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Top 9 goalscorers in football history

  • We take a look at some of the most decorated goalscorers to grace the game
  • Only two of these players are active currently and the duo have helped shape a new era in world football
FEATURED WRITER
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 02 Apr 2020, 17:15 IST

Pele and Cristiano Ronaldo at an awards ceremony
Pele and Cristiano Ronaldo at an awards ceremony

The aim of football is simple – to score goals. And some players have cemented their place in history by scoring a bucketload of goals from all different kinds of situations and angles.

All of the players on this list have scored more than 500 goals in their career, and have been absolute legends for their country and clubs. Without much ado, let us look at the top 10 goalscorers of all time.

Note: Amateur matches have not been considered (Stats correct as of 2nd April 2020)


#9 Eusebio – 621 goals

Eusebio is widely regarded as Benfica
Eusebio is widely regarded as Benfica's greatest ever player

Statistics in football are often overrated, but 621 goals in 637 appearances, makes the Portuguese black panther Eusebio one of the greatest goalscorers of all time. For many, including the great Pele, Eusebio was the undisputed king of football.

Blessed with an athletic physique and an incredible eye for goal, Eusebio is best remembered for his time with Benfica, where he won a European cup and 11 Premiere Ligas. In 440 matches for the Portuguese giants, he scored an incredible 473 times and is still considered by many to be one of the greatest Portuguese footballers of all time.

Eusebio won various personal accolades in those years, including the Ballon d’Or in 1965 and coming second the following year, where he lost to Bobby Charlton by a single vote. In 1968, he was awarded the Golden Boot for the most number of goals in Europe and achieved that feat again five years later.

The black panther is one of the greatest strikers to ever grace the beautiful game.


#8 Lionel Messi – 697 goals

Lionel Messi won the Ballon d
Lionel Messi won the Ballon d'Or for a record-breaking sixth time in December 2019
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The only footballer ever to win the Ballon d’Or six times, Lionel Messi is an absolute phenomenon. The diminutive Argentine has been Barcelona’s main man since 2008 and has put in some spell bounding performances for club and country.

The Argentine maestro has scored an incredible 627 goals in 718 matches for the Catalan giants. A player who has defined a generation along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi is one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Also, Messi is the highest scorer for his national side as well with 70 goals in 138 appearances. One of only two active players on this list, Messi’s position will be much closer to the top when he calls time on his illustrious career.


#7 Ferenc Puskas – 700 goals

Ferenc Puskas has an award named after him, as he left a lasting impression in the world of football
Ferenc Puskas has an award named after him, as he left a lasting impression in the world of football

Blessed with a thunderous left foot and superb positioning skills, Ferenc Puskas is easily one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He was the lynchpin of the all-conquering “Magical Magyars” and led the Hungary team to unprecedented success.

During the second half of his career, Puskas formed a deadly combination with the great Alfredo Di Stefano during his stint at Real Madrid. The duo tore up defences and guided Los Blancos to five straight league titles and three European Cups.

The legendary Hungarian striker was La Liga’s top scorer for 4 seasons in a row. His phenomenal goal-scoring prowess can be seen from the fact that he scored an astonishing 616 goals in 620 appearances for his club sides. He is also Hungary's record scorer, having scored 84 times in 85 appearances.

With 700 goals in his amazing career, Puskas is the sixth-highest goalscorer of all time.


#6 Gerd Muller – 711 goals

Gerd Muller is one of the most naturally gifted strikers to grace the game
Gerd Muller is one of the most naturally gifted strikers to grace the game

Gerd Müller is the most lethal finisher in the history of football. The German was not one to show fancy footwork or waste his time attempting eye-catching stepovers. What he did do was score goals and he scored every time he played.

Müller’s statistics are truly astonishing. He has scored a staggering 711 goals for club and country and even held the record for the most goals in a calendar year before it was broken by Lionel Messi. Müller scored 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga matches for Bayern Munich, almost 100 goals more than the second most successful Bundesliga scorer, Klaus Fischer.

Famous football author David Winner best epitomized Muller’s game when he said:

“He never fitted the conventional idea of a great footballer, but he had lethal acceleration over short distances, a remarkable aerial game, and uncanny goalscoring instincts."

"His short legs gave him a strangely low centre of gravity, so he could turn quickly and with perfect balance in spaces and at speeds that would cause other players to fall over. He also had a knack of scoring in unlikely situations."

Muller is hailed as one of the best finishers in football history.


#5 Cristiano Ronaldo – 725 goals

Cristiano Ronaldo continues to age like fine wine
Cristiano Ronaldo continues to age like fine wine

One of the two standout players of this generation, Cristiano Ronaldo is easily one of the greatest players of all time. After a stunning spell with Real Madrid, where he spearheaded Los Blancos to four UEFA Champions League crowns, Ronaldo joined Juventus in the summer of 2018.

Since arriving in Italy, the Portuguese superstar has carried on from where he left off in Spain and has scored over 50 goals for the Bianconeri, as he played a pivotal role in their Serie A triumph last season.

Hailed as one of the most gifted players of his generation, Ronaldo's crowning moment for his country arrived in 2016. Portugal defied all odds and won the European Championships that year, with Ronaldo in the forefront of their stunning success as captain and talisman.

With 99 goals for A Selecao, Ronaldo is his country's all-time top goalscorer and has a staggering 725 goals for club and country in his career. If he continues his incredible goalscoring exploits, he is sure to retire as one of the most decorated goalscorers in the history of the game.


#4 Romario – 743 goals

Romario dazzled for PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona in his playing days
Romario dazzled for PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona in his playing days

In a long and successful 24 year career, Romario cemented his legacy as one of the greatest goal scorers to ever play the game. The Brazilian is best remembered for his stints at PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona. 

Blessed with supreme dribbling skills and finishing, Romario’s laid back manner and supreme self-confidence made him one of the most dangerous forwards of all time. He scored 165 goals in 167 games for PSV and an impressive 39 goals in his two seasons at Barcelona.

In a nomadic career where he played for clubs like Flamengo, Vasco Da Gama, PSV, Barcelona and Valencia, Romario scored an amazing 688 goals in his 886 appearances. He also scored 55 goals for Brazil and with 743 goals in his career, Romario is the 4th greatest goal scorer of all time.


#3 Josef Bican – 805 goals

Josef Bican has the best goals to games ratio in the history of the game
Josef Bican has the best goals to games ratio in the history of the game

The player with the most incredible goals to game ratio of 1.52, Josef Bican was the season’s highest scorer in Europe on 5 separate occasions. Bican could play with both feet and had considerable pace to burn. He was also able to run 100 metres in 10.8 seconds, which was as fast as many sprinters at the time.

The International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) awarded Bican the "Golden Ball" as the greatest goalscorer of the last century.

Bican is best known for his time with Rapid Vienna and Slavia Prague. He is the only person in the history of the game to score 7 goals in a game on three different occasions. His goalscoring exploits with Vienna and Prague are scarcely believable.

With 805 goals in his career, the tall and speedy Austrian is the third-highest goalscorer in the history of the game.


#2 Pele – 1,281 goals

Pele
Pele's goalscoring records are unlikely to ever be broken

In the 1958 World Cup, a 17 year and 239-day old Brazilian striker emerged as probably the greatest prodigy of all time.

Hailed as the most naturally gifted footballer of all-time, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, fondly known as Pele, is one of the most potent goalscorers in the history of the game. Winning three World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1970, the only player in the world to achieve such a feat, Pele has also scored a whopping 1281 goals in 1363 games.

A player who brought a whole nation together, it is difficult to have found someone who has done it better than the legend Pele.

Pele never played in Europe, spending the majority of his career at childhood club Santos. He spent a couple of seasons at New York Cosmos before calling time on his stunning career.


#1 Arthur Friedenreich – 1,329 goals

Arthur Friedenreich is the most decorated goalscorer in football history
Arthur Friedenreich is the most decorated goalscorer in football history

Surprisingly the man who tops this list is not Pele, but another Brazilian who went by the name of Arthur Friedenreich. The Brazilian striker played for an astonishing 26 years from 1909-1935, scoring an incredible 1329 goals in his career.

He was the Copa America player of the tournament and the Golden Boot winner in 1919. However, he never represented Brazil in a World Cup as there was a serious misunderstanding between the football Leagues of the States of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo at the time.

Nicknamed the Tiger, he was the game’s first outstanding black player and overcome several barriers throughout his career. He played a starring role in Brazil’s 1919 and 1922 Copa America campaign and was crowned as the “King of football” in Selecao’s 1925 tour of Europe.

The late Arthur Friedenreich, with 1329 goals, is the greatest goalscorer in football history.

Published 12 Aug 2016, 13:40 IST
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