The restructuring of the Champions League over the years creates a bias towards modern players in any aggregate record.
This is again reflected in the list of the most Champions League appearances, with 10 of the top 11 players having played in the last decade. Players in the European Cup era did not get close to triple figures.
All of these players lifted the Champions League, and four made all of their appearances for one club.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – 183* appearances
The competition’s all-time leading goalscorer and five-time winner, Cristiano Ronaldo amassed a half-century of Champions League appearances with Manchester United prior to his then-world-record move to Real Madrid.
Ronaldo went on to win the competition on four occasions with Los Blancos before moving to Juventus, where he was unable to replicate that success in 23 appearances across three seasons in Turin.
2. Iker Casillas – 177 appearances
Starting his career in 1999, San Iker was one of the world’s best goalkeepers and a Champions League winner as a teenager.
Casillas won Europe’s premier club competition in 2001-02 and 2013-14 with Real Madrid, finishing with the second-most Champions League appearances for one club.
His final seasons came with Porto, where the Spaniard broke the record for the most appearances and played in a record 20th-consecutive Champions League campaign.
3. Lionel Messi – 158* appearances
Lionel Messi is the greatest player of the Champions League era, and many would argue the greatest ever. The Argentine is a four-time winner of the Champions League, all coming with Barcelona, and has a shot at adding to that tally in a star-studded PSG team.
Messi was the top scorer in four consecutive Champions League seasons between 2008 and 2012. He then shared the award with Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2014-15 prior to topping the charts in 2018-19.
4. Xavi – 151 appearances
The current Barcelona manager was in many ways the face of Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka at Barcelona. While Messi provided the magic, Xavi’s mastery of pressing and ball retention was what made those all-conquering teams tick.
All 151 of his Champions League outings came for Barca between 1998 and 2015 with four competition wins along the way. The Spaniard was also named UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year in 2008-09.
5. Karim Benzema – 143* appearances
While integral in Real Madrid’s four Champions League triumphs between 2014 and 2018, Karim Benzema was very much Cristiano Ronaldo’s sidekick. Since the Portuguese star departed, Benzema has taken centre stage, finishing as top scorer during Real’s 2021-22 run to another title.
Benzema earned Champions League Player of the Season for his performances, and is up to fourth in the all-time competition scoring chart.
6. Raul – 142 appearances
Raul held top spot in this list for a long period, just as he did in the goal scoring stakes.
A three-time winner of the competition, the Spaniard was top scorer in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.
Of the 142 appearances, 130 came with Real Madrid, where he is also the overall record holder for appearances. The last 12 were during his stint with Schalke.
7. Ryan Giggs – 141 appearances
Ryan Giggs didn’t reach the same heights as many on this list.
Instead, it was his longevity which was the most impressive attribute, making his first Champions League appearance in 1993 and last in 2014.
Giggs won the competition with Manchester United in 1999 and 2008, and topped the assist charts in 2006-07.
8. Thomas Muller – 136* appearances
Seventh in Champions League goals and eighth in appearances, Thomas Muller’s achievements remain slightly underrated. Muller has adapted under various different managers at Bayern Munich, being utilised in numerous roles but always effective.
He won the Champions League in 2013 and 2020, and has enjoyed a late-career resurgence, suggesting he can climb into the top five of this list.
9. Sergio Ramos – 131* appearances
Sergio Ramos is a four-time European champion at club level and has two Champions League final goals to his name. Ramos has the knack for delivering on the biggest stage, and he so often upped his game for Real in the Champions League.
One of the greatest defenders of his generation, the Spaniard left the Bernabeu on a free transfer in 2021 to join PSG. He has made just a handful of Champions League appearances for the French club.
10. Andres Iniesta – 130 appearances
Debuting for Barcelona as a teenager, all 130 of Andres Iniesta’s Champions League appearances came for the Catalan giants. Iniesta was integral to four Champions League wins, and was rewarded with numerous individual honours, including a pair of top-three finishes in the Ballon d’Or.
Iniesta made the game look easy – his chemistry with Messi, Xavi and others in those spectacular Barcelona teams was a joy to watch.
11. Manuel Neuer – 130* appearances
First making 20 Champions League appearances with Schalke, Manuel Neuer has gone on to become one of the greatest goalkeepers of the 21st century and a two-time Champions League winner. Neuer has been named Europe’s Best Goalkeeper on five occasions, and was Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season in 2019-20.
At 36 years old, the German could have a few more years remaining at the top. Don’t be surprised if he passes the 150-appearance mark.