Cristiano Ronaldo recently matched Iker Casillas’ record to become the joint-top appearance maker in the tournament.
The UEFA Champions League is the pinnacle of club football. For many players, playing in the UCL is a dream and achieving it takes a lot of hard work. Many consider it to be the most prestigious club football tournament in the world. Only the best teams across Europe play in the competition, which sees the top talents in the continent feature in it.
In the history of the competition, there have been players who have made a lot of appearances across many editions. While playing a single match is a dream for many, the following figures have gone on to make astounding numbers. These legends of the game have had long and successful careers, playing at the elite level for a long period of time.
Cristiano Ronaldo recently matched the record for most appearances in the competition held by a former teammate for a long time. Shifting the focus towards the record-breakers, here are the top 10 players with most appearances in the UEFA Champions League:
10. Sergio Ramos – 129 matches
Sergio Ramos has played 129 games in the competition and is one of the many active players in the list. He had featured for Real Madrid CF till the 2020-21 season, but has since moved to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021.
The Spaniard has won the competition four times. He was a crucial factor in the three-successive UEFA Champions League victories by the La Liga giants in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He would certainly like to win the competition with the Ligue 1 heavyweights and record more appearances in the process.
9. Karim Benzema – 132 matches
Karim Benzema is the leading Frenchman with the most number of UEFA Champions League appearances. He has featured in 132 matches until now. The striker has played for Olympique Lyonnais and Real Madrid in the competition, winning it four times with the latter.
Furthermore, he has scored 72 goals and made 27 assists in the competition so far. The 33-year-old still has a few years of top-level football left in him and will continue to rack up more appearances.
8. Andres Iniesta – 130 matches
The list is dominated by Spaniards which reflects Spain’s dominance in the competition over the past decade. Andres Iniesta is the next figure in the ranking with 130 matches in the UEFA Champions League. The midfielder was loyal to the cause and played only for FC Barcelona in Europe.
Iniesta has four UCL winner’s medals, all won with Barcelona. He has 11 goals and 29 assists in that period as well. The 37-year-old currently plays for Vissel Kobe in Japan, therefore he may not feature in European competition again.
7. Paolo Maldini – 135 matches
Legendary defender Paolo Maldini is next on the list with 135 appearances in the competition. The Italian was an AC Milan player during the entirety of his playing career and featured only for them in the UEFA Champions League as well.
He won the UCL (previously known as European Champions Club Cup) a total of five times, making him one of the most decorated players ever. Maldini is also the highest appearances holder among defenders.
6. Raul – 142 matches
Raul has played 142 times in the UEFA Champions League. The Spaniard is a legendary figure in Real Madrid CF but he also featured for FC Schalke 04 in the competition. However, the striker won the UCL a total of three times and it was with the La Liga giants.
Furthermore, Raul was a prolific goalscorer in the UCL, and has 71 strikes to his name. He stands at the fourth position at the moment tied with Benzema in the list of highest goalscorers in UCL. Raul retired as a professional player in 2015.
5. Ryan Giggs – 145 matches
The Welshman played for Manchester United for the entirety of his senior career and is their record-appearance maker in all competitions. The Welshman made over 932 appearances for the Red Devils and 145 of them came in the UEFA Champions League. He won the competition two times, in 1998/99 and 2007/08.
Moreover, he has 28 goals and 46 assists in those 145 appearances. Ryan Giggs retired as a professional player in 2014, concluding a highly decorative career laden with multiple league and cup wins. He has now forayed into the sport as a manager.
4. Lionel Messi – 151 matches
The Argentine maestro has played 151 matches in the UEFA Champions League. The legendary footballer is still active and has a few years of top-level football left in him. Messi recently bid farewell to FC Barcelona, the club where he established his legendary status and joined Paris Saint-Germain.
The 34-year-old has four winner’s medals from the competition, and will hope to help PSG win their first. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has 162 goal contributions (121 goals and 41 assists) in 151 matches and will most likely add to the tally.
3. Xavi – 151 matches
The Spaniard was also loyal to FC Barcelona and remained at the club all his career while he was in Europe. He won countless trophies with the Blaugrana, including four UCL trophies. He is the leading midfielder with most appearances in the competition as well.
Xavi also scored 11 goals and provided 32 assists during that time. The 41-year-old joined Qatari club Al Sadd SC in 2015 before retiring as a professional player in 2019. He is currently the manager at the same club.
2. Iker Casillas – 177 matches
One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Casillas held the record for most UEFA Champions League appearances for a very long time. He has played 177 games in the competition, the most for a goalkeeper and a Spaniard. The custodian won the competition three times with Real Madrid CF after spending almost all of his career there.
Casillas joined FC Porto before retiring as a professional player in 2020. He made a few UCL appearances for the Portuguese club as well before hanging up his boots for good. His record has been matched and will soon break, making him the second-highest appearance maker in the UCL.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – 178 matches
The Portuguese broke Iker Casillas’ long-time standing record of 177 UEFA Champions League appearances on September 30, 2021 against Spanish side Villarreal. The forward rejoined Manchester United in a sensational move in the summer of 2021, hoping to help the club get back to winning ways.
Ronaldo is in a league of his own when it comes to fitness and will probably try to reach the 200-mark. He has won the UCL five times, and will hope to win it a second time with Manchester United. He is also the highest scorer of the tournament with 136 goals. Apart from Manchester United, he has represented Real Madrid and Juventus in the competition.
** The statistics are correct as of September 30, 2021.