12 of the best goalscoring defenders in football history

Pique Champions League goals
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Ronald Koeman (253 goals)

There are many strikers who would feel justifiably proud of Koeman’s career return of 253 goals in 763 professional outings. The former Holland international was regularly used as a sweeper and thus afforded license to get forward, while he also took penalties and free-kicks for many of his clubs.

Koeman once scored 26 goals in a season for PSV, before finding the net 19 times for Barcelona in both 1989/90 and 1993/94. His most important effort for the Blaugrana came in 1991/92, when the Dutchman’s 112th-minute free-kick won the Catalans their first ever European Cup against Sampdoria.

He also scored the goal which effectively ended England's chances of qualifying for the 1994 World Cup – mere minutes after escaping a clear red card. "The referee's got me the sack," huffed Graham Taylor to an unsuspecting official in The Impossible Job. "Thank him ever so much for that, won't you?"  

Roberto Carlos (113 goals)

Critics of Roberto Carlos claim he never scored another free-kick after his sensational effort for Brazil against France in 1997, but by the end of his career the flying full-back had made the net bulge on no fewer than 113 occasions.

Many of his goals came from dead-balls, including a 30-yarder on his Inter debut and a crucial free-kick on the final day of Real Madrid’s title-winning campaign of 2002/03. The left-back also had an eye for the spectacular in open play, as evidenced by this vicious, swerving strike against Tenerife in the Copa del Rey.

Daniel Passarella (175 goals)

If either Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi is the greatest attacking player Argentina have ever produced, there’s no doubt that Passarella is the South American nation’s foremost defender. The ex-River Plate and Fiorentina centre-back captained the Albiceleste to 1978 World Cup glory on home soil, while he was also a non-playing member of the squad that repeated the feat in Mexico eight years later.

Despite standing at just 5ft 8in, Passarella was excellent in the air and many of his 175 career goals were headers. He often took penalties at both club and international level too, scoring from the spot for Argentina against France on the way to their aforementioned triumph in '78.

Fernando Hierro (163 goals)

Hierro’s only goal for Bolton came in a forgetful defeat by Norwich in December 2004, but before his move to Lancashire he was a prolific defender in Spain. His 127 goals for Real Madrid rank him above many of the club’s former centre-forwards in los Blancos’ all-time scoring standings, with Hierro a threat from both set-pieces and open play.

His best individual season came at Madrid in 1991/92, when the centre-back notched an astonishing 26 goals in 53 appearances. He was also effective in attack for his country, netting the goal against Denmark which qualified Spain for the 1994 World Cup.

Paul Breitner (113 goals)

Breitner stepped forward into midfield during the latter stages of his career, but before that he was a left-back for clubs - Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Eintracht Braunschweig - and country. The former West Germany international won Euro '72 and the 1974 World Cup with his country, scoring three goals at the latter tournament - including the equalising penalty against Holland in the final.

In fact, he's one of only four players (quiz: name the rest – answers at the bottom*) to score in two World Cup finals, having plundered another in the 1982 showpiece against Italy. Ten of Breitner's career goals came for Die Mannschaft, with the rest notched at club level. His most prolific spell came during his midfield days at Bayern, but he still posed a threat to the opposition goal even when utilised in a deeper role.

Ian Harte (97 goals)

Harte's sweet left foot made him a natural set-piece taker for every side he represented. The full-back scored 39 times in 288 appearances for Leeds, including the brilliant free-kick below against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Harte later netted 10 goals for Levante, 21 for Carlisle, 15 for Reading and one for Bournemouth, before retiring in 2015. He was also effective at international level, notching 12 strikes in 64 outings for the Republic of Ireland.

* Quiz answers: Vava, Brazil (1958, 1962); Pele, Brazil (1958, 1970); Zinedine Zidane (1998, 2006). 

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