The Champions League is back and so are the stars that come along with it.
This season in the UEFA Champions League will be the first in almost two decades without the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi — arguably the two best players of all time and the two all-time goal scorers in the competition.
This absence, along with the farewell of other elite European stars the likes of Karim Benzema, Neymar Jr., Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sadio Mané, amongst others, has left Champions League fans in the midst of seeing what other players in the tournament are willing to take up the mantles of becoming the chronic goal scorers, generational midfielders or “Mr. Champions League” that these players were once labeled as.
Lucky for them, the present and future of Champions League stars is bright, with arguably more than just one player capable of sitting in the European seats of royalty that the stars and phenoms of the past once owned for undisputed decades.
With today's Champions League player roster quickly rising up the ranks as the tournament's elite and many fans left in wonder over who they might be, we give you the top 10 best players playing in the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League season — ranked.
Top 10 best players in the UEFA Champions League 2023-24
Honorable mentions: Harry Kane, Thomas Müller, Heung-Min Son, Victor Osimhen, Jack Grealish, Rafael Leão.
10. Bukayo Saka - Arsenal
The Emirates’ starboy is our bold pick. The young English winger is one of the most exciting prospects in European soccer, all while being one of the best players in the world. The 22-year-old is making his debut with Arsenal in the Champions League after guiding the Gunners’ return to the competition for the first time since 2016.
9. Marc-Andre ter Stegen - FC Barcelona
Barcelona’s gatekeeper lets no one go through. The German international has become a Barça legend since arriving second to starter Claudio Bravo in 2014 and from that point on, the former Mönchegladbach academy product has been a goal stopping machine. Just last season, the 31-year-old only conceded 18 goals in LaLiga and recorded over 27 clean sheets across all competitions in 47 games.
8. Jude Bellingham - Real Madrid
“Hey Jude!” is what the biggest club’s stadium is singing at the end of every heart-stopping victory this season. Jude Bellingham’s growth over the last few years, going from Dortmund promising abroad talent, to best player in Signal Iduna Park, to now Real Madrid starboy, is something unheard of in the world of soccer. The 20-year-old Brit is a workhorse able to defend and attack in each of the third’s of the pitch, intercepting and recovering balls in the build-up as well as scoring and assisting at the other end.
7. Rodri - Manchester City
One half of Manchester’s hero and another half of Manchester’s culprit. Rodri is currently the world’s best center defensive midfielder, playing a crucial part in Manchester City’s treble win and long-awaited conquest of the UEFA Champions League, scoring the only goal in their 1-0 victory against Inter Milan in the final.
6. Kevin De Bruyne - Manchester City
[Kay-Dee-Bee]. The Belgian is City’s most creative player in their attack and, if I may, the best player in the history of their club. De Bruyne has been there through it all — winning countless Premier Leagues, domestic cups, PFA Player of the Year and most recently the Champions League. He takes care of all set pieces for the club and the one responsible for Erling Haaland to constantly be hitting the back of the net. The only thing capable of stopping him so far has been injuries.
5. Bernardo Silva - Manchester City
The Portuguese is Manchester City’s 1v1 threat. Bernardo Silva has become one of the most important players in The Etihad, completing wonderful performances for the club in all competitions. The 29-year-old recently signed a contract renewal with the Citizens, agreeing to stay with the club until the summer of 2026. ‘Bubblegum’ will keep on showing out in Manchester.
4. Robert Lewandowski - FC Barcelona
Want goals? Call Robert. The Polish legend is a Champions League goalscoring machine, no matter the club. The 35-year-old is the third all-time top goalscorer in the European competition, scoring 92 goals across his career with Borussia Dortmund, FC Bayern and FC Barcelona. Although moving up in the ranks as scorer in competition history will be difficult, Lewandowski is and will remain regarded as one of the greats of the game.
3. Vinicius Jr. - Real Madrid
Vini Jr. is resilience in Brazilian soccer player form. The Real Madrid winger has gone from a shaky, ineffective and promising forward, to one of the best players in the world and the best player in the biggest club in the world. Vini was inarguably one of the stars of the Champions League in the past two seasons, being directly involved in 23 goals and scoring the only goal in Real Madrid’s victory over Liverpool in the 2022 Final.
2. Kylian Mbappé - PSG
The French prince that is bound to turn king. Kylian Mbappé could, along with the first player on this list, be regarded as the best player in the world and the one destined to take over the world of soccer for the next decade. At just age 24, Mbappé is a multiple time Ligue 1 champion, World Cup champion and the only player to score three goals in a World Cup final since Pelé. ‘Donatello’ has scored 41 goals in 62 Champions League matches, and is not showing any signs of stopping.
1. Erling Haaland - Manchester City
He is the next “Mr. Champions League.” Erling Haaland is a goal-scoring, goal-hunting, and goal-destroying machine like something we’ve never seen before (besides the former Mr. Champions League, of course).
After signing for Manchester City last season for a $70 million transfer, the Norwegian turned the pressure of being in charge of scoring goals for the English champions into a record-breaking season. In just his first Premier League campaign, the 23-year-old scored 36 goals in 35 league appearances, breaking the all-time record for most goals in a single league season.
In the Champions League, the striker has totaled 36 goals in just 31 games — a goal scoring ratio arguably en route of breaking Cristiano Ronaldo’s 140 goal all-time record.