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Forward Lionel Messi of Argentina during the Round of 16 match between France and Argentina in the FIFA World Cup 2018. (Photo by Anatoliy Medved/Icon Sportswire)
December 19th, 2023
Attempting to figure out who the greatest goal scorer of all time can be a tricky problem to solve. The international governing body for soccer, FIFA, does not hold such statistics, and there’s question marks over whether friendly matches should be considered or not.
To avoid any uncertainty, we’ve focused on the top 10 players with the most career goals for club and country in competitive fixtures only, and the list is a who’s who of incredible goal scoring talent.
Going all the way back to the 1920s and 30s, we start the top 10 countdown with Joe Bambrick. Born in Belfast, he was a prolific scorer in the Irish League and the English football league, with his best spell coming at Linfield. He was prolific during his time there, scoring 286 league goals in just 183 games! The phrase "Head, heel, or toe, slip it to Joe" became famous when talking about Bambrick.
The 1965 Ballon d’Or winner, Eusebio is considered one of the greatest strikers of all time. He is a legend at Benfica with 473 goals in 440 competitive games, helping them win 11 league titles and a European Cup. He was the league’s top scorer a record seven times, and is the eighth highest goal scorer in the history of the European Cup. He was so impressive in the 1966 World Cup held in England, that the English immediately made a waxwork of him to put in Madame Tussauds in London.
⭐️ One of the all-time greats made his international debut 60 years ago today and, of course, marked the occasion with a goal 🎯🇵🇹 Remembering the one and only Eusebio ❤️#OnThisDay | @selecaoportugal | #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/cITmI7aUyx— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) October 8, 2021
⭐️ One of the all-time greats made his international debut 60 years ago today and, of course, marked the occasion with a goal 🎯🇵🇹 Remembering the one and only Eusebio ❤️#OnThisDay | @selecaoportugal | #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/cITmI7aUyx
One of the game’s greatest poachers, Gerd Muller made a name for himself by being in the right place at the right time. A true striker, he did his best work in and around the six yards box, and he has a stunning record both for club and country. He spent 15 years with Bayern Munich and scored 365 goals in the Bundesliga – a record that still stands today – while for West Germany he scored 68 goals in just 62 games. Muller scored winning goals in the European Cup and World Cup finals.
Jones was a key player for Belfast Celtic in the mid 1940s, and in his first season there scored 62 goals in all competitions. The following year his scoring run continued until a Boxing Day clash with Linfield, which ended with a pitch invasion in which supporters came onto the pitch and broke Jones’ leg. Incredibly after a year out he joined Glenavon and became a club legend. He was the leading scorer for six seasons in the Irish League (still a record), and in the 1956-57 season he hit a record 74 goals in all competitions.
This is Jimmy Jones. Most of you will not know that name.Despite Lionel #Messi's 73 goal season in 2011/12, he is only second in European top flight #football history, behind Jimmy Jones. Jones bagged 74 in all competitions in the 1956/57 season for #Glenavon. #northernireland pic.twitter.com/o7nuH6qlk4— Trivial Football (@TrivialFooty) October 25, 2020
This is Jimmy Jones. Most of you will not know that name.Despite Lionel #Messi's 73 goal season in 2011/12, he is only second in European top flight #football history, behind Jimmy Jones. Jones bagged 74 in all competitions in the 1956/57 season for #Glenavon. #northernireland pic.twitter.com/o7nuH6qlk4
Bican played in the 1930s and soccer statistics back then are still a bit of a grey area, so some sources claim he has over 1,800 total goals. What we do know for certain is Bican was a fast, powerful striker who could match some top 100m sprinters at the time. He scored a total of 447 goals in the Czechoslovakian league and was the top scorer in 12 different seasons.
The name Puskas is well known in football these days primarily because of the Puskas Award – the prize given out by FIFA for the most beautiful goal each year. He scored 514 goals in just 529 matches across the Hungarian and Spanish leagues and was a three-time European Cup winner and 10-time national league champion. For Hungary he scored 84 times in 85 games and led his country to the final of the 1954 World Cup.
It's been 12 years since we lost Ferenc Puskás.Here he is in 1953, saying Seeeeee Yeeeeer to Billy Wright.pic.twitter.com/3hcSW3kB9n— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) November 17, 2018
It's been 12 years since we lost Ferenc Puskás.Here he is in 1953, saying Seeeeee Yeeeeer to Billy Wright.pic.twitter.com/3hcSW3kB9n
A 1994 World Cup winner with Brazil, Romario is one of the greatest players from a nation packed full of talent. He is renowned for his famous toe-poke finish and is the fourth-highest goal scorer for the Brazilian national team, with 55 goals in 70 games. Romario scored 155 goals in the Brazilian league, which remains the third-highest tally of any player in the division.
What’s left to say about Lionel Messi? A seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, he is one of the G.O.A.T.s of the game. He holds the record for most goals in La Liga (474), most hat-tricks in La Liga (36), and most international goals by a South American player (80), among a ton of other records that I don’t have time or space to write about. His legacy at Barcelona, where he spent 16 years, is astonishing and his 673 goals in all competitions for the club will never be matched.
FC Barcelona turn 122 today. Their fans voted this, by a 19-year-old Leo Messi in 2007, the club’s greatest ever goal 🐐(via @FCBarcelona)pic.twitter.com/Ig6nmvmg6H— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 29, 2021
FC Barcelona turn 122 today. Their fans voted this, by a 19-year-old Leo Messi in 2007, the club’s greatest ever goal 🐐(via @FCBarcelona)pic.twitter.com/Ig6nmvmg6H
Including friendlies and non-competitive games, the Guinness World Record Book has Pele down as the greatest goal scorer of all time with 1,279 goals in 1,363 games. Even in purely competitive matches though, his record isn’t too shabby. Pele is Brazil’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals in 92 games and helped them win three World Cups in 1958, 1962, and 1970. For Santos, his club in Brazil, Pele holds the record as the club’s all-time top scorer and is credited for coining the phrase "The Beautiful Game".
The only player in the history of the game to score more than 800 official senior goals for club and country is the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. CR7 has more than 100 goals for Juventus, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Portugal, as he’s shown that no matter what top European team he plays for he, is just as deadly. With 450 goals in just 438 games, Ronaldo is Real Madrid’s highest goal scorer of all time, and he leads that statistic for his country as well, with 115 goals for Portugal in 184 games. Like Messi, it’s hard to do justice to Ronaldo’s legacy in such a short paragraph, but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has set records that will stand for generations.
📅 #OnThisDay in 2018 Cristiano Ronaldo delivered this masterclass in the UCL.The most memorable bicycle kick of the competition.pic.twitter.com/cczKDgn31j— Cristiano Ronaldo Fans (@TheRonaldoTeam) April 3, 2020
📅 #OnThisDay in 2018 Cristiano Ronaldo delivered this masterclass in the UCL.The most memorable bicycle kick of the competition.pic.twitter.com/cczKDgn31j
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