The UEFA Champions League is the home of football’s glitz and glamour and where only the wealthiest of clubs compete, but whilst money can buy you a host of leading talents and star signings, it does not guarantee loyalty.
Remaining at the pinnacle of club football for the majority of your career is an achievement in itself, but do so largely at one-club deserves perhaps even greater credit.
This list of players have given a significant time of dedicated service to some of world football’s biggest sides, here are the six players to appear in the most Champions League seasons for a single club:
Sergio Ramos – 16 seasons (Real Madrid)
Sergio Ramos has recently entered his 16th Champions League season in the colours of Real Madrid, the defender having established himself as one of the greatest players in the modern history of the record 13-time winners.
Ramos came through the ranks at Sevilla before moving to the Bernabeu as a teenager, becoming the most expensive defender in Spanish football history at that time.
That fee, however, has proven one of the club’s shrewdest investments with Ramos having enjoyed a glittering career with Los Blancos, winning five league titles and the Champions League on four occasions.
Ramos formed part of the side which won four trophies in just five seasons, including three in succession between 2016 and 2018 as Real Madrid became the first side to defend the trophy in the Champions League era.
His impact on those triumphs has been immeasurable, twice scoring in final victories over Atletico Madrid, including a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser to force extra-time as Real became champions of Europe for a tenth time in 2014.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have ever scored more than his two Champions League final goals, a remarkable achievement for a centre-back who has often delivered when it matters most.
Iker Casillas – 16 seasons (Real Madrid)
Another player whose legend was built on the Champions League stage and in the colours of Real Madrid, Iker Casillas spent almost two decades as the club’s goalkeeping custodian.
Casillas came through the academy system at the Spanish giants before earning his opportunity as a teenager, becoming the youngest ever goalkeeper to play in a Champions League final as Real Madrid beat Valencia in the first all-La Liga showpiece in 2000.
Casillas then added a second European crown two years later as Real Madrid enjoyed a fine period of success shortly after the turn of the millennium, remaining first-choice and captaining the side to a wealth of domestic success over the next decade.
He captained the side to their fabled La Decima triumph in 2014 to add a third Champions League title to his collection, with no player having ever made more than his 177 appearances in the competition.
Casillas played in 16 different Champions League seasons with the club before a four-year spell with Portuguese side Porto before his retirement.
Xavi – Barcelona – 16 seasons (Barcelona)
A key part of arguably the greatest midfield of all-time, Xavi formed part of a Barcelona side that helped revolutionise football on the Champions League stage.
The Spaniard was the centre-piece of the side which introduced tiki-taka to the football world, a diminutive midfield line-up whose recycling of possession bewildered opponents and brought huge success to the Camp Nou.
Xavi played in 16 seasons for Barcelona and won the competition four times under three different managers, his first coming under the guidance of Frank Rijkaard after beating Arsenal in 2006.
The peak of Xavi’s career and Barcelona’s recent history came with two triumphs in three seasons under Pep Guardiola, their football amongst the most spellbinding ever witnessed with the midfielder starring alongside the likes of Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
Xavi claimed a fourth Champions League as part of a treble under Luis Enrique in 2015 before winding down his career at Al Sadd, his 151 appearances the third-highest of any player in the tournament’s history.
Paul Scholes – 17 seasons (Manchester United)
The former Manchester United midfielder spent his entire career with the Old Trafford outfit and enjoyed a glittering career at the top, forming part of the side which dominated English football under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Scholes won a staggering 11 league titles with the Red Devils and also made his mark in the Champions League, featuring in 17 different campaigns and becoming the second-highest scoring Englishman in the competition’s history behind only Wayne Rooney.
Scholes played a key part in the club’s run to a historic treble and first European crown in 31 years during the 1998/99 campaign, though agonisingly missed the final victory over Bayern Munich through suspension.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 15, 2019
Redemption would come almost a decade later as United reached the 2008 final, Scholes scoring a stunning semi-final winner against Barcelona to set up a first-ever all-Premier League final against Chelsea, the Red Devils emerging victorious following a penalty shoot-out in Moscow.
Lionel Messi – 17 seasons (Barcelona)
There are few superlatives yet to have been bestowed upon Lionel Messi following a record-breaking career at Barcelona, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner regarded by many as the greatest player the game has seen.
Messi’s exploits include winning ten league titles with the Spanish giants and earning four Champions League winners’ medals, scoring in the club’s final victories over Manchester United in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
The superstar of arguably the best club side world football has seen during that peak under Pep Guardiola, Messi is one of just two players – alongside Cristiano Ronaldo – to have scored over a century of goals in the Champions League and this season became the first to score in 16 successive seasons, an achievement later matched by Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.
Some of Messi’s greatest moments have come in European competition, including four and five goal individual destructions of Arsenal and Bayer Leverkusen, whilst his stunning solo effort against Real Madrid in the 2011 semi-finals set Barcelona on their way to another Champions League triumph.
His current record stands at a phenomenal 117 goals in 145 appearances in the Champions League, the Argentine remaining Barcelona’s greatest hope of being crowned champions once more.
Ryan Giggs – 19 seasons (Manchester United)
No player has played in more Champions League seasons for one-club than Ryan Giggs, a player who became the most decorated in English football history following more than two decades at Manchester United.
Giggs became the all-time record appearance maker for the Red Devils after making 963 appearances in all competitions, 141 of which came in the Champions League over the course of 19 separate campaigns.
The Welshman played a key role in United’s treble-winning season during the 1998/99 campaign, scoring a vital stoppage-time equaliser in the first leg of the club’s semi-final against Juventus, and remained an important figure as the club lifted the Champions League once more nine years later.
Giggs scored his penalty during the shoot-out success against Chelsea at a rain-soaked Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, lifting the trophy alongside Rio Ferdinand in the Russian capital and adding another Champions League trophy to a medal haul that included over 20 major honours at the time of his retirement.