Real Madrid: Ranking the 10 best individual Champions League performances in the modern era

Real Madrid, Champions League (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Champions League (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) /

2. Karim Benzema vs PSG (2022)

Real Madrid was appalling in their defeat in the first leg of their Champions League knockout match against PSG this season. There was little hope going into the second leg at the Bernabeu as PSG not only had batter players on paper but they looked superior in all aspects.

Kylian Mbappe scored the second goal of the tie for PSG. At that point in time, it felt as if a new prince had arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu albeit he belonged to the opposition team. Well, let us just say by the end of the game Karim Benzema showed that he is still the king.

It took 17 minutes of pandemonium for Real Madrid to script a memorable comeback that night. PSG players were shell-shocked at what happened. Benzema basked in the glory as he followed up his hattrick with another against Chelsea away. He has scored 10 goals till now in the knockout phase of the Champions League. These are Ronaldo-esque numbers. If the previous Champions League titles belonged to Ronaldo’s heroics, this definitely has Benzema’s stamp all over it.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Wolfsburg (2016)

It is hard to choose between Benzema’s hattrick against PSG and Ronaldo’s against Wolfsburg in 2016. Both of these performances came in the face of adversity with the team down by two goals. However, I consider this game a landmark in Real Madrid’s modern history.

Zidane had just been made the manager. The team was struggling in the league and nobody expected them to go far into the tournament. And then Real Madrid lost the first leg 2-0 away from home. Even the most optimistic fans would have rolled their eyes at the prospect of a comeback that season.

I still remember Peter Drury’s prophetic words in commentary after Ronaldo’s first goal – “It is him again, it is always him”. There was no turning back after that goal. The second goal came from a header and within 17 minutes the deficit was wiped out.

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The third goal came via a marvelous freekick. The comeback was complete. Allow me the opportunity to quote the great Peter Drury again – ” He has done it all by himself. Another Champions League hattrick for the head of Real Madrid glitterati “.

If not for Cristiano Ronaldo’s hattrick, one wonders whether Real Madrid would complete the comeback and go on to win the Champions League that season. And whether the team even goes on to make the history of a three-peat European run.