FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi became the sixth player to find the net four times in a UEFA Champions League game during Tuesday's 4-1 quarter-final second leg defeat of Arsenal FC.
While the great Ferenc Puskás scored four goals for Real Madrid CF in the 1960 European Champion Clubs' Cup final, and Alfredo Di Stéfano just as many in Madrid's quarter-finals of 1958 and 1959, Messi joins a modern pantheon containing five other players to have achieved the feat in the UEFA Champions League era.
(Fenerbahçe SK 0-4 AC Milan, 23/11/2005)
Istanbul represented the best and the worst of times for Milan in 2005. The Rossoneri lost the UEFA Champions League final to Liverpool FC in May, then six months later enjoyed one of their most impressive nights in the competition thanks in large part to Shevchenko. The Ukraine forward had missed the decisive spot-kick which handed Liverpool the UEFA Champions League trophy, but he helped make amends at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium with a brilliant four-goal burst that included a second-half hat-trick. Tellingly, though, Shevchenko said: "I would prefer to score one decisive goal in four different games than four in one."
Ruud van Nistelrooy
(Manchester United FC 4-1 AC Sparta Praha, 03/11/2004)
Only Raúl González, on 66, has registered more UEFA Champions League goals than Van Nistelrooy (56) so it is no surprise to find the former Dutch international on this list. Van Nistelrooy had netted a campaign-record 12 goals the season before and was at his ruthless best against a porous Sparta defence, punishing two poor back passes with cool finishes, converting a penalty and tapping in a stoppage-time fourth. "His record is unbelievable," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said afterwards. "He's got to be the most clinical finisher I've seen. All the top strikers have loved playing in Europe – Cruyff, Di Stéfano, Müller – and Ruud relishes this stage too."
(AS Monaco FC 8-3 RC Deportivo La Coruña, 05/11/2003)
Pršo only made the Monaco side because of injury to Fernando Morientes, yet how he grabbed his chance on his 29th birthday. The Croatia striker's booty was the fastest four-timer of the bunch – featuring a first-half hat-trick – with his first goal coming in the 26th minute and his fourth 23 minutes later. "Dado was magnificent," Monaco winger Jérôme Rothen told UEFA.com. "Everyone was worried about Fernando being out but we showed we have the players to cope." Monaco went all the way to the final on the back of an extraordinary game that still boasts the most goals of any UEFA Champions League match.
(S.S. Lazio 5-1 Olympique de Marseille, 14/03/2000)
Having walked in elder brother Filippo's shadow for much of his career, Simone Inzaghi hogged the limelight during a memorable 1999/2000 campaign – firing Lazio to their second Scudetto as well as the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. One of the highlights for 'Inzaghino' was his quartet against Marseille. It could have been more but the Piacenza-born attacker missed a penalty and squandered another two presentable openings. Inzaghi would strike again, against Chelsea FC and Valencia CF, to take his seasonal tally to nine from 11 games in the competition, but he could not prevent Lazio bowing out to the Spanish club in the last eight.
Marco van Basten
(AC Milan 4-0 IFK Göteborg, 25/11/1992)
On his penultimate European Cup outing, Van Basten gave Milan fans one last thing to remember him by. Having already notched four against SSC Napoli in Serie A earlier that term, the Netherlands centre-forward repeated the trick here, with the pick of his ensemble being the bicycle kick that completed his hat-trick. The masterclass was the prelude, by days, to Van Basten winning his third Ballon d'Or, a treble equalled only by Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini.
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