.

    When you make it to 111 appearances in a prestigious competition such as the Champions League and win a trophy while being named the best midfielder and best player, all in the same 1999 edition of the competition, you must be doing something right.

Oliver Kahn

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    Oliver Kahn is arguably the greatest German goalkeeper of all time and has one Champions League title to his name.

    He is one of 20 players who has over 100 appearances—107 to be exact—in the competition.

Luis Figo

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    Part of Portugal's "Golden Generation," Luis Figo picked up one Champions League trophy during his playing career. He's another member of the over-100-appearances (107) club.

Clarence Seedorf

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    Clarence Seedorf is the only player to have won the Champions League with three separate teams. It took him 131 appearances to get his four winners' medals. Both these statistics are signs of his longevity and his quality in the game.

Ryan Giggs

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    Ryan Giggs' lengthy career has seen him make 139 appearance and pick up two Champions League trophies. He is also the only player to score in 16 different editions of the competition.

Paul Scholes

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    Paul Scholes is one of the greatest midfielders in English history, and you can put him down as a Champions League great as well.

    He has 128 Champions League appearances and two trophies to his name (one if you count the fact that he was suspended for the 1999 final).

Thierry Henry

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    Thierry Henry is fourth on the list of top scorers in the Champions League with 51 goals and has done that in 115 appearances.

    Henry provided Europe with some dazzling moments and picked up a winners' medal with Barcelona in 2009.

Gary Neville

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    Gary Neville isn't the most popular player for non-Manchester United fans, but the Englishman had a very solid career.

    In the Champions League, he racked up 115 appearances and picked up a winners' medal. Injury prevented him from participating much in Manchester United's 2008 campaign.

Fernando Morientes

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    Fernando Morientes always goes under the radar a bit. One credit to his goal-scoring prowess is the fact that he is in the top 10 of the all-time scorers list in the Champions League with 39 goals.

    He also appeared in the competition 104 times.

Iker Casillas

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    Iker Casillas is a two-time Champions League winner and one of the greatest goalkeepers the competition and the world has seen.

    He has 124 appearances in the competition and is the youngest person to have kept goal in the final of the Champions League, at 19 years and four days in 2000.


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    Xavi has 126 appearances in the Champions League and is a three-time winner of the competition.

    He was the club midfielder of the year in 2009, his first winners' medal with Barcelona, and also won the Man of the Match award in the final against Manchester United.

Roar Strand

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    Roar Strand is by no means a household name, but he deserves plenty of credit for joining many great players in surpassing the 100-appearance mark in the competition.

    He played for Rosenberg throughout his entire career and played in 107 games in the competition.

Carles Puyol

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    Carles Puyol has won the Champions League three times while playing for Barcelona.

    The Catalan defender appeared in competition 115 times and has showcased his defensive brilliance time and time again.

Edwin Van Der Sar

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    Edwin van der Sar was part of two teams, Ajax and Manchester United, that won the Champions League.

    Van der Sar could be considered the Netherlands' greatest keeper, and the fact that he played for two such quality teams speaks volumes about his own ability.

Javier Zanetti

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    Javier Zanetti finally picked up a Champions League trophy in 2010.

    The versatile Argentinean has seen many Inter teams get through to various stages of this competition in his 105 appearances for the club.

Lionel Messi

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    Lionel Messi has already won the competition three times. He has 51 goals in 68 appearances at the age of 24.

    He can easily top Raul's mark of 71 in the goal-scoring charts and may surpass his 144 appearances as well.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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    Ruud van Nistelrooy may not have some of the mileage in this competition as other greats, but his 60 goals in 81 appearances certainly make him one of the most prolific strikers in the history of the Champions League.

Filippo Inzaghi

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    Filippo Inzaghi has also had some success in front of goal in the Champions League, with a very healthy 50 goals in 80 competitions.

    He's below players like Lionel Messi and Raul but above the likes of Alessandro Del Piero where that is concerned.

Alfredo Di Stefano

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    The competition was called the European Cup while Alfredo Di Stefano played. Di Stefano won the competition five times with various Real Madrid teams and is, as you would expect, among the competition's top scorers.


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    Eusebio is another player from a past era of this competition. He was part of many great Benfica teams and won the trophy back in 1962.

    Considering his scoring prowess, its no surprise that he is also among the top scorers in the competition with 47 goals to his name.

Alessandro Del Piero

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    Alessandro Del Piero won this competition back in 1995-'96. He gets on this list thanks to his 44 goals, ranking him as one of of the Champions League's top 10 scorers.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo is behind Lionel Messi on the goal-scoring charts with 39 strikes in the Champions League so far, but that is enough to have him tied with Fernando Morientes, who is 10th ranked goalscorer in the competition.

Gerd Muller

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    Gerd Muller missed the cut on the scoring charts with 34 goals in the Champions League, but considering the fact that this was done in 35 games, he had to be on this list.

    Being a three-time winner of the competition also helps.

Ferenc Puskas

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    Not to be outdone—well, not by much—Ferenc Puskas scored 35 goals and played in 41 games in the Champions League.

    He also picked up three winners' medals, was the top scorer three times, and is one of just a few players to have scored a hat trick in a final.

Jean-Pierre Papin

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    Jeane-Pierre Papin was a Champions League winner with Marseille, and one has to say that is thanks to his goal-scoring prowess. He picked up three top-scorer awards during his years playing in the competition.

Jose Altafini

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    Jose Altafini gets on this list for doing something even players like Gerd Muller or Ferenc Puskas could not: scoring 14 goals in a single Champions League campaign.

    He also picked up a winners' medal in the competition.

Pierino Prati

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    Pierino Prati earned his spot on this list by being one of just three players to score a hat trick in a Champions League final. He did it while playing for Milan and, yes, they won the game.

    Something has to be said when only two of the greatest players in the game, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, have done something similar.

Sandor Koscis

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    Singular achievements like Sandor Koscis's four goals in a Champions League quarterfinal deserve to be recognized.

    Especially when only players such as Lionel Messi, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas have achieved something similar.

Zinedine Zidane

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    Zinedine Zidane won the Champions League in 2002 with Real Madridand scored the winning goal in the final. He was a runner-up in the competition twice with Juventus.

    He appeared in 82 games in the competition with both Juventus and Real Madrid.

Francisco Gento

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    Francisco Gento has won the most Champions League trophies—six—out of all the great players to have graced this competition.

Marcel Desailly

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    Marcel Desailly is one of four players to win the Champions League in consecutive seasons with two different clubs.

    He won it with Marseille in 1993 and repeated the feat with AC Milan a year later.

Gerard Pique

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    Gerard Pique has a similar track record to Marcel Desailly, having won the competition in back-to-back years with Manchester United and then Barcelona.

    He has three winners' medals to his name and may add a few more before his career ends.

Paulo Sosa

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    Paulo Sosa may be one of the lesser remembered names of Portugal's "Golden Generation," but he had his success on the club stage.

    His two Champions League victories came with two different teams, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund, one year after the other.

Samuel Eto'o

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    Samuel Eto'o has a few notable achievements getting him on this list. He, Lionel Messi and Raul have scored in two separate finals, and he won the competition with two teams back to back.

    Not that it matters, but his Champions League victories were part of trebles for both the teams he was a member of.

Jens Lehmann

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    Jens Lehmann may be another eyebrow raiser on this list, but he is just as deserving as Marouane Chamakh.

    Lehmann holds the record for the most consecutive clean sheets with 10 shutouts while at Arsenal.

Steven Gerrard

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    Steven Gerrard dragged his team to a Champions League trophy back in 2005, and his and his teammates' efforts have gone down in the history of the competition, the game and his club forever.

    Gerrard may not come that close to the trophy again and made use of his time in the final, while providing fans with some memorable moments.

Andres Iniesta

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    A lot of the players that have already been mentioned have won the competition multiple times. Andres Iniesta should be no stranger to their company with three winners' medals of his own.

    His strike against Chelsea in the semifinals a few years ago gives him one great Champions League story and a major place in the history of the competition.

Phil Neal

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    Phil Neal had an extremely successful career with Liverpool during the 1970s and '80s and picked up four Champions League winners' medals for his efforts.

    That is a feat some of world football's greatest and more famous players have not achieved.

Franz Beckenbauer

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    Franz Beckenbauer won the Champions League three times with Bayern Munich, despite only playing 40 Champions League games. That kind of productivity makes him a shoo-in for this list.

Sepp Maier

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    Sepp Maier had a similarly short stint to Franz Beckenbauer in the Champions League. He only had 39 appearances yet still managed to pick up three winners' medals.

Alessandro Costacurta

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    Alessandro Costacurta is a five-time Champions League winner, with almost 100 appearances in the competition.

    Considering that the most winners' medals anyone has in the competition is six, it's safe to say that Costacurta had a great impact on the competition for AC Milan.

Johan Neeskens

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    Johan Neeskens was an integral part of the Ajax team that dominated, and won, the competition for three years running from 1971 to 1973.

Johan Cruyff

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    Johan Cruyff played a significant role in world football as a whole. He was a great Champions League player due to his success and the short amount of time in which he achieved it.

    He picked up three winners' medals while only appearing in the competition 41 times for Ajax. He had a further eight appearances for Barcelona.

Jose Santamaria

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    Jose Santamaria  was part of Real Madrid's dominant sides during the late 1950s and early 1960s. His role in the team saw him pick up four Champions League winners' medals.

Hernan Crespo

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    Hernan Crespo earns his spot here for being one of two players to score in the Champions League with five different teams.

    He never won the competition but came close to doing so with AC Milan in 2005. He has played and scored for Parma, Lazio, Inter, Chelsea and Milan and has 28 goals in 70 games.


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    Ronaldinho won the Champions League in 2006 with Barcelona and was pure entertainment whenever he played. His goal against Chelsea is one of 18 goals in 47 appearances.