As 14-time winners of Europe’s premier men’s club competition, LaLiga giants Real Madrid dominate its individual rankings.
Today witnesses one of the most keenly-anticipated events on the global soccer calendar, as Manchester City and Inter Milan face off in the final of the 2022/23 Champions League. City, led by striker Erling Haaland, are out to secure their first ever European title; Inter, meanwhile, are bidding for their fourth continental crown, and their first since 2010.
Most soccer fans can tell you which clubs have won the most European Cups/Champions Leagues since the competition’s inception in 1956. However, fewer are likely to be intimately familiar with the ranking of the tournament’s most successful players.
Real Madrid dominate European Cup/Champions League honours list
With six winners’ medals, Real Madrid legend Paco Gento is the most decorated player in the history of the European Cup/Champions League. Nicknamed the ‘Gale of the Cantabrian Sea’, Gento played his part in Los Blancos’ tournament triumphs in 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1966.
Given that Madrid have won a record 14 European titles, it’s no surprise to see a whole host of current and former Bernabéu stars just behind Gento on the all-time list. Alfredo Di Stéfano, Héctor Rial, José María Zárraga, Marcos Alonso, Rafael Lesmes and Juanito Alonso were all involved in five European Cup triumphs in the competition’s early years, while Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal, Casemiro, Isco, Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Luka Modrić, Nacho Fernández all helped Los Blancos to five trophy wins in the Champions League era.
Madrid’s highest ever goalscorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, also has five Champions Leagues to his name. The Portuguese starred in four of the Spanish club’s recent successes in the competition, having already lifted the trophy in 2008 with Manchester United.
There are also two AC Milan legends among the players with five European titles on their resumé. Defenders Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta were European Cup/Champions League winners with the Rossoneri in 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003 and 2007. In the last of those five, Costacurta had only a fringe role; Maldini, on the other hand, started in each of the quintet of finals. The pair were also runners-up on three occasions.
Four-time winners Seedorf and Eto’o in exclusive club
There are a number of players with four winners’ medals, many from the Madrid squads of 2014 to 2018. However, special mention should go to Clarence Seedorf and Samuel Eto’o, who are the only men who have lifted the Champions League title with three different clubs. Seedorf did so with Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan; Eto’o, with Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan. Also among the group of players with four European titles are Barça greats Lionel Messi, Gerard Piqué, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, who were victorious with the Blaugrana in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015.