Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Pele: Who is the greatest goalscorer of all time?

  • Kobe Tong

Cristiano Ronaldo has made history as the most prolific goalscorer that football has ever seen.

After finding the net for Juventus on the way to Supercoppa Italiana glory, the Portuguese superstar reached a career tally of 760 strikes, overhauling the 759 amassed by Josef Bican.

Well... ok, it depends on what you define as a goal because the Czech Football Federation have actually come out and claimed that Ronaldo still has some way to go.

Ronaldo makes history (probably)

They believe that Bican actually amassed 821 goals during official matches, meaning that Ronaldo would need at least two more seasons of top-level goalscoring in order to bridge the gap.

And that's before we even mention Pele claiming that he's racked up an insane 1,238 during his illustrious career, though it's worth noting that over 500 of his strikes arrived in friendlies.

But either way, regardless of the odd discrepancy in the history books, I think we can all agree that Ronaldo is one of the greatest goalscorers of all time and deserves his place alongside Bican.


Ronaldo's challengers

As a result, we wanted to use Ronaldo's historic achievement as an opportunity to compare the greatest goalscorers in the history of the beautiful game using our trusty method of Tiermaker.

Now, yes, there's certainly no perfect way to do this nor do we profess to be experts on 1930s and 1950s football, but we've done our best to ensure that different positions and eras are honoured.

To make life easier, we're making sure that the prevailing metric being used is total goals scored, so don't hate us for leaving out the likes of Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney.


Greatest goalscorers in history

So, without further ado, reach for your nearest picket sign and pitchfork as we inevitably anger large sections of football fans with our unavoidably-controversial rankings down below:



One of the greatest footballers of all time who is thrown under the bus far too easily, winning the World Cup three times over and notching more than 700 goals in official matches.

So, why on earth have we bunged him in 'overrated'? Well, because both the man himself and Santos are overrating him far too much with their tired claim that his 1,238 goals should all count.


Special mention

Miroslav Klose, Ali Daei and Alan Shearer

Are these three strikers worth of comparison to Ronaldo and Bican? Not in our eyes, but they're all deserving of acknowledgment for making football history with their respective goalscoring feats.

In terms of the men's game, Klose is the all-time record goalscorer in the FIFA World Cup, Daei has the most international goals in history and Shearer stands above everyone in the Premier League.


Potential greatness

Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

It might seem crazy that we're talking about 'potential' with two strikers in their thirties, one bordering on 40, but we don't want to jump the gun before these two prolific poachers finalise their totals.

Sure, we're going to take a different approach with Ronaldo and another player further down the line, but their truly alien numbers mean we don't feel bad about giving them preferential treatment.


Insane for their position

Frank Lampard, Ronald Koeman, Rogerio Ceni and Michel Platini

Now, we'd be remiss not to acknowledge players who amassed astonishing goalscoring tallies from other areas of the pitch with Platini and Lampard freely finding the net despite starring in midfield.

Meanwhile, Ceni is the most prolific goalkeeper of all time, notching over 100 goals from free-kicks and penalties, while Koeman tops the charts as far as defenders are concerned with 253 strikes.


Simply brilliant

Ronaldo Nazario, Marco van Basten, Sándor Kocsis, Gunnar Nordahl and Giuseppe Meazza

Now we're getting into legendary territory with Kocsis scoring 75 goals in 68 caps for Hungary, Nordahl enduring as AC Milan's record goalscorer and Meazza getting a certain San Siro named after him.

As for Ronaldo and Van Basten, you could argue that they are the greatest finishers in history, but injuries curtailing their potentially record-breaking stats explain their underwhelming placement.


Absolutely lethal

Ferenc Puskás, Ian Rush, Uwe Seeler, Eusébio, Romario, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Dixie Dean

Where do we start with these icons? The achievements of Puskas and Di Stéfano in the early days of Real Madrid's European dominance will never be forgotten, scoring seven goals between them in the 1960 final alone.

Rush is the all-time record goalscorer for Liverpool, Romario lays claim to more than 1,000 career goals and Seeler squeezes his way into the top ten scorers of all time with over 575 conversions.

And say what you like about the era that Dean played in, we couldn't bring ourselves to leave out the Everton hero who made history in the 1927-28 season with 60 goals in just 39 appearances.


God tier

Cristiano Ronaldo, Josef Bican and Gerd Muller

The two players with the most goals in football history don't even make the top tier!?!? Yes, ok, that is correct, but reserve your judgments until you've completed the list because this is hardly a dig at Ronaldo or Bican.

And we're inclined to think that the legendary Muller, who formerly owned the record for most goals in a calendar year to go with his World Cup Golden Boot, deserves his place alongside them.



Lionel Messi

Have we lost our minds? Nope, no we haven't. 

Now, this might be a lost cause, but we don't want to take the limelight away from the inimitable Ronaldo and instead want to politely point out that Messi is on track to overtake all of his records.

According to, the self-proclaimed largest statistical study of Ronaldo vs Messi on the internet, Messi is on course to tally up 835 strikes in the same amount of games that Ronaldo reached 760.

In other words, we're calling Messi the GOAT because he has a better goal-scoring rate than the official goal-scoring GOAT and all while player in the same area, compared to, say, Bican or Pele.


Full graphic


No one answer is right

So, oh my god, no way, it's officially official that Ronaldo isn't actually the greatest goalscorer of all time and everything we thought we knew was a lie? Yeh... no, it's just our opinion, ladies and gents.

There's no right or wrong answer here because comparing players from different eras, leagues and nations is ultimately impossible and every goalscorer here is worthy of praise for their achievements.

And that's not to mention the fact that plenty of legendary goalscorers didn't even make the list because if we included everybody, we'd frankly be ranking them from hours on end.


So, yes, be sure to take our final selections with a pinch of salt. Otherwise, unless you're the Czech Football Federation, we can probably settle on Ronaldo as the closest thing to an objective answer.

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