Robert Lewandowski enjoyed a landmark moment this week after reaching a century of Champions League appearances, the forward celebrating the milestone moment in typical fashion with a brilliant hat-trick for Bayern Munich.
The Poland international has been one of the greatest goalscorers of his generation and continues to set standards for number nines across Europe, enjoying the best period of his remarkable career during his thirties.
Following Lewandowski’s latest achievement in becoming the tournament’s 42nd centurion, we’ve decided to look at the most prolific players in Champions League history.
Here are the six players with the most goals scored in their first 100 appearances in the competition.
Andriy Shevchenko – 48 goals
Andriy Shevchenko burst onto the scene as part of an exciting Dynamo Kyiv side in the late nineties, a period which included a stunning first-half hat-trick as the Ukrainian side thrashed Barcelona during the 1997/98 Champions League campaign.
Shevchenko finished as the leading scorer in the following season’s competition before signing for AC Milan, where he soon established himself as one of the greatest goalscorers in European football.
The forward twice finished as the leading scorer in the Champions League and played a crucial role in AC Milan’s success of the era, reaching two finals under Carlo Ancelotti and scoring the decisive penalty in the Rossoneri’s shoot-out win over Juventus in the 2003 final.
Shevchenko departed Milan as the club’s second-highest goalscorer of all time to sign for Chelsea, adding four further Champions League goals for the west Londoners despite a difficult spell at Stamford Bridge.
He retired with a record of 48 goals in Europe’s elite club competition, a figure achieved in exactly a century of appearances – edging the Ukrainian ahead of Thierry Henry (46) and Thomas Muller (42) on this list.
Raul – 51 goals
Before the phenomenal exploits of some names further down this list, Raul was hailed as the Champions League’s premier goalscorer following a stunning career at Real Madrid.
Raul emerged from the Spanish side’s youth ranks to become an iconic figure for Los Blancos, the forward playing a key role in Real’s return to the pinnacle of European football.
He became the youngest player ever to score a Champions League hat-trick on just his third appearance in the competition against Ferencváros, aged 18 years and 114 days, in 1995.
Raul also became the first player to finish as the Champions League’s leading scorer in successive seasons and the first to score in two finals, netting in Real Madrid’s triumphs over Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen in 2000 and 2002 respectively.
He finished his career as a three-time winner of the Champions League and with an overall record of 71 goals in 142 appearances, 51 of which came in his first 100 appearances.
Karim Benzema – 53 goals
Ranked slightly ahead of Raul is another Real Madrid icon, with Karim Benzema having scored 53 goals in his first 100 appearances in the Champions League.
Benzema has shown incredible consistency in the competition and has netted in every Champions League campaign since making his tournament debut in 2005, a record he shares with Lionel Messi after scoring in 17 successive seasons.
The France international has played an integral role in Real Madrid’s recent record in Europe, winning four trophies in just five seasons between 2014 and 2018, scoring in the latter final win against Liverpool in Kyiv.
Benzema is the fourth-highest goalscorer in Champions League history with 73 goals overall and will be crucial to his side’s hopes of mounting another challenge in 2021/22.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 64 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo is the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League, but ranks only third for most goals scored after 100 appearances in the competition.
Ronaldo remarkably failed to score in his first 29 fixtures in the competition before a brace for Manchester United against Roma ended his drought, with the Portugal international having since reached barely believable levels of success.
Ronaldo finished as the leading scorer as the Red Devils were crowned champions in 2008, before signing for Real Madrid the following summer and winning a further four trophies with the Spanish giants.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has compiled an extensive collection of tournament records, including for the most matches played (180), goals scored (139), most goals in Champions League season (17 – 2013/14), most goals scored in the Champions League knockout stages (67), and most Champions League final wins (5).
Ronaldo has shown few signs of slowing down in a competition that he has come to define across the past two decades, scoring five goals in four appearances since returning to Manchester United, including dramatic late goals against Villarreal and Atalanta (x2).
Lionel Messi – 77 goals
Lionel Messi ranks behind Ronaldo for overall goals in the Champions League, though scored 13 more than his great rival during his first 100 appearances amongst Europe’s elite.
Messi is a four-time winner of the Champions League and scored during Barcelona’s final successes in 2009 and 2011, whilst he has finished as the competition’s leading goalscorer on six occasions – one fewer than Ronaldo’s record of seven.
The Argentina international is also the only player to have scored five times in a Champions League knockout stage tie, following an iconic individual destruction of Bayer Leverkusen during the 2011/12 round of 16.
The 34-year-old has scored 123 goals in 152 career appearances in the Champions League, with no player bettering his 0.81 goal-per-game ratio amongst the leading scorers of the modern era.
Robert Lewandowski – 81 goals
Lewandowski can, however, match Messi’s goal-per-game ratio in the Champions League and holds the record for the most goals scored after 100 appearances in the competition.
Lewandowski scored a clinical hat-trick as Bayern Munich thrashed Benfica 5-2 on Tuesday evening, extending his record in the competition to 81 goals with another masterclass in finishing at the highest level.
A hat trick on his 100th Champions League appearance.
Just Lewandowski things 😎 pic.twitter.com/ccpyd27ivn
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 2, 2021
The Poland international scored 17 goals in the tournament for Borussia Dortmund, including becoming the first player to score four goals in a semi-final fixture against Real Madrid in 2012/13.
The forward’s move to Bayern in 2014 has since elevated his game to new levels, having amassed a record of 64 goals in just 72 Champions League appearances since his switch to Bavaria.
His finest campaign came during the 2019/20 season after scoring 15 goals in just 11 games, scoring in all but one fixture he played as Bayern sealed treble success with a final victory over PSG in Lisbon.
Lewandowski has already scored eight goals in just four appearances in 2021/22 and spearheads a Bayern side who will be difficult to beat in this season’s competition.