RANKED! The players who have scored the most goals in football history

Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Manchester United
(Image credit: Getty)

The all-time top scorer is often a controversial topic and often produces varied lists.

FIFA has never released a list detailing the highest goalscorers across history, and doesn't keep official records - making these rankings that little bit more difficult officially confirm.  

With that said, this list is based on the figures collated by the International Federation of Football History & Statistic (IFFHS). So, while Pele might claim he has scored over 1,000 goals in his career, we aren't including all of his strikes. Primarily because lobbing your three-year-old in the back garden doesn't actually count as an official goal. Who'd have thought?

There are only two currently active players who feature on this list (no prizes for guessing), but there is potential for Robert Lewandowski to sneak onto it, provided he produces a couple of more seasons of high totals.

10. Joe Bambrick - 616

A Northern Irish footballer between 1926 and 1939, Bambrick is recognised with having scored 616 goals, working out an average of 44 goals a season. 

He played for Glentoran and Linfield in his home country for a large part of his career, before venturing over to England to play for Chelsea and Walsall. Bambrick's most prolific spell came at Linfield, though, where he scored 286 in just 183 appearances.

Bambrick also bagged 12 times for Ireland, including six goals in one match against Wales in 1930. It remains a record for the most goals scored by a player from the British Isles in an international fixture. 

9. Eusebio - 619

Eusebio

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Portugal's most legendary player until Cristiano Ronaldo stole the mantle, Eusebio plundered the majority of his 619 career goals at Benfica, where he spent 16 years. Indeed, Eusebio netted 473 times at The Eagles, whom he joined from Mozambique side Sporting de Lourenço Marques, where he scored 77 goals in 42 games. 

Despite playing for Portugal's national team for 13 years between 1961 and 1973, Eusebio only featured in 64 official matches. Still, he managed to score 41 times, helping his adopted nation to third place at the 1966 World Cup. The year beforehand he picked up the Ballon d'Or. 

8. Gerd Muller - 634

Gerd Muller

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Often referred to as the greatest goalscorer of all time, Gerd Muller shot 634 shots past goalkeepers between 1964 and 1981. 

The German completed all but three years of his career at Bayern Munich, scoring 563 goals and setting Bundesliga record after Bundesliga record - some of which have now been beaten by Robert Lewandowski, such as the most goals in a single league season. Regardless, he finished as the golden boot winner of seven occasions, winning four Bundesliga titles and three European Cups.

Muller even managed a ratio better than a goal per game at international level. His 68 strikes in 62 games helping West Germany to win the 1972 Euros and 1974 World Cup. 

7. Jimmy Jones - 647

Another Northern Irishman to make this list, Jimmy Jones started his career at Glenavon Juniors in 1944 and retired at Newry Town in 1965. 

During that time he bagged a remarkable 647 career goals, all coming in his home country. He did spend a year in English football, after moving to Fulham in the summer of 1950, but he failed to make a first team appearance due to a technicality over his registration. Jones could only play in reserve team matches, and therefore didn't score any official goals in England. 

Despite the disappointment in not being able to establish himself in another league, Jones moved back to Northern Ireland with Glenavon. It was there he enjoyed his most successful period as a goalscorer, beating the goalkeeper on more than 500 occasions across a 12-year spell. 

6. Josef Bican - 720

While Pele's oft-cited career tally is regarded as perhaps the most controversial in football, it is arguably Bican's which is even more heavily disputed among statisticians. 

According to Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF), the Vienna-born striker scored 948 goals in 624 matches between 1931 and 1957, while FIFA, in 2020, finally attributed Bican with 805 goals. The RSSSF includes goals in winter tournaments and fixtures where Bican represented regional and city teams, with the games regarded fundamentally as unofficial. 

Many publications have also claimed FIFA's total isn't correct either, suggesting some of those goals came in unofficial international friendlies and reserve team fixtures. 

As a result, IFFHS' figures still have Bican's total number of strikes down as 720, with 535 coming in as littles as 272 games at Slavia Prague. 

5. Ferenc Puskas - 729

Ferenc Puskas Euro 2020 legend Hungary

(Image credit: PA)

Puskas is best known for his spell with the Hungary national team and his time at Real Madrid, but, prior to joining Los Blancos in 1958, he had already scored 383 goals for Hungarian team Kispest, which was later renamed Budapesti Honvéd SE.

Puskas started his career with Kispest in 1943, and was part of the Mighty Magyars Hungary team which defeated England 6-3 and 7-1 in 1953 and 1954. In 85 games for his country, Puskas scored 84 times. 

However, upon leaving the country during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Puskas emigrated to Spain and didn't return until 1981. As a result, he signed for Real Madrid and played four games for Spain at the 1962 World Cup, although he failed to convert any chances. 

His time at Real Madrid yielded plenty of La Liga and European Cup honours, including plenty of celebrations from scoring goals. In 262 games, Puskas bagged 242 goals.

4. Romario - 755

Romario

(Image credit: PA)

Romario's total is fairly impossible to quantify, but IFFHS has the Brazilian's full total down as 755 career goals, including 55 for Brazil's national team which helped the country win the 1994 World Cup. 

The Golden Ball winner of that year argues he has plenty more goals than that, though, after celebrating what he claimed was his 1,000th goal in 2007. However, he later admitted the extra numbers in his tally included friendly matches, and therefore aren't counted officially. 

3. Pele - 762

Pele

(Image credit: PA)

Like Bican and Romario, Pele claims he has scored more times than he is officially recognised to have actually done so. 

When Lionel Messi reportedly broke the record for the most goals for a single club in December 2020, scoring his 644th for Barcelona, Pele's former club Santos denied the claim. The Brazilian side argued 448 goals are unaccounted for in the records, while Pele took to Instagram himself to highlight his career total stands at 1,283. 

The Guinness World Records have Pele down as scoring 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, including friendlies. 

However, IFFHS have the Brazilian great down as having netted 762 times, still a remarkable figure for one of the greatest players ever - 643 of those goals reportedly came at Santos, where he spent all but the final three years of his illustrious career playing. 

For Brazil he got 77 goals in 92 games.

2. Lionel Messi - 781

Lionel Messi celebrates one of his five goals for Argentina against Estonia.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Everyone knows just how good a player Lionel Messi is, and his goal scoring record is unsurprisingly one of the best of all-time. 

His 672 goals in 778 Barcelona appearances is recognised as the most by any one player at a single club in football history, while 90 goals in an Argentina shirt is the third-most in international fixtures.

Currently playing in France for PSG, Messi has bagged 781 career goals in total. He still has some time to close down the gap to the all-time leading scorer, too, because at 35 he is still a couple years younger than... 

1. Cristiano Ronaldo - 817

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring for Manchester United against Everton to rack up his 700th career goal.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo. Factually the greatest goalscorer in the history of football. 

Against Everton in the Premier League in October, Ronaldo scored his 700th career club goal, achieved in just 945 games. According to the records, he is the only player to have ever reached that milestone, adding to another record he broke in international football.

Indeed, in September 2021, the Portuguese international surpassed Iran's Ali Daei as the most prolific bagsman in international football. His two goals against the Republic of Ireland that day allowed him to overtake Daei's total of 109 goals, and since then Ronaldo has scored more to put him on 117 strikes and counting. 

He still seems as hungry as ever to continue scoring goals, too, so don't be surprised to see him try and reach that 900-goal mark before his playing days are up. 

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.