Many great strikers have played in the UEFA Champions League since it took the place of the UEFA European Cup in 19992/93.
That being said however, there are those that stand above all the others and look down upon them from up high.
In a list painstakingly compiled and thought over here are your top 20 Strikers to date in the history of the UEFA Champions League.
20. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic starts off the list. Having played for five different teams who have won the Champions League or European Cup in their clubs history, he has had quite a bit of expectation settled on his shoulders during his European career.
The five clubs he has played for that have won a Champions League are as follows in order of which he played for them: Ajax Amsterdam, Juventus, Internazional Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan.
With 23 goals all time in the Champions League, he ranks 20th in overall scoring for forwards, and despite the pedigree of his employers during all that time, he has never lifted the Champions League trophy.
19. Jari Litmanen
Finish legend Jari Litmanen saw his fair number of clubs and Champions League time throughout his tenured journeyman career.
His prime years saw him spend nine years at Ajax Amsterdam with a sandwich of two-year stints at Barcelona and Liverpool in between.
He scored a total of 23 Champions League goals and was a member of Ajax’s 1995 Champions League Championship team scoring six of his career European goals in the campaign.
18. Giovane Elber
One of Brazil’s best exports as a front man, Giovane Elber scored 133 goals in 260 games for Bayern Munich during the height of his career.
During his entire time between European clubs, he racked up 24 Champions League Goals and the 2001 Champions League trophy for the Bavarian Giants when they defeated Valencia 5-4 on penalties.
17. Hernan Crespo
Hernan Crespo is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of the game. The Argentine has scored over 300 goals during his outstanding career which is still going strong as he has scored 11 goals for Parma this season at the age of 35.
In his time as a European striker, he has scored 25 Champions League goals in 64 total appearances in UEFA’s top club competition. He, like previously mentioned Zlatan Ibrahimovich, has scored Champions League goals for five different clubs: Parma, Lazio, Internazionale Milan, Chelsea and AC Milan.
His one trip to the final ended in tragedy for his club of the time, AC Milan, as they fell victim to the Miracle of Istanbul as Liverpool overcame AC Milan in the second half. They were down 3-0 at halftime but came back to draw Milan 3-3 and force penalties.
During the shootout, the Reds took the match 3-2 from the spot. Crespo had scored the second and third goals for Milan on the night and had he gotten to participate in the Shootout, it could have been a different story on the night. However, it was not the case.
16. Mario Jardel
Another Brazilian import to Europe that had success in the Champions League was Mario Jardel. The hit man has the least amount of appearances of anyone in the top 20 with only 46 between FC Porto, Galatasaray and Sporting Lisbon.
However, during that time, he has made up for time on the pitch with goals in the back of the net having scored 25 goals in that time frame giving him one of the best strike rates in Champions League history.
15. Samuel Eto’o
At the age of 30, Samuel Eto’o has already managed to become the most successful African player in history.
He holds numerous La Liga records for an African player and has amassed a boat load of goals already in his career. Since 2000, his chance of scoring when he steps on the pitch in a League game for his club is 56 percent.
His success in domestic leagues has also transferred into success on the European stage. He has 27 goals in 69 career appearances between Real Madrid, RCD Mallorca, Barcelona and Internazionale Milan.
He is one of only a handful to have won the Champions League in back-to-back season with separate clubs, Barcelona in 2009 and Internazionale Milan in 2010. He also has two other Champions League medals with Real Madrid in 2000 and Barcelona in 2006.
There is certainly much more time for him to increase his ranking but it is unknown how long his wait could be since moving to Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia.
Rivaldo is the third Brazillian in the countdown and has every right to be included. With 27 goals in 73 Champions League appearances, he has fired his way into the all time lists on the score sheet.
The majority of his goals came during his time at Barcelona where he put 20 into the back of the net during 54 appearances for the Blaugrana.
13. Cristiano Ronaldo
Despite the never to be forgotten misfire in the 2008 Champions League Final, thanks to John Terry, he was upstage on the choke level, Cristiano Ronaldo has managed to put himself into the top 20 in Champions League history.
His utter disappearance in the 2009 final against Barcelona also proves he isn’t always up to it in the final even though it was his goal that allowed the Red Devils to survive till penalties in Moscow.
He has scored 28 goals in 70 appearances for Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and Real Madrid and has won the competition once with Manchester United in 2008.
12. Roy Makaay
Dutch legend Roy Makaay features next on the list with 29 goals in 61 Champions League appearances.
Those matches are split between Deportivo La Coruna and Bayern Munich. Despite never reaching the final, he managed to produce a 47.5 percent chance of scoring when participating in Europe’s top competition.
11. Patrick Kluivert
Patrick Kluivert is another highly decorated Dutchman to have participated in the Champions League.
He was part of Ajax’s golden generation when they won the Champions League in 1995. His time at Barcelona saw some chances of winning him his second trophy slip away.
He scored 29 goals in 71 appearances between Ajax, Barcelona and Newcastle United.
10. David Trezeguet
In 1998, while playing for Monaco, David Trezeguet scored the fastest, hardest goal in Champions League history when it was clocked at 97.6 mph (157.3 kph).
That stat alone can give you perspective of the kind of striker that showed up when on the European stage. The glory days of his career saw the now 34-year partnering Alessandro Del Piero upfront for Juventus.
The 2003 competition saw him loose to AC Milan 3-2 on penalties in the only chance he got at a Champions League trophy. His 30 goals in 58 appearances gives him the second-highest ratio for chances of scoring when on the pitch in Europe at 51.7 percent.
9. Didier Drogba
Another class striker that has come so close yet so far away from claiming Champions League success is Chelsea’s Ivory Coast sensation, Didier Drogba. Drogba has scored 33 goals in 67 Champions League appearances between Olympique Marseille and Chelsea.
His most famous moment, however, has to be his spat with Tom Henning Ovrebo when the Blues lost to Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League semifinal which prevented a Chelsea vs. Manchester United rematch after they had failed to beat the Red Devils on penalties the previous year.
8. Fernando Morientes
Fernando Morientes’ best time during his career was with Real Madrid. Despite having stints at Liverpool, Valencia and Marseille in the time since, he has never reproduced the magic he had at the Santiago Bernadeu.
Ninety-one Champion’s League appearances between Real Madrid, Monaco, Liverpool, Valencia and Marseille have seem him score 33 goals while on the pitch during European competition. Also during that time, he won the Champion’s League three times with Real Madrid in 1998, 2000 and 2002.
7. Lionel Messi
The youngest player on the list at only 23 is Barcelona and Argentine maestro Lionel Messi. There is no limit to the greatness that Messi has the chance to achieve during his career. The only thing keeping him at seven is that he is yet to have the tenured success of the few in front of him.
However, given another few years, there is no doubt that he will be at the top of the list if he continues on with his blistering pace to the top of the pile. No other striker in the history of the Champion’s League has employed a strike rate so deadly.
With 36 goals in 56 European appearances, Messi puts up a 64.3 percent chance of scoring when on the pitch. In the last three seasons, he has scored 28 goals in just 35 appearances pushing his strike rate to 80 percent since he turned twenty.
If he keeps that same pace over the next three seasons, he will be up to second in the all-time scoring rankings, and if he does it for four more years, he will be way in the lead at only 27 giving him the chance to truly be the greatest ever.
He has three Champions League medals with Barcelona from 2006, 2009 and earned his third in 2011 when he squared off against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium with his Barcelona squad.
6. Alessandro Del Piero
Alessandro Del Piero ranks with Paulo Maldini as one of the most loyal stewards of an Italian club in history. He also has led the line for Juventus in every Champions League campaign they have enjoyed since the competitions creation.
He is Italy’s fourth all-time leading scorer and the sixth all-time leading scorer in the Champions League with 41 goals in 88 appearances, all for Juve. 1996 saw the Old Lady lift the Champions League trophy over Ajax on penalties, and since then, Del Piero endured to defeats in the final losing to Real Madrid in 1998 and losing to AC Milan in 2003.
5. Filippo Inzaghi
One of only two players to have scored three hat tricks in Champions League competition is Italian and AC Milan living legend Filippo Inzaghi.
He shares his record with former Liverpool great and current Manchester United bench warmer, Michael Owen. Inzaghi also is second all time in all European competitions with a total of 70 goals.
Forty-five of those came in the Champions League from 80 appearances split between time at Parma, Juventus and AC Milan. He has two Champions League medals with AC Milan from 2003 and 2007.
4. Andriy Shevchenko
Once one of the most dominating strikers in the world during the early 2000s, Andriy Shevchenko put together quite a career in the Champions League before falling from grace.
The current Dynamo Kiev front man has scored 48 goals in 100 Champions League appearances between Chelsea, AC Milan and Dynamo.
His time with AC Milan saw a Champions League Championship in 2003 and a loss to Liverpool in the 2005 Final Miracle of Istanbul. His final penalty shot was blocked by Jerzy Dudek to give the Reds the trophy.
3. Thierry Henry
The once mighty Thierry Henry, now turned hand-balling and bearded MLS star for the New York Red Bulls, breaks into the top three with 50 Champions League goals in 109 appearances primarily between Barcelona and Arsenal. He finally won the Champions League in 2009 Champions League.
He failed to earn the medal in 2006 during his last season at Arsenal when they were defeated by Barcelona. His transfer to the New York Red Bulls has confirmed he will more than likely not raise the UEFA Champions League Trophy a second time in his career; however, the CONCACAF Champions League could be a second option
2. Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Ruud van Nistelrooy tops the all-time Dutch contingent to ever grace the European stage. With 56 goals in 73 appearances, the Dutchman plundered a 76.7 percent strike rate in his career—by far the greatest in Champions League history.
His time has been split between PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Despite his prolific career in the Champion’s League, he has never won the competition with any team and looks to end his career in the same place.
1. Raul Gonzalez
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, striker in Spanish history is Raul Gonzalez Blanco. Before leaving for Schalke 04 last season, he made 741 appearances and scored 323 goals for Real Madrid.
Despite his age, he has failed to skip a beat as he helped lead Schalke to the semifinals of the Champions League and was ousted at the same stage as former club Madrid.
He has scored 71 goals in Champions League competition, by far the most in the tournaments history. Sixty-six have come from 132 Real Madrid appearances, and five goals have been scored in 12 Schalke showings.
His accolades also include three Champions League medals with Madrid in 1998, 2000 and 2002 during the Galacticos prime. His successor is believed to be Lionel Messi as the little Argentine continues to make leaps and bounds towards the top of the pile.
All primary statistics and information for this article were acquired from the statistical archives of UEFA.com and are complete through the 2011 competition as all statistics for 2012 are yet to be compiled. Additional ratios were figured from those official numbers.