Every player dreams about making just one appearance in the Champions League. It’s the pinnacle of European football and perhaps of the most challenging competition to win in club football.
Across the years, we’ve seen plenty of superstar names rack up the appearances in the Champions League, with some going on to record eyewatering totals – an honour reserved for the best of the best.
Here’s a look at the 20 top appearance makers in history.
The coolest man in football, Xabi Alonso earns his place on this list with a huge 119 appearances in the Champions League.
47 of those were for Real Madrid, 39 for Liverpool and 25 came at Bayern Munich, but his first eight came on the books at Real Sociedad back in 2003/04/.
A Barcelona legend, Gerard Pique’s first taste of European football actually came with Manchester United, for whom he managed three appearances (and two goals) across 2004/05 and 2007/08.
He returned to Barcelona in 2008 and has since gone on to rack up the appearances in Europe’s top competition.
The metronome at the base of Barcelona’s midfield, Sergio Busquets has enjoyed plenty of glory during his time at Camp Nou.
The Spaniard has grasped the famous trophy three times in his career and still dreams of adding one more.
Manuel Neuer’s Champions League career actually kicked off in 2007 when he was still on the books at Schalke. He managed 22 appearances across two seasons, reaching the quarter-final and the semi-final, before taking his talents to Bayern Munich.
Since heading to the Allianz Arena, Neuer has established himself as one of the game’s top stoppers, winning two Champions Leagues and eyeing one or two more before he starts to wind down.
Fondly remembered as one of the greatest left-backs ever seen, Roberto Carlos finished his career with 120 outings in the Champions League.
The vast majority of those came with Real Madrid, but 13 were picked up during an oft-forgotten spell with Fenerbahce between 2007 and 2009.
Nobody on this list has turned out for more clubs in the Champions League than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has represented no fewer than seven sides.
Across his time with Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG and Manchester United he has racked up 120 appearances and is still going strong to this day.
Gianluigi Buffon knows all about setting records, but he’s not going to make it anywhere near the top of these standings.
Now back with Parma in Italy’s second tier, the legendary shot-stopper looks set to end his career with 124 appearances in Europe’s top competition.
Given a baptism of fire in the Champions League, Paul Scholes’ debut came in a 2-2 draw against Barcelona in the 1994 group stage.
He ended his career at United having racked up 24 goals and ten assists in 124 European outings.
The man for the big occasion, Thomas Muller has had some ridiculous Champions League campaigns for Bayern Munich.
Both 2012/13 and 2015/16 yielded eight goals for the German, who has lifted the trophy twice so far.
Clarence Seedorf’s first taste of life in the Champions League came in the 1994/95 season, in which he played every game en route to winning the whole thing.
A move to Real Madrid followed, before he found himself at AC Milan in 2002, and by the time he left the competition in 2012 he had amassed an impressive 125 outings.
Sergio Ramos had hoped to continue climbing up these rankings in the white of Real Madrid, but he’s now looking to bring success to Paris Saint-Germain instead.
The four-time Champions League winner managed 129 appearances for Real and is now embarking on a new era in France.
One of the best to ever do it in the Champions League, Karim Benzema is towards the top of the charts in both goalscoring and appearances.
Across his time with Lyon and Real Madrid, he boasts a goal record better than one every two games.
Andres Iniesta’s Champions League debut came in a 1-0 win over Club Brugge in 2002, and he’d go on to rack up 130 appearances before calling time on his Barcelona career.
In 2018, he jetted off to Japan, where he came close to lifting the AFC Champions League two years later.
Across both the Champions League and European Cup, Paolo Maldini got his hands on the trophy a ridiculous five times – three Champions Leagues and two European Cups.
He did all that in 135 appearances for AC Milan – 17 of which came in the 2002/03 season, when teams had to go through two group stages just to reach the knockout rounds.
Raul’s return of 71 goals in 142 Champions League appearances (a perfect one-in-two ratio) was a record in the competition before some superstars who might get a mention later came along and smashed it out the park.
For mere mortals, it’s an unreal return and one which is fitting of a three-time winner.
Between 1993 and 2014, Ryan Giggs racked up a huge 145 Champions League appearances for Manchester United.
He would have been far higher up these standings had United not surprisingly crashed out in the group stage in both 2005 and 2011… but he did win the trophy twice, so he probably doesn’t care.
Lionel Messi has plenty of European records, but one which evades him is the most appearances in the competition.
He managed 149 for Barcelona and is now looking to keep climbing up the standings with a Paris Saint-Germain side who will be among the favourites every year as long as he is on the books.
Xavi pulled the strings in the Champions League for Barcelona between 1998 and 2015, ending his career with 11 goals and 32 assists in 151 European appearances.
More importantly, he lifted the trophy four times, making him one of the most successful players in the competition’s history.
Few players have tasted the same kind of success in the Champions League as Iker Casillas.
The legendary former shot stopper managed 177 appearances in the competition for both Real Madrid and Porto, winning no fewer than three titles for good measure.
The competition’s leading goalscorer, Cristiano Ronaldo has added another record to his CV by becoming the leading appearance maker in Champions League history.
Introduced to the tournament in 2003, Ronaldo is still dominant enough to add a good few more appearances before he starts to think about winding down.