15 Greatest Champions League Players of All Time 

Champions League glory is the pinnacle of every soccer players club career, the summit of the mountain, the Holy Grail of silverware. 

One of the most prestigious, and toughest to win tournaments in world soccer, the Champions League brings together the top European teams, pitting some familiar giants, and the occasional surprise team, together year after year. 

Legends are made and broken in the Champions League, players are raised through their performances or destroyed by their mistakes.

Here’s a look at the 15 greatest Champions League players of all time.

15. Gianluigi Buffon

  • Champions League Titles: 0 (3 Finals)
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Okay, so not everyone can be a winner, and coming in at number 15 on our list is legendary Juventus and Italy goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon. 

Arguably the best goalie in soccer for over a decade, Buffon was a Champions League runner-up no fewer than three times, heartbreaking stuff for a player of his caliber. With 124 appearances in the tournament, it’s hard to leave him out.

14. Kenny Dalglish

  • Champions League Titles: 3
MatchesGoalsAssist
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Liverpool wouldn’t be Liverpool without Kenny Dalglish, one of British soccers’ all-time legends. 

Three times winner of the Champions League with the Anfield giants, Dalglish has to go down as one of the most important players of any generation.

After moving to Liverpool from Celtic, Dalglish took the club by the scruff of its neck and drove Liverpool on to success after success. 

13. Luka Modric

  • Champions League Titles: 4
MatchesGoalsAssist
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Croatian international Luka Modric moved to Real Madrid in 2012 and went from a skillful midfielder to one of the best players on the planet. 

Four Champions League medals later he is still pulling the strings for the Spanish club, and at 36 years old, shows no signs of easing down his career.

One of the most technically gifted players around, Modric has pulled the strings for club and country for years. 

12. Raul

  • Champions League Titles: 3
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When you can be identified worldwide by just your first name, you know you’ve made a mark on your profession, and Real Madrid legend Raul certainly made his mark. 

One of the most prolific strikers in Spanish history, Raul spent 16 seasons in the Madrid first team, winning three Champions League trophies in a stellar career. 

11. Iker Casillas

  • Champions League Titles: 3
MatchesGoals ConcededClean Sheets
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An eye-watering 177 appearances in the Champions League for the iconic Real Madrid goalkeeper, culminating in three winners’ medals, and the eternal gratitude of the Madrid faithful. 

A world-class goalkeeper can mean the difference between success and failure, and Casillas at his best was almost unbeatable.

An incredible career all around, but with so many appearances in the competition, no list of Champions League greats can be without probably the most successful goalkeeper in its history. 

10. Gareth Bale

  • Champions League Titles: 4
MatchesGoalsAssist
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Don’t panic, not every player on our list is a Real Madrid player, although with Gareth Bales’ four titles in this prestigious competition we can’t leave him out. 

And after his stunning goal in the 2018 final against Liverpool, his goal may go down as the greatest goal in a final, ever. Drawing 1-1 on his introduction in the 61st minute, Bale was on the pitch for two minutes before an astonishing overhead kick put Madrid back in front, before going on to win 3-1 on the night. 

An astonishing player with an awesome record in UEFA’s premier competition, Bale still has time on his side to win even more medals before he hangs up his boots. 

9. Andres Iniesta

  • Champions League Titles: 4
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Part of the all-conquering Barcelona team of 2008-12, And one of the most cultured midfielders of any generation, Andres Iniesta graced the Champions League for over a decade, amassing 130 appearances and four titles. 

Alongside the next player on our list, Xavi, Iniesta was one of the most feared midfielders on the planet, his range of vision, passing, and technical brilliance frightened the life out of opposing players. 

One of the tournament and soccer in general, legends, Iniesta will remain one of the most decorated and influential Champions League players ever. 

8. Xavi

  • Champions League Titles: 4
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So closely linked with Iniesta that it is hard to think of one player without the other name coming up almost immediately, Xavi, like his teammate Iniesta, amassed four titles in his career and played in the competition an incredible 151 times. 

A genius midfielder that rarely seemed out of breath or ideas, Xavi is quite simply one of the best players ever to pull on a Barcelona jersey. 

Intelligent with and without the ball, it is probably not an exaggeration to say that without him, Barcelona would not have won as many titles as they did. 

Going full circle, the legendary player is now the manager of Barcelona, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see them competing again for the Champions League title in the coming years. 

7. Clarence Seedorf

  • Champions League Titles: 4
MatchesGoalsAssist
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Several players on our list have multiple Champions League winners medals, some even have the rare honor of having won with two separate clubs, but the only man in history to win the tournament with three clubs is Clarence Seedorf. 

Wins with Ajax in 1995, Real Madrid in 1998, and twice with AC Milan, in 2003 and 2007, firmly puts Seedorf near the front of the list when it comes to silverware. 

One of Dutch soccer’s most decorated players, Seedorf has won titles in four countries over two decades in some of the most difficult leagues around. But it is his Champions League exploits that raise his stature as one of the true greats of club competition. 

6. Alfredo di Stefano

  • Champions League Titles: 5
MatchesGoalsAssist
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There is a reason Real Madrid is the most successful team ever in the Champions League. 13 titles are phenomenal, 6 times more than AC Milan in second place, and that reason is that from 1955 through to 1960, Madrid won every single year. 

A massive influence on this European domination was the great Alfredo di Stefano, winner of five consecutive Champions Leagues. 

Given he was playing in the tournament in its pre-group format, where a team had to beat every opponent to progress, his feat is still as incredible today as it was in 1955. With 49 goals in 58 appearances, di Stefano is also one of the most deadly strikers the tournament has ever seen. 

It is hard to state just how important di Stefano was to Madrid, and even over 60 years later he is still regarded with reverence by Real Madrid fans in particular, but also by soccer fans as a whole. 

5. Steven Gerrard

  • Champions League Titles: 1
MatchesGoalsAssist
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With only one winner’s medal to his name, you may be forgiven for wondering how Steven Gerrard makes our list over players with five medals in their trophy cabinet. 

It is for his sheer tenacity that Gerrard, a player that at times literally carried his beloved Liverpool through Champions League qualifiers, group games, knockout games, and even a final, makes our list. 

His influence, his determination to turn defeat into success, and yes, that final in Istanbul, make Gerrard undroppable. 

To witness the 2005 final in Instanbul, as Liverpool slumped to a 3-0 half-time loss, and the following 45 minutes where the Liverpool local boy pulls his team through to earn a draw, is an astonishing display of desire and skill. 

It is hard to think of another club captain, in a team as seemingly outmatched and outfought as Liverpool were for large spells of that epic final, being able to almost single-handedly demand (and get) a result that looked impossible. 

4. Paolo Maldini

  • Champions League Titles: 5
MatchesGoalsAssist
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Five Champions League medals adorn the trophy cabinet of one of the greatest defenders to ever grace a soccer field. In fourth place on our list is the legendary left-back Paolo Maldini, possibly the greatest captain ever to lift the coveted trophy.

A staggering career spanning 25 years at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, AC Milan, saw Maldini become the standard to which every defender had to aspire to. 

So successful was Maldini that we have to assume he has to rotate which trophies he has on display, just to make space for them all. 

A cultured and intelligent defender, Maldini lifted the Champions League in 1989, 1990,1994, 2003, and 2007, making him one of the most successful, and popular, winners in soccer. 

3. Francisco Gento

  • Champions League Titles: 6
MatchesGoalsAssist
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With more trophies in the UEFA Champions League than any other player on the planet, it would be rude not to have Francisco Gento in the top three of our list. 

A member of the all-conquering Real Madrid team of the mid to late ’50s, Gento, alongside Alfredo di Stefano, won five consecutive tournaments, from 1955 to 1960. 

What sets Gento apart from his fellow teammates is that in 1966 Gento popped up with another winners medal, making him the only player to ever win 6 Champions League titles. 

Given that Gento played in 8 finals, his record could have been even more impressive, but 6 medals to go alongside his record 12 La Liga titles is still an awesome achievement, one that will probably never be bettered. 

Sadly, Gento is nowhere near as famous as his teammates’ di Stefano or Ferenc Puskas, even with his record haul, even after being voted the greatest Spanish soccer player of all time by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics). 

This is a shame, but for those soccer fans who care to look at the statistics, Francisco Gento stands head and shoulders above the rest. 

2. Lionel Messi

  • Champions League Titles: 4
MatchesGoalsAssist
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If it’s statistics you like, Lionel Messi can provide us with some truly eye-watering stats befitting the world’s greatest ever player

With four Champions League titles so far, in 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2015, 125 goals were scored (so far) in an impressive 154 appearances. And if that isn’t good enough to make it into our list at number 2, nothing is.

Messi’s performances for Barcelona in the Champions League while still at the Catalan club were nothing short of breathtaking, as fans watched the Argentine magician destroy teams almost singlehandedly. 

So good was Lionel Messi that it was often not a case of if he would score a goal, but when. And now that Messi is plying his trade at Paris Saint-Germain in France, there is every chance that his goals, appearance, and possibly his tournament win record could still increase. 

If a player of Lionel Messi’s caliber is at number 2, number 1 on our list of greatest Champions League players of all time must be an absolute juggernaut of a player; thankfully, he is. 

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Champions League Titles: 5
MatchesGoalsAssist
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It is not the first list Cristiano Ronaldo has topped, and it’s unlikely to be the last, but given his dominance in this competition over the past two decades, there is no one else who comes close to the mercurial Portuguese player. 

Let’s get the stats out of the way before we heap more praise onto a player that shows no signs of letting himself, or his teammates, take their foot off the gas. 

Five Champions League winners medals, one with Manchester United in 2008, and four with Real Madrid, in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018. 

140 goals in a ridiculous 181 appearances, and bear in mind that at present, Ronaldo is back in Manchester and still playing in the Champions League, so these stats will only improve, making Ronaldo unassailable at the top of a very prestigious list of players. 

We’ve included some truly superb soccer players in our list, some of whose legacies remain strong even after half a century has passed. It is almost impossible to imagine that in 50 years people won’t look back at players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, and think “those stats must have been made up, that can’t be right”. 

Those of us who have been lucky enough to witness firsthand the level of performances played out on the European stage by the players on this list will know better, these players really are the greatest.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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