No one has yet scored a Champions League final hat trick, but ahead of Manchester City vs. Inter Milan, we look at the players who have scored the most goals in European Cup/UEFA Champions League finals.
The final of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League is arguably the Super Bowl of European club football. On such a stage, as two heavyweights battle it out to be crowned the best on the continent, they can often be tense affairs in which players struggle to stand out.
Every now and then, though, you’ll get a virtuoso performance from someone, and with Manchester City set to take on Inter Milan in Istanbul in the 2022-23 Champions League final, people will be wondering if Pep Guardiola’s star player could make a mark by scoring multiple goals on the big stage.
Of course, should İlkay Gündoğan happen to have an off night, you never know, 52-goal Erling Haaland might do something. With Inter also boasting impressive options up front including Lautaro Martínez, Romelu Lukaku and former Man City striker Edin Džeko, there are plenty of players who could be decisive on Saturday.
But, given the goalscoring exploits of Haaland this season, we couldn’t help but think about what he might be capable of on the biggest night of his career so far. How about a Champions League final hat trick?
As it turns out, that’s never been done before in the UCL era, and not since man first landed on the moon has there been a hat trick scored in a European Cup final either. There were some players whose performances were out of this world before then, however.
European Cup Final Hat Tricks
Ferenc Puskás (twice, Real Madrid vs. Eintracht Frankfurt 1959-60, Real Madrid vs. Benfica 1961-62)
There have been just four hat-tricks scored in European Cup finals, and Hungary’s greatest ever player accounts for half of them. Puskás was not just a legend for his country, but also for Real Madrid, where he enjoyed a phenomenal partnership with Alfredo Di Stéfano (who we’ll get to shortly).
At no time was their effectiveness more apparent as a pairing than in the famous 1960 European Cup final against Eintracht Frankfurt, which remains the highest-scoring final in the competition’s history.
Puskás helped to take the game away from the Germans after their early lead, making it 3-1 to Madrid in first-half stoppage time, before adding another from the penalty spot 10 minutes into the second half.
‘The Galloping Major’ completed his hat trick just four minutes later and added a fourth for good measure to make it 6-1 to the Spanish giants. The game ended 7-3, with Puskás the only player to ever score four in a European Cup final.
He scored another three in the 1962 final against Benfica, but it would be in vain as another high-scoring game ended with the Portuguese side winning 5-3.
Alfredo Di Stéfano (Real Madrid vs. Eintracht Frankfurt 1959-60)
That crazy game at Hampden Park in 1960 saw Di Stéfano more than play his part as well. Richard Kress put Frankfurt in front after 18 minutes, but Di Stéfano struck twice within five minutes to turn things around for Madrid.
Puskás had added four by the time his strike partner completed his own hat trick to give Los Blancos their fifth European Cup, winning the first five editions of the competition.
‘The Blond Arrow’ scored in all five finals from 1956-1960 but saved his best for last in Scotland.
Pierino Prati (AC Milan vs. Ajax 1968-69)
The only other player to have the honour of netting three in a European Cup final is Pierino Prati, who did so at the Santiago Bernabéu against Rinus Michels’ and Johan Cruyff’s Ajax.
Prati – known imaginatively as ‘Pierino the Pest’ – scored twice in the first half to put the Serie A side in control, before a Velibor Vasović penalty halved the deficit on the hour.
However, Angelo Sormani restored Milan’s two-goal cushion, and Prati completed his hat trick with 15 minutes remaining to seal a 4-1 win.
That’s it for hat tricks. Plenty of players have scored twice though, and here they all are:
European Cup/Champions League Final Braces
Héctor Rial (Real Madrid vs. Reims 1955-56)
In the very first European Cup final, Rial struck twice as Madrid beat Reims 4-3 at PSG’s Parc des Princes. Michel Leblond and Jean Templin had put the French side 2-0 up before Di Stéfano and Rial levelled things up. Michel Hidalgo put Reims back in front, but after Marquitos made it 3-3, Rial hit the winner 11 minutes from time.
Erwin Stein (Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Real Madrid 1959-60)
You have to feel somewhat sorry for Stein. The German striker scored twice in a European Cup final and was not only on the losing side, but also didn’t even score the second-most goals in the game. His goals also weren’t particularly threatening to Madrid’s eventual win, both coming in a chaotic five-minute period that saw him score just after Puskás made it 6-1, and then in the wake of Di Stéfano putting Madrid 7-2 up.
Eusébio (Benfica vs. Real Madrid 1961-62)
On the other side of a similar coin was the great Eusébio, who scored two goals in the same game in which Puskás scored three but was at least on the winning side. The Hungarian put Madrid 2-0 up before José Águas and Domiciano Cavém levelled things, only for Puskás to make it 3-2 before half-time.
Mário Coluna equalised early in the second half, and Eusébio finally put Benfica ahead with a penalty. He added a second goal shortly after to seal the game for the Lisbon side to claim their second consecutive European Cup.
José Altafini (AC Milan vs. Benfica 1962-63)
Almost as if passing the baton, Eusébio and Benfica were thwarted by a two-goal opponent the following year. Eusébio gave his team a first-half lead against Milan at Wembley Stadium, but a second-half brace from José Altafini – also known as ‘Mazzola’ in Brazil – handed victory to the Rossoneri. Altafini went on to work in the media, and those familiar with the Football Italia theme tune from Channel 4 in the 1990s might know him best as the person who shouted “Golaço!” – or golazzo to some.
Sandro Mazzola (Inter Milan vs. Real Madrid 1963-64)
Funnily enough, Sandro Mazzola was the son of Italian legend Valentino Mazzola, whom Altafini’s nickname had come from, and he would go on to emulate his sort of namesake a year later. Midfielder Mazzola put Inter in front against Madrid in Vienna before Aurelio Milani doubled the lead just after the hour. Felo pulled one back for the Spaniards, but Mazzola added another 14 minutes from time to put the game to bed.
Bobby Charlton (Manchester United vs. Benfica 1967-68)
The man with the most famous combover in football cemented his legacy as Man United became the first English winners of the tournament in 1968 at Wembley. A tight contest with Benfica had seen Bobby Charlton open the scoring with a header before Jaime Graça levelled to force extra time. United overwhelmed their opponents from there though, with George Best, Brian Kidd and Charlton’s second making it 4-1 within the first nine minutes of extra time, and that’s how it finished.
Johan Cruyff (Ajax vs. Inter Milan 1971-72)
It was the perfect end to a perfect season for Ajax as they clinched the treble by beating Inter in Rotterdam. It was Total Football vs Catenaccio, with the former coming out on top as Ajax dominated the game. Johan Cruyff gave his team the lead early in the second half at De Kuip, before adding another 12 minutes before the end to seal a 2-0 win.
Uli Hoeneß and Gerd Müller (Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid 1973-74)
If that had been a relatively straightforward victory for Ajax, it was nothing compared to the stroll in the park enjoyed by Bayern Munich two years later. Well, eventually. It was a final that needed a replay, prior to the introduction of penalties. A 1-1 draw was played out in Brussels so both teams came back two days later to try again. This time it was all Bayern as they ran out 4-0 winners, with Uli Hoeneß giving them a first-half lead, before a brace from Gerd Müller early in the second was followed by another for Hoeneß in the 82nd minute.
Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten (AC Milan vs. Steaua București 1988-89)
That was it in terms of multiple goals from a single player for 15 years, but like London buses, then two came along at once. It was another rout, this time at Camp Nou as Ruud Gullit tapped in to give Milan the lead after 18 minutes, before Marco van Basten headed in a second 10 minutes later and Gullit fired in another before half-time. Frank Rijkaard slid in Van Basten for his second in the first minute of the second half as Milan eased to a 4-0 victory against the Romanians.
Daniele Massaro (AC Milan vs. Barcelona 1993-94)
Another final for Milan, another 4-0 win, another brace scorer. This time it was Daniele Massaro, who struck twice in the first half to put the Rossoneri on the path to their fifth European Cup/Champions League.
Strike partner Dejan Savićević did brilliantly to force the ball across for Massaro to tap in the opener in Athens, before equally sumptuous play from Roberto Donadoni on the other side saw him pull back for Massaro to fire in another before the break. Savićević and Marcel Desailly completed the scoring in the second half. It was a better experience for Massaro than what happened two months later when he was one of three Italy players to miss a penalty in the World Cup final shoot-out against Brazil.
Karl-Heinz Riedle (Borussia Dortmund vs. Juventus 1996-97)
In what was considered quite an upset at the time, Borussia Dortmund bested a strong Juventus side in Munich, with Karl-Heinz Riedle largely to thank.
The Germany striker would go on to play for Liverpool and Fulham in the Premier League, but not before he had put Juve to the sword, firstly with a neat chest down and finish to give BVB a 29th-minute lead. He doubled it just five minutes later when he thundered in a header from an Andreas Möller corner. Alessandro Del Piero made a game of it when he pulled one back after 65 minutes, but a delightful lob from Lars Ricken secured the win for Dortmund.
Hernán Crespo (AC Milan vs. Liverpool 2004-05)
In arguably the best final in the competition’s history, a star-studded Milan side were in complete control at half-time in Istanbul thanks to a very early goal from Paolo Maldini and a neat brace courtesy of Hernán Crespo, who first turned in a low cross from Andriy Shevchenko, before racing onto a ball from Kaka to dink over Jerzy Dudek.
However, three goals in seven minutes early in the second half from Liverpool made it 3-3, with Dudek making two crucial saves in the penalty shoot-out to win it for the English side.
Filippo Inzaghi (AC Milan vs Liverpool 2006-07)
In what could only be described as ‘revenge’, Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan were able to overcome Liverpool just two years later in Athens. Filippo Inzaghi deflected an Andrea Pirlo free-kick past Pepe Reina on the stroke of half-time, before getting on the end of a neat through ball from Kaka to round the goalkeeper and finish in the second. Dirk Kuyt pulled a goal back for the Reds late on but this time it was the Rossoneri lifting the trophy.
Diego Milito (Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich 2009-10)
With José Mourinho and Louis van Gaal both looking for their second Champions League title wins as managers, it was an intriguing clash at the Santiago Bernabéu, and Diego Milito made sure it was Mourinho who came out on top. The Inter striker combined well with Wesley Sneijder to fire the Nerazzurri in front 10 minutes before the break. It was a more individual effort in the 70th minute as Milito turned Daniel Van Buyten inside and out before finishing past Hans-Jörg Butt to complete a 2-0 win and a treble for Inter.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid vs. Juventus 2016-17)
It looked like it was going to be a competitive final when Cristiano Ronaldo’s 20th-minute finish from a Dani Carvajal cross was cancelled out by a stunning effort from Juve’s Mario Mandžukić. However, a deflected Casemiro strike restored Madrid’s lead just after the hour, and three minutes later Ronaldo had his second, finishing after good work from Luka Modrić down the right. Marco Asensio sealed a 4-1 victory for Los Blancos late on in Cardiff.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid vs. Liverpool 2017-18)
Still the last time a player scored more than once in a Champions League final, what was particularly notable was that Gareth Bale did so coming off the bench. The Welshman arrived on the hour in Kyiv with the score at 1-1 after Sadio Mané had equalised Karim Benzema’s opener. Within two minutes, Bale scored an unbelievable overhead kick to put Madrid back in front. He added a second seven minutes from the end with a long-distance effort that Loris Karius – who had been at fault for Benzema’s goal and was later diagnosed with concussion following a clash with Sergio Ramos earlier in the half (Ramos had also ruled Mohamed Salah out of the game in the first half) – surprisingly let slip through his grasp as Madrid won 3-1.