Messi, Ronaldo, Pele: Every continent's greatest goalscorers in international football


Lionel Messi is loving life at Copa America 2021.

Messi shining at Copa America

The Argentine maestro has now moved to four goals, four assists and four Man of the Match awards in the space of just five appearances in South America’s premier competition.

It remains to be seen whether Messi can end his long wait for an international trophy, but you certainly can’t accuse him of giving anything less than 100% to end Argentina’s silverware drought.

However, even if Argentina can’t make it past Colombia in the semi-finals or one of Brazil and Peru in the climax itself, then there’s still a high chance that Messi could still make history.

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Messi nearing history

That’s because the Barcelona skipper moved to 76 goals in the colours of Argentina when he smashed home a stunning free-kick during the quarter-final win over Ecuador on Saturday.

As such, Messi is now only one strike away from matching the 77 goals that Pele scored for Brazil, which is the most that any South America player has ever converted in international football.

Therefore, barring some kind of medical catastrophe or shock retirement, we can probably safely say that Messi has effectively secured his place as South America’s greatest ever goalscorer.

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International goalscoring greats

Yes, yes, we know that Neymar could well overtake whatever total that Messi amasses, but hold your horses for a second and prepare yourself for a changing of the guard at Pele’s palace.

And it’s a historic moment for international football that we wanted to frame in a continental context, zooming out to see who the Pele and Messis of each part of the world really are.

We all know that Ali Daei and Cristiano Ronaldo are top of the charts overall, but do you know who leads the way in Africa and Asia and can you can recount the full top five from South America?

Well, fear not, because we’ve got you covered by ranking the greatest goalscorers in the history of each continent up to a possible top 10 with 50 international strikes being the minimum buy in.


Each continent’s greatest goalscorers

Oh, and we’re judging continents by their broad geographical definitions as opposed to which footballing federation they fall under, so, yes, Australia is indeed going down as Oceania.

So, with footballing legends and contemporary icons at every twist and turn, be sure to check out the half-centurions and more in every corner and cranny of the international game down below:


6. Asamoah (Gyan) – 51 goals

5. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) – 56 goals

4. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) – 65 goals

3. Hossam Hassan (Egypt) – 68 goals

2. Kinnah Phiri (Malawai) – 71 goals

1. Godfrey Chitalu (Zambia) – 79 goals



10. Piyapong Pue-on (Thailand) – 70 goals

9. Kiatisuk Senamuang (Thailand) – 71 goals

8. Majed Abdullah (Saudia Arabia) – 72 goals

7. Sunil Chhetri (India) – 74 goals

=5. Bashar Abdullah (Kuwait) – 75 goals

=5. Kunishige Kamamoto (Japan) – 75 goals

4. Ali Mabkhout (UAE) – 76 goals

3. Hussein Saeed (Iraq) – 78 goals

2. Mokhtar Dahari (Malaysia) – 89 goals

1. Ali Daei (Iran) – 109 goals



=10. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia Herzegovina) – 59 goals

=10. David Villa (Spain) – 59 goals

9. Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden) – 62 goals

8. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) – 64 goals

=6. Robbie Keane (Ireland) – 68 goals

=6. Gerd Müller (West Germany) – 68 goals

5. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – 69 goals

4. Miroslav Klose (Germany) – 71 goals

3. Sándor Kocsis (Hungary) – 75 goals

2. Ferenc Puskas (Hungary) – 84 goals

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – 109 goals


North America

6. Javier Hernandez (Mexico) – 52 goals

=3. Landon Donovan (USA) – 57 goals

=3. Clint Dempsey (USA) – 57 goals

=3. Carlos Pavón (Honduras) – 57 goals

2. Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala) – 68 goals

1. Stern John (Trinidad & Tobago) – 70 goals



1. Tim Cahill (Australia) – 50 goals


South America

8. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) – 53 goals

7. Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina) – 54 goals

6. Romario (Brazil) – 55 goals

5. Ronaldo (Brazil) – 62 goals

4. Luis Suárez (Uruguay) – 64 goals

3. Neymar (Brazil) – 68 goals

2. Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 76 goals

1. Pele (Brazil) – 77 goals


Messi and Pele battle for history

All hail Pele, Cahil, John, Ronaldo, Daei and Chitalu as the leading goalscorers for their respective continents with all six trailblazers meeting our criteria of 50 international strikes. You love to see it.

However, Pele needs to enjoy each and every day he’s got left at the South American summit because it seems inevitable that Messi will snatch yet another one of his records away from him.

Then again, no doubt the Brazilian icon won’t be too bothered considering he has three World Cups to his name and Messi is still waiting on his first major honour with Argentina.


To be fair to Messi, though, I think he would swap his 76 goals and a place alongside Pele for just one Copa America or World Cup in an Argentina jersey every day of the week.

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