Here is a look at the all-time top goalscorers from the biggest leagues in the World, as well as the UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup and European Championships.
English Premier League
Starting with the English Premier League top scorers that dates back to 1992 when the league pulled away from the Football League.
1. Alan Shearer (Blackburn Rovers/Newcastle United) – 260 goals
The England, Blackburn and Newcastle legend still leads the way with his 260 goals in 434 Premier League appearances between 1992-2006. His goal ratio with Blackburn was so impressive in the early days of the Premier League that Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan broke the world record transfer fee after Euro 96 with the £15 million purchase of Shearer.
2. Andrew Cole (Newcastle United/Manchester United/Blackburn Rovers/Fulham/Manchester City/Portsmouth) – 189 goals
Half of one of the best strike duos in Premier League history, Andrew Cole and Dwight Yorke helped fire Manchester United to the treble at the end of the last millennium. After firing Newcastle into the Premier League and then having 1.5 great seasons with the Magpies in the top flight, Sir Alex Ferguson managed to poach the goal machine midway through the 1994-95 season for £7 million. Andrew Cole stayed at Old Trafford for seven years where he won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup and the 1999 UEFA Champions League. Was fantastic inside the penalty area.
3. Thierry Henry (Arsenal) – 175 goals
The Arsenal legend reached 175 goals in significantly fewer games than Wayne Rooney to officially be the third highest-scorer in the Premier League. One more goal from the England international will move him into that third spot, but for now it belongs to Thierry Henry. The 1998 World Cup winner makes most people’s all-time Premier League XI for his fantastic goal ratio. He had it all – pace, technique and an eye for goal. Arsenal haven’t lifted the Premier League trophy since he left.
Spanish La Liga
La Liga dates back all the way 1929 when Barcelona the very first Spanish league title. A number of greats have played in this league and in this league for a number of seasons but it takes something special to break into their top three.
1. Telmo Zarra (Athletic Bilbao) – 251 goals
Between the 1940s and 1950s Athletic Bilbao had a hitman up front who scored nearly a goal a game during his career which was predominately spent with the same club, before ending his career with two short stints at clubs in the second division. Telmo Zarra still holds the record for most hat-tricks in La Liga and narrowly leads Lionel Messi as the all-time top scorer, at least whilst this article is being written. His goals were enough to fire them to the title in 1943 and he also collected five winners’ medals in the Copa del Rey.
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 246 goals
The Argentine will become the all-time leading goalscorer in La Liga history this season barring a serious injury. Lionel Messi is still only 27-years old. He’s accomplished everything at the Catalan club and continues to score goals freely. No surprise he continues to win individual honours and trophies whilst he’s averaged more than a goal a game in the league over the past six seasons.
3. Hugo Sánchez (Atlético Madrid/Real Madrid/Rayo Vallecano) – 234 goals
Real Madrid have a few players in the top ten and Cristiano Ronaldo is on course to join them this season, but the one player they have in the top three is one they signed from rivals Atlético in 1985. Hugo Sánchez had a good record in Atlético, but it got even better with their city rivals during a six year stay where the Mexican won five league titles and a UEFA Cup.
Italian Serie A
The all-time list of goalscorers in Italy contains a number of modern name stars – Alessandro Del Piero, Gabriel Batistuta and Roberto Baggio are amongst it. The leading goalscorer also has more goals than the leader in England and Spain too.
1. Silvio Piola (Pro Vercelli, Lazio, Juventus, Novara) – 274 goals
Part of the 1938 Italy team that won the World Cup, Silvio Piola scored double figures in nearly every season he played football, between 1930 and 1954. He never did win Serie A or any other major honours than the one at international level, spending only two seasons with Juventus. His record number of goals in Italy looks like holding up for a while to come yet.
2. Francesco Totti (AS Roma) – 235 goals
One of the greatest players of his generation, Francesco Totti is a one club man where he lifted the Scudetto in 2001. He is the club’s all-time appearance maker as well as being their top goalscorer. He has won numerous individual honours and the 2006 World Cup. Often playing behind the strikers at Roma he has also been played as a lone striker himself. At one stage in his career he went nine consecutive Serie A seasons scoring at least 12 goals. In 2006-07 he netted 26 to win both the Serie A top scorer award and the European Golden Shoe – the last player from the Italian league to do so to date.
3. Gunnar Nordahl (AC Milan/AS Roma) – 225 goals
The winner of the Capocannoniere for top scorer a record five times, Swede Gunnar Nordahl enjoyed much success in the 1950s, winning Serie A on two occasions. He averaged nearly 1.5 goals per game for Sweden before a transfer to Milan forced him to retire from international football. Zlatan Ibrahimović is the only other Swede to have finished top scorer in Serie A.
The top eight goalscorers in the history of the German Bundesliga are all from the league’s native country. Claudio Pizarro has recently moved into ninth position and is also the only active player in the top 15. You’ll need to go back to the likes of Stefan Kuntz and Ulf Kirsten for ‘recent’ retirements in the top 10. Germany, as we know, have produced many a great striker over the years.
1. Gerd Müller (Bayern Munich) – 365 goals
Recently had his international record broken by Miroslav Klose but it’s safe to say that the German Bundesliga record of 365 goals in 427 games for ‘der Bomber’ is going to stand for a while yet. Gerd Müller helped his nation to win both the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, and Euro 1972. He scored 68 goals in 62 appearances for West Germany too. He spent his entire Bundesliga career with Bayern Munich, winning the title and the German Cup on four occasions each. He was also part of the Bayern side in the mid-70s that won three consecutive European Cups, including 1975 beating Leeds United – the only time a German side has beat an English side in the final of either a European Cup/Champions League. He simply scored goal after goal during his career.
2. Klaus Fischer (1860 Munich, Schalke 04, FC Köln, VfL Bochum) – 268 goals
Some 97 goals behind Gerd Müller in second place is Klaus Fischer. Playing from the late 60s to late 80s, Fischer spent the best part of his career with Schalke 04, either side of spells with other Bundesliga clubs. Schalke have never won the Bundesliga but Fischer managed to win the German Cup with both them and FC Köln. He was also part of the 1982 West Germany side that lost to Italy in the World Cup final.
3. Jupp Heynckes (Borussia Mönchengladbach/Hannover 96) = 220 goals
Recently winning the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League treble with Bayern Munich and handing down one of the greatest sides in football history to Pep Guardiola, back in the 1970s Jupp Heynckes was scoring freely for a successful Borussia Mönchengladbach side. The Foals won the Bundesliga four times during the 70s with Heynckes up front, as well as winning the 1975 UEFA Cup final. Two years later they lost to Liverpool in the European Cup final. Jupp Heynckes won both the 1974 World Cup and Euro 1972 as a player.
American Major League Soccer
USA’s football league only started in 1995 off the success of winning the right to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The league has seen some growth in recent years with the likes of David Beckham, Thierry Henry and other ageing stars joining. Reaching the second round at this summer’s World Cup also helped improve their fan base back home.
1. Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes/LA Galaxy) – 143 goals
Many consider Landon Donovan to be America’s greatest ever player. Mind you there’s not too much competition. He is the league’s highest-ever scorer in its short run and this despite starting his career in Germany with Bayer 04 Leverkusen. He is also the country’s all-time top goalscorer with 57 goals in 156 caps. Had two short spells on loan at Everton in the Premier League recently. Still only 32, Donovan has a couple years left in him to increase his MLS goalscoring record.
2. Jeff Cunningham (Columbus Crew/Colorado Rapids/Real Salt Lake/Toronto FC/FC Dallas) – 134 goals
Longevity was the key to Jeff Cunningham’s success in one-time being the all-time leading goalscorer in the MLS. He had a number of low-scoring seasons but the 14-time USA international had a couple of good seasons with Columbus Crew, one with Real Salt Lake and two with FC Dallas to improve his poor numbers at Toronto FC and a few quiet years in Columbus.
3. Jaime Moreno (D.C. United/NY/NJ MetroStars) – 133 goals
The Bolivian striker was pretty prolific in the late 1990s with DC United but failed to set the world alight during his two short spells in England with Middlesbrough. In all, Jaime Moreno had three spells with DC United where he accumulated the majority of his goals that sees him amongst the league’s all-time top scorers. He only scored 9 goals in 75 international caps which perhaps says something about the standard of football in the MLS at the time more so than Moreno’s goalscoring ability.
French Ligue 1
France has seen a number of top strikers over the years and a number of them being foreign imports. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised then that a foreign strikers is the all-time top scorer in Ligue 1. None of the top 10 played football this millennium.
1. Delio Onnis (Stade de Reims/AS Monaco/Tours/Toulon) – 299 goals
The Argentine striker retired from football in 1986 as the French Ligue 1 all-time top scorer, one goal short of 300. Delio Onnis was prolific with every club he played for, in both Argentina and France and spent his best years in the mid-to-late 1970s with AS Monaco. He won the league with the club in 1978 but spent the majority of his playing career in mid-table or the bottom half despite his impressive goal tally.
2. Bernard Lacombe (Lyon/Saint-Étienne/Bordeaux) – 255 goals
Part of the French national team that won Euro 1984, Bernard Lacombe is the highest-scoring French player in Ligue 1 history. He was a frequent goalscorer with all three clubs he played with and won Ligue 1 three times with Bordeaux in the 19080s.
3. Hervé Revelli (Saint-Étienne/Nice) – 216 goals
Saint-Étienne’s best days came in the 1960s and 1970s when they won eight of their 10 Ligue 1 championships. Former French international Hervé Revelli was a part of seven of those title-winning seasons with the Greens. He spent a couple seasons away from the club with Nice during the 70s but clearly his best days were with Saint-Étienne.
The Netherlands have produced a wealth of talented attacking players over the years. Their league was thriving in the 1970s when Feyenoord and Ajax combined for four successive European Cups. They weren’t bad in the 1980s either when the country won their first and only international trophy – Euro 1988.
1. Willy van der Kuijlen (PSV Eindhoven/MVV) – 311 goals
The all-time Dutch Eredivisie leading goalscorer spent nearly his entire career with PSV Eindhoven between the late 60s and early 80s. He won three league titles with the Dutch giants as well as the 1978 UEFA Cup. In his 22 caps for the national team he managed seven goals. There is a statue of Willy van der Kuijlen outside the Philips Stadium.
2. Ruud Geels (Telstar/Feyenoord/Go Ahead Eagles/Ajax/Sparta Rotterdam/PSV Eindhoven/NAC Breda) – 265 goals
Playing in the same era as Willy van der Kruijlen but with a greater number of clubs, Ruud Geels was also a frequent scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie. He enjoyed most of his success early on with Feyenoord at the start of his career, winning the league and cup on two occasions as well as the 1970 European Cup. He scored 123 goals in 131 league games for Ajax, winning the Eredivisie in 1977. He also had two spells in Belgium – with Club Bruges and Anderlecht either side of his time in Amsterdam. 20 caps for the national team, 11 goals.
3. Johan Cruyff (Ajax/Feyenoord) – 215 goals
The Netherlands’ most famous child. Johan Cruyff was a significant part of the successful Ajax side in the late 1960s to early 70s before he left for Barcelona in 1973. Following a trip to the USA he came back to Ajax via Levante for two seasons in the early 80s where he would win two more league titles, taking his tally up to nine in 11 seasons with Ajax! A three-time winner of the European Cup as well as winning La Liga with the Catalans, he is regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever. 33 goals in 48 caps for the Dutch national team.
Portuguese Primeira Liga
The Portuguese Primeira Liga has been a feeder club for a number of Europe’s bigger leagues and clubs in the past decade or so. FC Porto winning the UEFA Champions League in 2004 saw their side dismantled by Europe’s top sides and the league continues to hold onto its top players. None of the top 10 goalscorers of all time in the Portuguese top flight have played in it since 1991.
1. Fernando Peyroteo (Sporting Club) – 331 goals
The Portuguese Primeira Liga was established in 1934 and three years later Sporting Club brought through a youngster called Fernando Peyroteo. He turned out to be the ultimate goalscoring machine – scoring 34 goals in only 14 games in his first season to help the Lisbon side win the Portuguese championship. In all, he scored 331 goals in 197 league appearances for Sporting Club – I cannot find a better record than that in a top league. Peyroteo won five league titles and five cups during his career as a one club man. He scored 14 goals in 20 appearances for the Portuguese national team.
2. Eusébio (Benfica/Beira Mar) – 319 goals
Benfica controversially stole an 18-year old Eusébio out of the reach of their local rivals Sporting Club in 1960. He went on to become one of the greatest strikers in the game. He scored 319 goals in 313 appearances with more than 300 of those games and goals coming for Benfica. He helped the Super Eagles to 10 league titles during his 13 seasons in Lisbon. He also scored two goals in the 1962 European Cup final against Real Madrid as Benfica ended the Spanish giants’ run at five in becoming the second-ever winner of the tournament. The Mozambique-born striker was named European Player of the Year in 1965 and top scored at the FIFA World Cup a year later. He also spent time playing in USA, Mexico and Canada.
3. Fernando Gomes (FC Porto/Sporting Club) – 318 goals
FC Porto’s all-time top scorer netted 288 goals in 342 Primeira Liga appearances for the Portuguese giants between 1974-89. In between he did spend two seasons in Spain with Sporting Gijón. Won five league titles in Porto which included ending a 20-year league drought and helped the side reach the 1987 European Cup final in which they beat Bayern Munich, although Gomes missed the final after suffering a broken leg days before. Three years earlier he played in their European Cup Winners’ Cup final loss to Juventus – their first European cup final appearance of any kind. He finished his career with Sporting Club of Portugal for two seasons.
UEFA Champions League
The grandest club cup competition of them all. Rebranded in 1992 with a gradual expansion of the competition over the years. The final is one of the most-watched sporting events each year. The who’s-who of modern day football play in this event and the very elite strikers make it on the top of the score chart.
1. Raúl (Real Madrid/Schalke 04) – 71 goals
Real Madrid and Spain legend Raúl narrowly leads the UEFA Champions League all-time goalscorers list with a goal ratio of exactly 0.5. However, the retired footballer can expect to see his record broken by either or both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both hot on his path and with five group stage games still to go as well as the knock out stages of this season’s competition. Not to mention both players have a few years left of their careers to go yet! Raúl won this competition three times with Real Madrid – 1998, 2000 and 2002.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United/Real Madrid) – 68 goals
The Portuguese forward is in strong competition with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, both for the Spanish La Liga title and UEFA Champions League and individual honours. Cristiano Ronaldo currently leads the Argentine by one goal although he has played an extra 17 games than his rival. No doubt he’s one of the greatest footballers of all time and it’s just a matter of time before he overtakes fellow Real Madrid legend Raúl in the Champions League scorer’s chart. A Champions League winner with Manchester United in 2008 and Real Madrid in 2014.
3. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 67 goals
It’s hard to argue with anyone who proclaims Lionel Messi as the greatest footballer of all-time. Still only 27-years old, there are some more goalscoring records left to break for the Barcelona forward. Has scored for fun in all club competitions throughout this career and is only one goal behind Ronaldo in this chart – four behind the all-time leader. Surely Lionel Messi is going to be number one when he hangs up his boots. Lionel Messi has already lifted the Champions League trophy three times – 2006, 2009 and 2011.
A new leader at the top of the World Cup scoring chart appeared this summer in Brazil during Germany’s annihilation of the hosts in the semi-final. Often labelled the pinnacle of football tournaments, most players say their career highlight is just playing at a World Cup. To be amongst the all-time top scorers must be something else.
1. Miroslav Klose (Germany) – 16 goals
Scoring across four different World Cups between 2002 and 2014, Miroslav Klose has been consistent in all of his finals appearances. 2014 was the first time the former Bayern Munich striker scored after the quarter-final stage. The majority of his goals also came in and around the six-yard box, making him one of the best goal poachers in world football. Often under-appreciated at club level due to the lack of success with big clubs. He didn’t score more than 10 goals in any of his four Bundesliga seasons with Bayern Munich.
2. Ronaldo (Brazil) – 15 goals
The former Barcelona and Real Madrid striker accomplished his 15 goals across three tournaments between 1998 and 2006 which included him scoring in all but one game (England in the quarter-finals) at the 2002 World Cup where he scored a brace against Oliver Kahn and Germany in the final. Ronaldo was the best striker between the late 1990s and the start of the new millennium, before knee injuries and weight issues saw his career end of a low.
3. Gerd Müller (West Germany) – 14 goals
Appearing in our list for a second time is the legendary Gerd Müller. The former Bayern Munich striker netted 10 goals in the 1970 World Cup including a first half hat-trick against Peru and three goals in extra-time in the knockout rounds as West Germany finished third. But it was his four goals in 1974 that were more important as West Germany won the World Cup with Müller himself scoring the winner versus the Netherlands in the final.
Two years until France host Euro 2016 in what will be the biggest European Championships ever – 24 nations competing. The expansion appears to come too soon whilst Euro 2020 has faced a lot of criticism due to it being staged across 13 different countries.
1. Michel Platini (France) – 9 goals
The current president of UEFA was a great player back in his day. Michel Platini’s day certainly came in the summer of 1984 as he helped guide his country to their first European Championships. They achieved this with Platini scoring in all five matches including the 119th minute winner versus Portugal in the semi-finals and the opener in a 2-0 win over Spain in the final. This was the only Euroepean Championship Platini played in.
2. Alan Shearer (England) – 7 goals
A young Alan Shearer played one game in England’s unsuccessful Euro 92 campaign. The Blackburn Rovers striker then lit up Euro 96 by helping the hosts reach the semi-finals as the top scorer with six goals in England. He also scored a goal at Euro 2000 to beat Germany in the group stage.
=3. Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands) – 6 goals
A number of players have scored six goals in the history of the European Championships but this former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker has done it in the fewest (8). Ruud van Nistelrooy scored his goals in Euro 2004 and 2008. The other players with six goals are: Patrick Kluivert, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nuno Gomes.