It is truly surprising to discover that the most prolific playmaker in the history of the Champions League is Cristiano Ronaldo, a player often thought of as primarily a goal scorer rather than a provider, defying expectations that Lionel Messi might hold that title. The Portuguese superstar reigns as the assist king in the Champions League with an impressive tally of 42, surpassing his counterpart Messi by a margin of twice.
Despite occasional criticisms of Ronaldo being perceived as selfish, the reality stands contrary to popular belief. Ronaldo, not Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, or Ryan Giggs, boasts the highest number of assists in the history of the Champions League. Ronaldo leads the charts with 42 assists, ahead of Messi (40) and Di Maria (38). Interestingly, within the Top 10, the player most likely to challenge Ronaldo’s record is Kevin De Bruyne with 28 assists. The Belgian midfielder is donning the colors of the indomitable Manchester City, a club poised to potentially become the eighth in history to achieve the legendary treble (domestic league, national cup, and Champions League).
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – 42 assists
Not only does C. Ronaldo leads the charts as the all-time top scorer in the Champions League with 141 goals, but he also holds the record for the most appearances in the prestigious European competition, boasting 183 matches. However, CR7 has another remarkable record, being the player with the highest number of assists in the tournament – an impressive 42 times. Despite entering his 38th year, while playing in the Arabian region, he continues to break records consistently and remains one of the highest goal-scorers in 2023.
With his extraordinary abilities, it’s conceivable that CR7 might etch his name into the records of the Asian Champions League and become the greatest player in history, even without the World Cup title that his rival Lionel Messi possesses.
2. Lionel Messi – 40 assists
The Argentine player devoted 16 years to Barcelona and spent an additional 2 years with PSG. With 129 goals and 40 assists in the Champions League over 18 years of top-level football, “King Leo” has left an indelible mark on the prestigious competition. Notably, Messi is one of only four players to have twice claimed the title of Assist King in the top European tournament, achieving this feat in the seasons of 2011/12 and 2014/15.
Unfortunately for the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time), after securing the coveted World Cup title, Lionel Messi made a move to play in the MLS, leaving behind the pinnacle of European competition. Nevertheless, for someone who has amassed most of the world’s prestigious awards, taking a break from football in an environment like Inter Miami seems entirely fitting.
3. Angel Di Maria – 38 assists
Even when “wasting” a season at Manchester United, the attacking midfielder from Argentina still holds the third-highest number of assists in the history of the Champions League, with 38. One of the most underrated players of this generation, in terms of statistics, Di Maria stands as the one with the greatest opportunity to surpass Messi and Ronaldo. However, at the current moment, we are still uncertain about the next destination for this former player of Manchester United, Real Madrid, and PSG.
4. Neymar – 33 assists
Persistent injuries and frequent absences from knockout stages since joining PSG haven’t prevented the Brazilian attacking star from securing a place in the Top 4 assist providers in the Champions League, with 33 setups for teammates to score. Similar to Messi, Neymar has also claimed the Assist King title twice in the Champions League, during the seasons of 2015/16 and 2016/17. Neymar is also one of four players to achieve a “poker” of assists in a single match.
5. RYAN GIGGS– 31 assists
Not only does he feature in the Top 10 players with the most appearances, the former Welsh midfield maestro also holds the fifth position for the most assists in Champions League history, with a total of 31. In the match between Manchester United and Roma on April 10, 2007, Giggs provided 4 assists for his teammates to score. He has also clinched the championship title twice with the Red Devils from Manchester.
6. XAVI HERNANDEZ– 30 assists
Xavi currently serves as the coach for Barcelona. His illustrious playing career is inseparable from the peak period of the Camp Nou team. Xavi, alongside Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, formed the renowned midfield trio for Barcelona, embodying the possession-oriented style synonymous with the Catalan club. Xavi has accumulated 30 assists after 151 appearances.
7. ANDRES INIESTA – 29 assists
He is the fourth former Barcelona player to appear in the Top 10 Assist Kings in the Champions League, with a total of 29 assists. Iniesta was an indispensable part of Barcelona during its peak, winning the tournament four times. He is also one of the three players with the most assists in Champions League finals, achieving this feat three times.
8. KARIM BENZEMA– 29 assists
While Ronaldo was still with Real, Benzema played the role of a supporting striker. However, this did not overshadow the talent of the French forward. Not only does he appear in the Top 4 goal scorers with 90 goals, trailing only behind Robert Lewandowski by a single goal, but Big Benz also features in the Top 10 list of Assist Kings in the Champions League, showcasing his ability to play wide and coordinate well with teammates.
9. KEVIN DE BRUYNE– 28 assists
The talented Belgian midfielder has 28 assists in just 69 matches. In the Top 10 Assist Kings in the Champions League, De Bruyne has played the fewest matches, yet he is the one with the most opportunities to break Ronaldo’s record. In the current season alone, “King Kevin” has provided 7 assists. He still has the potential to break the record for the most assists in a single season – 9 times – currently jointly held by Luis Figo and James Milner.