149 days since it ground to a halt, the UEFA Champions League returns to action this evening as the 2019/20 season finally edges towards it’s delayed conclusion.
This years competition will draw to a close in somewhat unfamiliar circumstances in a mini-tournament style format in Lisbon, with the quarters and semis being played over just a single leg.
The tournament hosts the world’s finest footballing talents with only the very best earning their opportunity to partake amongst Europe’s elite, and we’ve decided to look back at some iconic figures from the competition’s illustrious history.
This feature celebrates an exclusive group of players who have enjoyed unprecedented longevity at the very highest level, a collection of famous faces who have made over a century of Champions League appearances.
Here are the rankings of every member of the Champions League ‘100 club’:
Andriy Shevchenko – 100 appearances
Shevchenko reached a century of Champions League appearances over a lengthy career on the European stage, the Ukrainian amongst the most feared forwards on the continent at the peak of his powers.
He burst onto the scene as part of an exciting Dynamo Kyiv side which reached the semi-finals in the late nineties, finishing as the joint leading scorer in the tournament to earn a record move to AC Milan.
It was at the Rossoneri where he starred on a consistent basis at Champions League level, scoring prolifically to help the club to two finals in three seasons and win the 2004 Ballon d’Or.
His crowning moment came in the 2003 final against Juventus, scoring the winning penalty as Milan were crowned champions of Europe for a sixth time at Old Trafford. He remains the joint ninth-highest scoring player in Champions League history, scoring 48 goals over spells with Dynamo Kyiv, Milan and Chelsea.
Toni Kroos – 102 appearances
The most recent inclusion in the Champions League ‘100 club’, Kroos reached a century of appearances during Real Madrid’s win at Galatasaray in December, fittingly scoring the only goal of the game in Istanbul.
The Germany international has starred in the tournament in recent years, winning the competition for the first time as part of a treble-winning season at Bayern Munich in 2013 before adding a further three trophies since making the move to the Bernabeu.
Kroos has been crucial to a dominant period for record-winners Real, becoming the first side in the Champions League era to defend the title – winning the trophy for three consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2018.
Luis Figo – 103 appearances
One of the stars of European football at the turn of the millennium and the first Galactico signing of a new era at Real Madrid in 2000, the former Ballon d’Or winner made 103 appearances in the Champions League during spells at Barcelona, Real and Inter Milan.
The former Portuguese international lifted the trophy for the sole time in his career in 2002, Real Madrid beating Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park courtesy of a sensational winning goal from Zinedine Zidane.
Oliver Kahn – 103 appearances
The finest goalkeeper in world football for much of a storied career at Bayern Munich, Kahn made 632 appearances in all competitions for the German giants – including 103 in the Champions League – and won a wealth of major silverware.
Named as Champions League’s best goalkeeper for four successive seasons between 1999 and 2002, Kahn twice helped the Bavarians to finals during that period, producing a Man of the Match performance as Bayern beat Valencia on penalties in the 2001 final in Milan.
Cesc Fabregas – 104 appearances
One of just three players on this feature not to have been crowned as a Champions League winner, Fabregas enjoyed a series of near misses in European football at the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea.
The Spanish midfielder helped Arsenal to the 2006 final only to suffer defeat to Barcelona in Paris, before joining the Catalan side five years later. Despite winning two of the previous three tournaments, however, Barcelona failed to recapture the Champions League during Fabregas’ three year spell at the Camp Nou, twice losing out in the semi-finals to Chelsea and Bayern Munich respectively.
The playmaker later joined Chelsea but failed to progress beyond the last-16 at Stamford Bridge before signing for Monaco in January 2019.
Frank Lampard – 105 appearances
The Chelsea player-turned-manager represented the club with distinction throughout a Champions League career that delivered over 100 appearances, twice reaching the final with the west London side.
Having scored in a losing effort to Manchester United in Moscow in 2008, Lampard returned to the showpiece four years later as captain in the absence of the suspended John Terry, leading Chelsea to a penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich to become the first London side to win the Champions League.
He later made an additional three Champions League appearances during a brief spell at Manchester City.
Víctor Valdés – 106 appearances
Valdés proved the last line of defence for a Barcelona side which enjoyed a hugely successful period in recent Champions League history, winning the trophy on three occasions during his time at the Camp Nou.
Having helped Barcelona to their first trophy of the Champions League era in 2006, Valdés later formed part of the side which won two trophies in three seasons under Pep Guardiola – beating Manchester United in the 2009 and 2011 finals respectively.
The Spanish shot-stopper made 106 Champions League appearances for the Catalan side, later enjoying spells at Manchester United, Standard Liège and Middlesbrough before retiring from football.
Manuel Neuer – 107 appearances
Regarded by many as the finest goalkeeper of his generation, Neuer first appeared in the competition with Schalke before flourishing into arguably the world’s best following a move to Bayern Munich.
Neuer reached the final for the first time in 2012 only to suffer an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Chelsea at Bayern’s own Allianz Arena, though the club showed remarkable consistency to bounce back and reach another showpiece the following season.
The Germany international kept clean sheets in both legs of the quarter-final and semi-final ties to set up an all-Bundesliga meeting with Borussia Dortmund at Wembley, Arjen Robben’s late goal proving the difference and crowning Bayern champions of Europe.
David Beckham – 107 appearances
The former England captain represented some of the game’s biggest clubs during a stellar Champions League career, turning out for Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain in Europe’s elite club competition.
Beckham helped inspire the former to success in the tournament during an incredible 1998/99 treble-winning season under Sir Alex Ferguson, his pinpoint delivery helping provide both goals as United scored twice in stoppage-time to beat Bayern Munich in stunning fashion at the Camp Nou.
His performances saw him named as UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, in addition to finishing as the runner-up in both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.
Patrice Evra – 108 appearances
The French full-back made 108 Champions League appearances throughout his career and regularly featured in the latter stages of the competition, reaching five finals during spells at Monaco, Manchester United and Juventus.
However, he became the first player in history to lose the tournament’s showpiece on four occasions following Juventus’ defeat to Barcelona in 2015, his sole success coming seven years earlier as United beat Chelsea in the first ever all-Premier League final in Moscow.
Ashley Cole – 108 appearances
Sitting level with Evra is another of the Premier League’s finest full-backs, Cole having also made 108 Champions League appearances during a 15-year career spent amongst European football’s elite.
The former England international was part of the Arsenal side beaten in the 2006 final against Barcelona, in what proved to be his final appearance for the Gunners before a switch to London rivals Chelsea.
Cole lost for a second time in the final against Manchester United in 2008, before finally getting his hand on the game’s biggest prize four years later following Chelsea’s penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich – the full-back converting his spot-kick as Roberto Di Matteo’s side were crowned champions.
Andrea Pirlo – 108 appearances
One of the greatest deep-lying playmakers the game has seen, Pirlo brought his touch of class to club football’s biggest stage during spells at Italian football’s ‘big three’ – Inter, AC Milan and Juventus.
It was during his time under Carlo Ancelotti at Milan where he made his most significant contribution to the Champions League era, reaching three finals in five seasons and twice lifting the trophy under his compatriot.
Twice beaten in finals in addition to his two successes, Pirlo memorably missed a penalty during Milan’s shoot-out defeat to Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005.
John Terry – 109 appearances
The leader behind Chelsea’s ascendancy to status amongst European football’s superclubs, perhaps fewer players have enjoyed a more difficult relationship with the Champions League than John Terry.
Beaten three times in semi-finals before reaching the showpiece for the first time in 2008, Terry had the chance to win the trophy for the Blues from the penalty spot, taking the potentially deciding spot-kick against Manchester United in Moscow.
The former England captain agonisingly slipped on a rain-soaked turf as United were eventually crowned champions, though Terry helped his side reach the final once more four years later.
However, a red card in the last four against Barcelona meant the centre-back missed the final victory over Bayern Munich, though memorably joined in the celebrations post-match – somewhat bizarrely in full kit.
Gary Neville – 109 appearances
One of several Manchester United stalwarts to feature on this list, Neville spent his entire career at Old Trafford and played his part in a hugely successful era for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, featuring regularly in the Champions League’s latter stages during a dominant period in English football.
Part of the side which beat Bayern Munich to claim a historic treble in 1999, Neville claimed his second winners’ medal nine years later as Chelsea were beaten on penalties in Moscow – though the club captain did not make the matchday squad for the final victory.
Paolo Maldini – 109 appearances
The term legend is often banded around loosely in modern football but there is no disputing Paulo Maldini’s place amongst the sport’s all-time greats following an incredible one-club career at AC Milan.
The Italian spent his entire career in the famed red and black colours of Milan, breaking a host of records including the club’s most ever appearances and winning an incredible array of silverware.
Maldini won Europe’s biggest prize twice before the Champions League era before adding a further three trophies to his collection, his record of eight final appearances the most in history alongside Real Madrid icon Francisco Gento.
The defender also holds the records as the oldest ever final goalscorer and for the fastest goal in final history, setting both records simultaneously during Milan’s defeat to Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005.
Arjen Robben – 110 appearances
Another player to have represented some of the continent’s leading clubs, Robben made 110 Champions League appearances during spells at PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
It was during a decade long stay at the latter, however, where the Dutchman enjoyed his greatest moments, including a redemption story on the Champions League’s biggest stage.
Robben missed a penalty in extra-time as Bayern were beaten by former side Chelsea during the 2012 final at Allianz Arena, before the Bavarian’s returned to the showpiece the following season.
After a tight final against Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, Robben exorcised his demons with a dramatic late winner at Wembley to crown Bayern champions and secure a historic treble for Jupp Heynckes’ team.
Not bad for a one-trick pony.
Thomas Muller – 111 appearances
Another member of Bayern’s victorious side of 2013, Muller has produced consistently for club and country since coming through the youth ranks at the German giants.
The versatile forward has played an influential role in Bayern’s successes of modern times, scoring 44 goals in 111 Champions League appearances for the club including the opener as the Bavarians were beaten in the 2012 final by Chelsea.
Muller’s contribution has proved invaluable to Bayern in recent seasons, helping the perennial contenders to at least the semi-final stage in six of the past eight seasons.
Petr Cech – 111 appearances
Chelsea legend and three-time winner of UEFA Club Football’s Goalkeeper of the Year award, Petr Cech made over century of appearances in the Champions League with the vast majority coming during a trophy-laden spell with the west London side.
Having formed part of the side which finished as runners-up in 2008, Cech played a crucial role in the club’s inaugural Champions League success four years later, saving a penalty from the aforementioned Arjen Robben in extra-time before denying both Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger during the Blues’ shoot-out success over Bayern Munich.
Dani Alves – 111 appearances
The most decorated player in the history of football with over 40 trophies to his name, former Barcelona great Alves was also a serial winner on Europe’s biggest stage, lifting the Champions League on three occasions during a hugely successful period at the Camp Nou.
Alves was part of the Barcelona side crowned champions in 2009, 2011 and 2015, before being on the losing side as Juventus were beaten by Real Madrid in 2017.
The Brazilian made 111 appearances in the competition during his career, representing Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.
Sergio Busquets – 112 appearances
The backbone and unsung hero of arguably the greatest midfield ever witnessed, the press-resistant Busquets has been a vital cog in Barcelona’s winning machine and one of the best one-touch midfielders of the modern era.
Illustrious teammates such as Xaxi and Andres Iniesta may have taken more of the headlines, but there is no denying Busquet’s importance during three Champions League-winning seasons at the Camp Nou.
His on-pitch theatrics mean his likability is subject of debate, his quality, however, is not.
Phillip Lahm – 112 appearances
A diminutive star who would go on to become a great of German football, Lahm’s unerring consistency, footballing intelligence and leadership qualities saw him secure legendary status at Bayern Munich and make over a century of Champions League appearances.
The full-back made over 500 appearances in all competitions for the club and won 16 major honours, including lifting the 2013 Champions League as captain following victory over Borussia Dortmund in London.
Thierry Henry – 112 appearances
Regarded by many as the greatest player in Premier League history, Henry starred during an eight-year spell at Arsenal and produced many a magical moment on the Champions League stage for the Gunners, including virtuoso displays in memorable away victories at both Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
Defeat in the 2006 final to Barcelona was as close as the Frenchman came to lifting the trophy with the north London side, however, joining the club’s conquerors the following year in search of the coveted trophy.
Henry formed a scintillating forward partnership with Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o as Barcelona beat Manchester United in the 2009 showpiece, completing a famed treble and adding a winners’ medal to the resume of a player who scored 50 goals in 112 Champions League appearances.
Gerard Pique – 114 appearances
One of just four players to win the Champions League in consecutive seasons with different clubs, Pique was part of Manchester United’s victorious squad in 2008 before returning to his native Spain with Barcelona.
His return to his boyhood side saw Pique flourish into one of European football’s finest defenders, lifting the Champions League for a second time during his debut season as part of a famed treble under Pep Guardiola.
Pique has since gone on to make over a century of Champions League appearances, the four-time winner adding further trophies in 2011 and 2015.
Carles Puyol – 115 appearances
The curious case of a player seemingly ill-fitting to Barcelona’s famed footballing style but a defender who established himself as one of the great player’s in the club’s modern history.
Puyol didn’t join the club’s academy system until his late teens and his technical ability left a lot to be desired, but the shaggy-haired battler made himself a Barca legend with his full-blooded commitment and relentless will to succeed.
The former Spain international won three Champions League titles in a career that delivered almost 600 appearances in all competitions, including 115 on Europe’s biggest stage as he captained the side in faultless fashion.
Karim Benzema – 119 appearances
Perhaps the most underrated forward of the past decade given the accolades often handed to many of his footballing peers on the continent, Benzema has thrived as the focal point at arguably the biggest club in world football.
The Frenchman burst onto the scene with Lyon before joining Real Madrid in 2009, where he has since gone on to make a century of Champions League appearances for Los Blancos and help the club lift the trophy on four occasions.
A scorer as Liverpool were beaten during the Spanish side’s most recent final success in 2018, Benzema is the joint-fourth leading goalscorer in Champions League history.
Xabi Alonso – 119 appearances
One of the greatest midfielders of modern times, Alonso would twice lift the Champions League during spells at European football royalty including Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
The classy playmaker from Spain’s Basque region scored the equaliser as Liverpool memorably came from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties in the 2005 final in Istanbul, before forming part of the Real Madrid side who secured a record-extending 10th title – the fabled La Decima – in 2014, though he missed the latter final through suspension.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 119 appearances
The only player in Champions League history to have scored in the competition for six different teams, Ibrahimovic’s storied career has taken in spells at some of the game’s greatest clubs.
Sweden’s all-time record goalscorer has scored prolifically on European football’s biggest stage, his 48 goals in the competition making him the joint-ninth leading scorer in Champions League history.
For all of his wealth of domestic honours, however, Ibrahimovic looks unlikely to ever lift the highly-coveted trophy and remains one of the best players never to have won club football’s biggest prize.
Roberto Carlos – 120 appearances
A pioneer for the modern full-back and one of the game’s great attacking defenders, Roberto Carlos’ forays down the left flank for Real Madrid marked him out as arguably the finest left-back of his generation.
The buccaneering Brazilian lifted the Champions League on three occasions for the Spanish giants, Los Blancos winning the famous trophy in European football three times between 1998 and 2002.
Carlos made 120 appearances in the Champions League during spells at Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, developing a reputation for the spectacular with some of the most famous thunderbastards in recent memory.
Gianluigi Buffon – 123 appearances
For a player whose achievements have seen ranked amongst the best numbers ones in football history, Buffon’s lack of a winners medal in the Champions League remains one of the games great tragedies.
Three times the Italian goalkeeper has reached the pinnacle of European football, only to suffer agonising defeats on each occasion, including a penalty shoot-out loss to AC Milan in 2003 after a snore-fest of a final at Old Trafford.
A brief move to Paris-Saint Germain failed to improve his fortunes, Buffon returning to Juventus last summer where he continues to seek a maiden UCL title past his 42nd birthday.
Paul Scholes – 124 appearances
Having come through the club’s famed youth academy as part of the ‘Class of 92‘, Scholes would help form the nucleus of a Manchester United side that would dominate domestically and achieve success further from home.
Scholes twice lifted the trophy – though he was suspended for the 1999 final – and scored 24 goals in 124 appearances, with no English player having played more times in the competition.
His finest moment came with a stunning semi-final winner against Barcelona during the club’s triumphant 2008 campaign, the goal remembered as one of the greatest in the Red Devils’ Champions League history.
Sergio Ramos – 124 appearances
Love him or loathe him, few players have made as big an impression on the Champions League as Sergio Ramos in recent seasons.
A stalwart of a Real Madrid side which has dominated on the European scene, Ramos has proven the man for the biggest occasions for Los Blancos, twice scoring in final victories over city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more final goals than Ramos – a remarkable feat for a defender – with his stoppage-time equaliser to force extra-time the crucial moment in the club’s La Decima success.
A four-time winner of the tournament, his 124 appearances are joint-ninth most of any player.
Clarence Seedorf – 125 appearances
The only player in history to win the Champions League with three different clubs, former Netherlands midfielder Seedorf is European footballing royalty courtesy off a brilliant career at the highest level.
Part of an exciting, young Ajax side which conquered Europe in the mid-nineties, Seedorf later joined Real Madrid and added another Champions League title to his collection in 1998.
The greatest part of his career came during a decade spent with AC Milan, however, winning two Champions League titles under Carlo Ancelotti and making over 400 appearances in all competitions for the Italian giants.
Andres Iniesta – 130 appearances
One of the key figures in arguably the greatest club side the world has seen at Barcelona, Iniesta’s effortless brilliance marked him out as one of the stars of a generation and amongst the best players in the history of Spanish football.
The midfielder won the Champions League on four occasions during a glittering career in Catalonia, captaining the side to their most recent triumph with victory over Juventus in the 2015 final.
Iniesta made 130 appearances in the competition for Barcelona before his departure in 2018, the iconic playmaker currently winding down his career in Japanese football with Vissel Kobe.
Ryan Giggs – 141 appearances
The most decorated player in the history of the English game, Manchester United legend Giggs was a crucial part of an era which saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side enjoy almost two decades of domestic dominance.
Amongst their 13 Premier League titles came two Champions League trophies, Giggs playing key roles in the club’s successes in both 1999 and 2008.
The first of those trophies would come as part of an unprecedented treble, before Giggs would come off the bench to convert a penalty against Chelsea in the first ever all-English final in Moscow nine years later.
Lionel Messi – 141 appearances
Lionel Messi for some – with good reason – is the greatest footballer ever to play the game.
Messi, alongside great rival Cristiano Ronaldo, has enjoyed lengthy careers that seems to have made the extraordinary become increasingly routine. The Argentine continues to produce mind-boggling numbers of goals, assists and magical moments, with the Champions League amongst his favourite stages.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has won the tournament on four occasions, finishing as the competition’s top scorer six times and scoring a barely believable 114 times in just 141 appearances.
Raul – 142 appearances
The first ever member of the Champion League’s ‘100 club’, only three players have ever made more appearances in the competition than Real Madrid legend Raul and just two have scored more goals than the prolific Spaniard.
A triple winner of the competition during a glittering career at the Bernabeu, Raul would help the Spanish giants to win the competition three times in just five years between 1998 and 2003, scoring in the latter two final victories over Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.
Xavi – 151 appearances
The greatest Spanish player ever? That might be some accolade, but Xavi is most certainly a contender.
The heartbeat of Barcelona and Spain teams which would revolutionise modern football, Xavi was the creative fulcrum at the centre of the tiki-taka era which would bring a wealth of success to Spanish football.
Having helped end Barcelona’s 14-year wait for European success in 2006, the midfield dictator would add a further three Champions League titles over the next nine seasons to establish himself as one of the great playmakers of all-time.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 169 appearances
Ronaldo’s out-of-the-ordinary talents have seen the five-time Ballon d’Or winner treat the Champions League stage as his own personal playground.
The Portuguese star’s desire to be regarded as the greatest ever is no secret, and he seems to acknowledge that delivering in the Champions League is the way to achieve his dream.
So far, he has delivered and then some.
His list of records include being the competition’s greatest ever goalscorer, whilst he also became the first player ever to win the tournament five times since its rebranding and only player to score in three separate Champions League finals.
Iker Casillas – 177 appearances
The youngest goalkeeper ever to feature in the competition at the time of his debut in 1999, Casillas would go on to become the youngest man to ever play in, and win, a final later that season as the Spanish giants were crowned champions just four days after his 19th birthday.
He would win the tournament again two years later, defeating Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park, before lifting the trophy for a third time as Real secured La Decima in 2014.
His latter career saw him move to Portuguese side Porto, where he continued to add to his record appearance total before his official retirement from the game in 2020.
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