Appreciating the four players to score against 30+ different Champions League teams

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The Football Faithful

Article image: Appreciating the four players to score against 30+ different Champions League teams

Karim Benzema made yet more Champions League history this week after scoring for Real Madrid in their comeback draw against Borussia Monchengladbach, netting for a joint-record 16th successive season in the competition and against a 30th different opponent.

It is a phenomenal achievement for a player who has been at the forefront of Real Madrid’s success over the past decade, winning the trophy on four occasions and outlasting a series of stars in the pressured environment of the Bernabeu.

Benzema became just the fourth player in history to have scored against 30 different opponents in the Champions League and we’ve decided to look at the exclusive quartet to have reached the unique landmark:

Raul

There were few players as feared in continental competition as Real Madrid’s Raul at the turn of the millennium, the Spanish striker a central figure in a side which dominated the Champions League during a golden period.

Raul formed part of the side which won three trophies in just five seasons, twice finishing as the leading scorer in the tournament and scoring vital goals in final victories over Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.

The forward was a talismanic figure and the golden boy for both club and country throughout an illustrious career at the top, an intelligent player with an ability to both create and convert chances.

His achievements can potentially be overlooked in the era of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but Raul was the homegrown hero of Real Madrid’s Galactico era and was once the record goalscorer in the history of Los Blancos, the Champions League and the Spanish national side.

Only that aforementioned duo have ever scored more than his 71 Champions League goals, whilst he left Real Madrid as one of their greatest ever servants with a phenomenal record of 323 goals in 721 appearances in all competitions.

He later became a hugely popular figure during an impressive two-year spell at Schalke before winding down his career with Al Sadd and New York Cosmos, Raul remaining one of the Champions League’s most iconic figures and a defining player in the first decade of the competition’s history.

Lionel Messi

One of two players who have dominated a generation and altered perceptions following their record-breaking achievements, Lionel Messi has often starred on club football’s biggest stage.

No player has ever scored against more opposition sides, whilst he holds the record – alongside Karim Benzema – for the most successive Champions League seasons scored in with 16.

Messi is also one of just two players to have reached a century of goals in the competition and holds the record for most group stage goals, whilst he is the only player in the tournament’s history to score five times in a single knockout stage clash following an exhilarating display against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012.

Messi’s emergence as arguably the game’s greatest ever player has proven the catalyst for Barcelona enjoying the most successful period in their history, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner having lifted the trophy on four occasions with the Spanish side – scoring in final victories over Manchester United in 2009 and 2011.

The Argentine has incredibly scored against 37 of the 42 teams he has faced in the Champions League, only failing to find the net against Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Udinese, Rubin Kazan and Benfica.

Arsenal have proven the forward’s most favoured opposition after scoring nine times in just six fixtures against the north London side, including that sensational four-goal haul in a 2010 quarter-final second leg.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo stands as the greatest goalscorer in Champions League history having scored a staggering 130 goals in 170 appearances in the competition, his list of record-breaking achievements both long and ludicrous.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has finished as the tournament’s leading scorer on seven occasions, including in six successive seasons during a glittering period at Real Madrid in which he became the club’s all-time record goalscorer.

Ronaldo first lifted the trophy with Manchester United before winning the Champions League four times in five seasons at the Bernabeu, becoming the first player to score in three separate finals and the first player to win five trophies in the Champions League era.

No player can better his record of 67 knockout stage goals, with the biggest occasions often resulting in the finest performances from Ronaldo, a forward who has often defined the business end of the tournament with dazzling displays.

Amongst his other records include scoring in 11 consecutive fixtures and the joint-most hat-tricks with eight, whilst no player can better his record of having scored 12 free-kicks in the Champions League.

Ronaldo is currently seeking to become just the third player to win the trophy with a third club at Juventus, the Portuguese remaining amongst the game’s greatest despite entering the twilight of his career.

His impact on this stage has been unquestionable and the Champions League will one day be a poorer place without him.

Karim Benzema

The latest player to join this exclusive group and a forward who has enjoyed huge success at Real Madrid, Benzema’s achievements perhaps are underrated amongst the glitz and glamour of football’s biggest names.

Only four players have ever scored more than the Frenchman’s 66 goals in the Champions League, Benzema netting in every season since 2004, joining Ryan Giggs and Lionel Messi as the only players to have scored in 16 different campaigns.

Benzema has spent much of his career as an unselfish focal point of the Real Madrid attack and has become one of the club’s great modern day servants, recently moving past the legendary Ferenc Puskas as the club’s fifth-highest goalscorer of all time.

Four winners’ medals make the 32-year-old one of the most successful players of the Champions League era, Benzema scoring a succession of important goals including the opener in Real’s final victory over Liverpool in 2018.

In a cut-throat environment at Real Madrid where winning is simply all that matters, Benzema has been a constant for more than a decade, his selfless style and ability to link the play making him a popular figure with both managers and teammates alike.

Benzema may never be lauded like some of the illustrious names of recent years, but his achievements mean his name will forever be alongside them.