The UEFA Champions League presents the best players in world football every season, an annual competition to determine the best football team on the continent.
There are few stages bigger than the bright lights of the European Champions League nights, where those who make a difference on the greatest occasions cement their legacies in the game.
At the beginning of the 2021/22 season, we decided to look back on some of the biggest goalscorers in the competition, a selection of absolute number nines who regularly scored at Europe’s most important tournament.
While players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have set unprecedented standards as multifunctional modern strikers, neither of us offer an ode to the traditional type number nine striker – so please don’t lose your mind.
Here are five of the best strikers in Champions League history.
The term striker through and through could also have been coined for Filippo Inzaghi, a footballer who cared about nothing other than being in the right place at the right time in the penalty area.
Inzaghi scored 46 goals in the Champions League between Juventus and AC Milan. The Italian giant knew that the penalty-saver only needed half a chance to make the difference.
The striker reached the final of the competition in his debut season at Juventus before winning the club’s biggest prize twice after moving to San Siro.
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When Milan were crowned European champions in 2002/03, Inzaghi scored many goals, scoring 12 goals in just 16 games as part of the best career of his career of 30 goals in all competitions.
The former Italian international was once again an influential figure when he won his second Champions League title four years later, scoring six goals including a brace in the final when Liverpool were beaten 2-1 in Athens.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Ruud van Nistelrooy often saved his best performances for Champions League events, the ruthless Dutchman was the best striker in the competition for much of his time at Manchester United.
Van Nistelrooy had the best time of Van Nistelrooy’s career during his five seasons with the Red Devils, where he scored 150 goals in just 219 games in all competitions.
This also included being the Champions League top scorer three times in four seasons, though ultimate success was tough to achieve for Van Nistelrooy as he came closest to a winners’ medal in the semifinals.
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Van Nistelrooy was a poacher of the highest order and an instinctive goalscorer. His ratio of 0.77 goals per game in the Champions League – 56 goals in 73 appearances – is behind Lionel Messi among the leading goal scorers of modern times.
The striker also had stints at PSV, Real Madrid and Hamburg and remains one of the greatest strikers who never won the trophy.
Few players have faced this opportunity quite like Didier Drogba, with the striker setting an exceptional goal record in cup finals while at Chelsea.
Drogba was a key figure in Chelsea’s rise as a force on the European stage, with the Ivorian being a powerful performer and often a one-man army leading the line for West Londoners.
Drogba’s raw pace and strength have been mixed with superb technique and a match-winning mentality. The striker enjoyed competing against the best on the continent.
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No African footballer has ever scored more than Drogba’s 44 Champions League goals, from an iconic winner against Barcelona to his most important one – a dramatic late equalizer in the final when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties in 2012.
After being sent off for the last four seasons, it was a defining moment for Drogba to deliver once again in a time of need for his team.
Karim Benzema has established himself as one of the best strikers of modern times and can look back on a successful career in the colors of Real Madrid.
Benzema gained prominence in Lyon before making a big move to the Bernabeu, where he was part of a team that would maintain dominance in the Champions League for a while.
Real became the first team to win ten titles after beating Atletico to claim “La Decima” before winning three of the next four Champions League trophies and becoming the first modern team to defend their crown.
Joint fourth goalscorer of all time.
Karim Benzema is a special player in the Champions League 🏆 pic.twitter.com/rzcenWbvo1
– Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 20, 2021
Benzema scored a goal in the 2018 final win against Liverpool when the Spanish giant took three consecutive Champions League trophies, a brilliant time in the history of the record winners.
The French international is one of only two players alongside Lionel Messi to have scored in 16 consecutive Champions League seasons, while only three players can improve their 71 goals in competition.
Lewandowski is currently the best number nine in world football and continues to score with inevitable regularity on the stage of the Champions League.
The Polish international is now the third-highest goalscorer in the history of the competition, having scored 75 goals in just 97 appearances for German giants Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich – with a goal-per-game ratio equal to leading goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Lewandowski stormed onto the stage during his time in Dortmund and helped the Bundesliga team inspire the 2013 final.
Jürgen Klopp’s team failed after the final defeat against Bayern Munich at Wembley Stadium, for which Lewandowski would sign on a free transfer the following summer.
🇵🇱 Robert Lewandowski in the Champions League = 🔥
– UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 14, 2021
During his time at Bayern, the striker developed into one of the greatest goalscorers of his generation. Lewandowski now ranks only behind Gerd Müller among the best Bayern and Bundesliga scorers of all time.
He has scored an astonishing 58 goals in just 69 Champions League games for Bayern, including being the tournament’s top scorer when Bayern were crowned European champions in the 2019/20 season.
Reading – Iconic achievements: Lewandowski’s four-goal destruction of Real Madrid
Also Read – Poachers: Five of Football’s Ultimate Goalkeepers and Tap Dealers
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