With 9 goals so far in this current UEFA Champions’ League campaign, Real Madrid’s flamboyant no. 7 Cristiano Ronaldo set a new tournament-record for the scoring the most goals in the group-stages. His Barcelona rival Lionel Messi only made just three appearances this season yet has 6 goals to his name. Over the past five or six years, these two modern-day greats have plundered all kinds of goal-scoring statistics in Europe. So let us check out where this formidable duo line-up against the top goal-scorers in Europe’s premier club competition since 1992 when it was reformatted and renamed as the UEFA Champions’ League.
10) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (39 goals): There is no doubt that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the finest players of his generation. A powerfully built striker with exceptional technical ability, Ibrahimovic is famous worldwide for scoring spectacular goals for both club and country. Yet he is equally infamous for his massive ego and is known to often address himself in third-person. This term Zlatan is in a rich vein of form with 8 goals in the group-stages for Paris Saint-Germain, including four in the same game against Anderlecht. In spite of his tremendous talent he received a lot of criticism especially during the earlier part of his career for not being a prolific striker. Nevertheless, the much-travelled Swede is the only player in the tournament’s history to have scored for six different clubs.
9) Alessandro Del Piero (41 goals): In September 2012, Alessandro Del Piero ended his 19-year journey with Juventus to join A-League side Sydney FC. With phenomenal ball-control and elusive guile, Del Piero was a true exponent of a fast-dying breed of diminutive forwards. He made over 700 appearances for Juventus and is the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 290 strikes. Del Piero stuck as the captain of Juventus and helped the club gain promotion after the club was relegated to the Serie B for their involvement in the match-fixing scandal that rocked Italy in 2006. That same year, he was also a crucial part of the Italy national-team that triumphed at the FIFA World Cup in Germany.
8) Didier Drogba (42 goals): After signing for Chelsea in the summer of 2004/05 season, Didier Drogba established himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in Europe. Yet his finest moment of his career came only in his final appearance for the club. In the 2010-11 Champions’ League final Drogba struck an 88th minute equaliser and the decisive spot-kick in the penalty-shootout against Bayern Munich to bring the European Cup to Chelsea against all odds. After a short spell in the China, Drogba returned to Europe with Galatasaray in the Turkish Super Lig. At 35 years of age the Ivorian striker is still the focal-point of attack of his team who have qualified for the knockout-stages of the competition once again.
7) Filippo Inzaghi (46 goals): Renowned for his ability to play-off the shoulder of the last defender Filippo Inzaghi was a persistent menace to centre-backs in Europe for the more than a decade. Not the biggest or the most skilful of centre-forwards, Inzaghi nevertheless remained a prolific scorer throughout his career due to his extraordinary anticipation and composure in front of goal. In the 2006/07 Champions League final Inzaghi scored both goals in AC Milan’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool to exalt revenge for his team’s dramatic loss two years ago at Istanbul. Inzaghi was also part of the Italian team that won the FIFA World Cup in 2006.
6) Andriy Shevchenko (48 goals): In the 1998/99 UEFA Champions’ League Andriy Shevchenko catapulted himself into superstardom after finishing as the top-scorer with 8 goals for Dynamo Kyiv. The following season he joined AC Milan and enjoyed a glittering 7-year spell with the Italian club winning every major team and individual honour including the FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2004. In 2006, Shvechenko moved to Chelsea, owned Russian billionaire and friend Roman Abrahamovic, for a British record transfer-fee of £30.8 million. However, the much-coveted move did not materialise as expected with Shevchenko’s form failing to hit the heights of his Milan days and the striker steadily felt out of favour with the various managers at the London-club. After an unsuccessful season on-loan at AC Milan, Shevchenko returned to Dynamo Kyiv before hanging up his boots to pursue a career in politics.
5) Thierry Henry (50 goals): Thierry Henry became a household name with Arsenal but his prowess as a footballer was first noticed at AS Monaco. Quick, powerful and blessed with exquisite technique and imagination, Henry possessed all the tools needed to become a fearsome striker. After an unsuccessful season with Juventus in the Serie A Thierry Henry, already a World Cup winner with France joined Arsenal for a sum of $15 million in the 1998/99 season. At Arsenal, manager Arsene Wenger converted Henry from a skilful winger to a prolific centre-forward by pairing him with veteran Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp to form one of the most devastating strike-partnerships in Premier League. Henry is Arsenal’s record goal-scorer with 228 goals and was also voted the club’s greatest-ever player by its fans. In 2007-08 Henry switched over to FC Barcelona for a fee of $25 million and eventually added the elusive UEFA Champions’ League crown to his collection of honours the following season.
4) Ruud Van Nistelrooy (56 goals): Deceptively quick with an uncanny knack of being at the right spot at the opportune moment, Ruud Van Nistelooy was arguably the most unerring finisher of his time. In three seasons for PSV Eindhoven he scored 62 goals in 67 games which prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to pay £19 million in the summer of 2001 to bring the Dutch striker to Manchester United. In his very first season for United, Van Nistelrooy finished as the top-scorer in the Champions’ League and in the following campaign he won the Premier League Golden Boot as well. In his five seasons at Old Trafford he amassed 150 goals from just 219 appearances in all competitions before departing for Real Madrid in 2006. Van Nistelrooy also enjoyed a successful spell with ‘los Blancos’ winning two La Liga titles and the Pichichi award in his first season although a knee-injury blighted the latter part his career at the Spanish capital.
3) Cristiano Ronaldo (59 goals): In the summer of 2003 Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United as a skinny teenager from Sporting Lisbon and under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson became one brightest young stars of European football. In 2007/08 season Ronaldo guided Manchester United to a remarkable treble scoring 42 goals and finished as the top-scorer in both the Premier League as well as the UEFA Champions’ League. A devastating finisher off both feet and the head, Ronaldo also possesses immense pace and power to go along with his exceptional technical ability. Widely regarded as one of the two best players of his generation along with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo is the epitome of the modern-day attacking footballer. In 2009, Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a world-record transfer-fee of £80 million and his goal-scoring prowess has only inflated since then, averaging at more than a goal per game for the ‘los Blancos’.
2) Lionel Messi (65 goals): At the age of 13, two years after he was diagnosed with a growth-hormone deficiency, Lionel Messi left Argentina for Spain to join FC Barcelona’s famed ‘la Masia’ training academy. In the next 13 years, the teenaged prodigy rose through the Barca ranks to become the club’s all-time leading scorer with over 300 goals. The little Argentine is the only player to win 4 Ballon d’Or and the 3 European Golden Boot awards amongst other numerous team and individual honours. However, 2013-14 has been an injury-marred season so far for Messi and the third injury of the campaign has sidelined Barca’s talisman at least until January 2014. Comparisons with Argentina legendary no.10 Diego Maradona have dogged Messi throughout his career and he has more than lived up to the hype. Yet, critics continue to argue that such a comparison will only be justified if Messi can inspire his national-team to lift the World Cup in the way that Maradona did.
1) Raúl (71 goals): With 323 goals from 741 games for Real Madrid, Raúl holds the club-record for both goals and appearances made. His rise through the club’s academy and reserve-teams was meteoric, allowing made his senior-debut or Real Madrid aged just 17 years. Soon Raúl established himself as the first-choice at the Santiago Bernebeau and scored his 50th career-goal before his 20th birthday. Between 1998 and 2002 Raúl won three UEFA Champions’ League titles and twice finished as the tournament’s top-scorer. In spite of his tremendous success at the club-level Raúl could never get his hands on any silverware with the national-side, although he was Spain’s leading goal-scorer until David Villa surpassed him in 2011. After 16 seasons with Real Madrid, Raúl parted ways with the club in 2010 to join German Bundesliga side Schalke 04. He spent two fruitful seasons at Gelsenkirchen before venturing to the Middle East where to play for Qatari club Al-Sadd.