Neymar achieved a milestone moment in the Champions League this week after hitting a stunning hat-trick for Paris Saint-Germain, becoming just the 15th player to reach 40 goals in the competition in the modern era.
The Brazilian was at his brilliant best to book PSG’s passage into the knockout stages as group winners, tormenting the Istanbul Basaksehir defence to finish with three goals and the match ball.
Neymar also became the first ever player to score 20+ goals in the Champions League for two different clubs, reaching the tally during successful spells at both Barcelona and PSG.
Following the star’s latest acheivement we’ve decided to look at some of the most prolific players in the tournament’s history, here are the five fastest players to reach 40 Champions League goals:
Karim Benzema – 67 games
Had Karim Benzema played his football in an era not dominated by two multiple Ballon d’Or winners, he perhaps may have earned more credit for a career that leaves him as one of the most successful forwards in Champions League history.
Benzema rose to prominence at Lyon before his performances for the French side attracted the interest of Real Madrid, the youngster moving to the Bernabeu as part of an incredible window of recruitment that saw Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xabi Alonso head to the Spanish capital.
The 32-year-old has outlasted each of those illustrious names and remains a key figure for Los Blancos over a decade later, his 69 goals the fifth-highest of any player in the Champions League’s history.
Benzema took just 67 games amongst Europe’s elite to reach the 40-goal landmark, with the Frenchman having played his part in a dominant era for Real Madrid on club football’s biggest stage, winning four winners’ medals including three in succession between 2016 and 2018.
He remains a talismanic figure for the record 13-time winners and this month became just the third player – after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – to reach 50 goals in the group stage with a double against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Neymar – 65 games
Neymar’s 40th goal this week came in his 65th appearance in the Champions League, the fourth fastest any player has reached the landmark in the competition’s history.
The Brazilian first featured in the competition for Barcelona and scored 21 goals in 40 appearances for the Catalans, finishing as the joint-leading scorer during the club’s triumphant 2014/15 campaign as he formed a devastating forward line alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Neymar became the most expensive player in the history of football with a world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, where his goal record has only increased with some sensational displays in Europe with the Parisians.
The 28-year-old has scored 20 goals in just 25 appearances for PSG following his midweek hat-trick against Istanbul Basaksehir, a treble which saw him become just the seventh player to score 3+ Champions League hat-tricks.
Only seven players have scored 3+ Champions League hat-tricks:
🇦🇷 Lionel Messi x8
🇵🇹 Cristiano Ronaldo x8
🇵🇱 Robert Lewandowski x3
🇩🇪 Mario Gómez x3
🇮🇹 Filippo Inzaghi x3
🇧🇷 Luiz Adriano x3
🇧🇷 Neymar x3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 9, 2020
His record now stands at an incredible 65 goal involvements in 65 Champions League appearances after adding 25 assists to his 40 goals, the performances of the Brazil international crucial to PSG’s hopes of winning the trophy this season after a runners-up finish in 2020.
Robert Lewandowski – 61 games
Robert Lewandowski’s form in recent seasons has catapulted him into the conversation of the world’s finest footballer, reaching extraordinary levels of consistency to fire Bayern Munich to success.
The Poland international reached the 40-goal milestone in just 61 appearances in the competition, with only one player having ever achieved the feat in quicker fashion.
Lewandowski recently moved level with Raul on 71 goals in the Champions League, the equal-third highest of any player in history behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The 31-year-old starred as Bayern Munich were crowned as champions in record-breaking style last season, scoring a staggering 15 goals as the Bavarians became the first team to win every single fixture on their way to winning the Champions League.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) November 25, 2020
That haul was part of a career-best 55 goals in all competitions with the star having now scored 40+ in five consecutive campaigns for Bayern, his clinical consistency frightening with the forward a chance on current form to become just the third player to reach a fabled Champions League century.
Lionel Messi – 61 games
Sitting level with Lewandowski as the second-fastest player to 40 goals is Lionel Messi, a player few will be surprised to see feature highly on this list.
For many the Argentine is the greatest footballer to have ever played the game, a mesmerising talent who has broadened the thinking of what is possible for the sport’s leading figures.
Alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi has transformed the game and broken countless record along the way, the record six-time Ballon d’Or winner often saving his very best for the Champions League stage.
Messi has won club football’s biggest prize on four occasions with the Catalans and scored in final victories over Manchester United in 2009 and 2011, the forward at the forefront of arguably the best club side of all time during the height of Pep Guardiola’s Camp Nou reign.
Messi shares the record with Ronaldo for most hat-tricks with eight, whilst only the 33-year-old and the aforementioned Benzema have scored in 16 consecutive Champions League campaigns.
His current record stands at 118 goals in 147 appearances in the competition, the statistics only telling half the story of a player for who superlatives fail to do justice.
Ruud van Nistelrooy – 45 game
The fastest player in the history of the Champions League to reach 40 goals – and by some distance – is Ruud van Nistelrooy, a forward who lived and breathed scoring goals at the height of his career.
Van Nistlerooy was the quintessential penalty-box poacher and amongst Europe’s elite at his very best, scoring prolifically on the Champions League stage during spells at the likes of PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and Real Madrid.
It was during a five-year spell in the Premier League that the forward was at his devastating best, finishing as the Champions League’s top scorer three times in just four seasons as the Red Devils perennially reached the latter stages.
No player has ever scored more Champions League goals for Manchester United, his 35 leaving him ahead of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
Good morning to everybody, especially to Ruud Van Nistelrooy who, as it goes, loved plundering goals more than you love anything in your life; a *very* good morning to you.
— These Football Times (@thesefootytimes) October 20, 2020
Van Nistelrooy remarkably reached 40 goals in just 45 appearances in the Champions League, finishing his career with 56 goals – the sixth-highest figure in the tournament’s illustrious history.
Amongst the most iconic figures never to have won the trophy, there were few forwards as feared as Van Nistelrooy during the Dutchman’s prolific pomp.