The elite European competition has seen some incredible three-peats being scored over the years.
UEFA Champions League is arguably the most prestigious competition in club football, one which every European team and every player aspires to win. There is something mystical about a Champions League fixture that brings out the best in players, regardless of their current form. While scoring a goal is something each player desires, scoring three on the night is the stuff of dreams that only a few have been able to realise.
The incredible hat-trick performance by Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus in the 3-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday in the Round of 16 reminds us of the great individual performances in the Champions League over the years. We take a look at some of the best hat-tricks scored in the knockout stages of the tournament.
5. Robin van Persie vs Olympiacos – 2013-14
The first season after the Sir Alex Ferguson era did not go as planned for Manchester United, as they suffered a heavily disappointing trophyless season under new manager David Moyes. Their Champions League run was also less than impressive where they went as far the quarter-final stage, being eliminated by the hands of Bayern Munich. Prior to that, their Round of 16 fixture against the Greek side, Olympiacos FC, gave fans one of the finest moments of the season to remember.
Watch : Robin van Persie scoring a hat-trick to rescue Manchester United
After being humiliated in the first-leg and losing the match 2-0, United had a mountain to climb in the second-leg and overcome the two goal deficit in order to avoid an embarrassing early exit.
That is when their Dutch striker, Robin van Persie stepped up to single-handedly take Manchester United into the next round. The striker was having an off season by his standards and yet scored all three goals in the game that helped his team to win 3-2 on aggregate. Just goes to show how big name players turn up on the big nights. A penalty, a tap-in and a brilliant free kick completed the hat-trick that enthralled the Old Trafford crowd.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Atletico Madrid – 2016-17
The two Madrid clubs in Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid clashed in the semi-final stage of the 2016-17 Champions League campaign. Diego Simeone’s men were looking to avenge last year’s final defeat at the hands of their city rivals and Zinedine Zidane’s men were looking to defend their Champions League crown. The all-Spanish tie saw the impeccable Ronaldo settling the score for his team in the first-leg itself with a sensational hat-trick.
Watch : Ronaldo single-handedly outclassed Atletico Madrid with a hat-trick for Real Madrid
Real Madrid won the first leg 3-0 with Ronaldo scoring all the goals on the night. It was the seventh hat-trick for Ronaldo in the Champions League and also his second consecutive hat-trick after having scored three vital goals in the second-leg and five overall against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.
3. Mario Gomez vs FC Basel – 2011-12
In a season where Bayern Munich were destined to secure the long awaited UCL crown, Mario Gomez was their star performer. The German forward was the top scorer for The Bavarians in all competitions with 46 goals and had a fruitful European outing as well. The highlight of that run came in the Round of 16 fixture against the Swiss side, FC Basel.
Mario Gomez scored four goals in the space of 25 minutes for Bayern Munich
After enduring a shock away defeat by a solitary late goal, Bayern came into the second-leg with catching up to do. This is when Mario Gomez stepped up and proved his mettle. Bayern Munich turned on the style and decimated Basel 7-0 with Mario scoring four goals in the space of 25 minutes in front of an elated home crowd. This performance marked the German club as favorites to win the trophy, but were undone on the final hurdle by a Chelsea side who were writing their own underdog story.
2. Lionel Messi vs Bayer Leverkusen – 2011-12
Heading into the second-leg of the Round of 16 fixture, Bayer Leverkusen were fearing the worst as the tie already lay heavily in the favour of FC Barcelona who were undefeated at home in all competitions before this match and had a 3-1 advantage from the first-leg. Lionel Messi was in the form of his life back then and had scored a mind-boggling 91 goals in the calendar year back then, also winning his fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or in the process.
Watch : Lionel Messi scored five goals against Bayer Leverkusen
The fans at the Camp Nou were treated to a masterclass from the Argentine magician as expected. Lionel Messi scored not just a hat-trick, but five goals on the night, becoming the first player ever to achieve the feat in the Champions League. Bayer Leverkusen’s defence had no answer to the relentless attacking waves from Barcelona that saw them fire seven goals in the net. Messi scored a brace in the first half and netted three extra goals in the second-half. It was only his third hat-trick back then, fast forward to the present day, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has eight hat-tricks to his name..
1. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Atletico Madrid – 2018-19
Any list talking about the top hat-trick performances will not be complete without including the recent performance from Cristiano Ronaldo. At the age of 34 years, the Portuguese star scored his eighth Champions League hat-trick that brings him equal to Lionel Messi in terms of most hat-tricks scored in the UCL. Juventus paid more than £90 million to secure his services from Real Madrid especially for nights like these.
— DaniElPortista (@DaniPortista86) March 12, 2019
Watch : Cristiano Ronaldo score three past Atletico de Madrid
After going down 2-0 in the first-leg at the hands of Atletico Madrid, second-leg seemed to be a task too high. However, Ronaldo came back to haunt Diego Simeone’s men and eliminated them yet again, scoring all three vital goals that gave the Old Lady a 3-2 aggregate victory. Cristiano thrives on the big stage and proved why he is still a force to reckon with on Europe’s biggest stage.