Ronaldo, Pele, Messi: Who has scored the most goals in football history?


Cristiano Ronaldo made football history during Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Arsenal.

With the scores hanging in the balance at 1-1 going into the second-half, Ronaldo moved into another gear to secure the three points with a fine bottom-corner finish and ruthless penalty.

And it wasn’t just the perfect audition tape for the on-watching Ralf Rangnick, but it also proved to be a historic moment in Ronaldo’s career as he astonishingly surpassed the 800-goal mark.

Ronaldo makes football history

As soon as Ronaldo rippled the centre of the net with his penalty, the Real Madrid legend moved to 801 goals to consolidate his place as one of the most prolific goalscorers in football history.

Pretty remarkable, no doubt you’ll agree, but where does that actually place Ronaldo amongst the most lethal male goalscorers to have ever played the sport?

Well, that’s actually a pretty difficult question because unreliable and conflicting reports of players before the modern era makes it tricky to compare Ronaldo to some of his bountiful forebears.

Man Utd 3-2 Arsenal Match Reaction (Football Terrace)

Most prolific male goalscorers ever

However, talkSPORT have done their best to sift through the history books and archives to see where Ronaldo ranks after his Arsenal masterclass, so be sure to check out the top 10 down below:

10. Tulio Maravilha (1988-2019) – 575 goals 

A Brazilian journeymen with 15 caps for his country, scoring 13 goals, Maravilha has played for almost 40 clubs in his prolific career including spells with Botafogo, Corinthians and Fluminense.


9. Uwe Seeler (1953-1978) – 575+ goals

A legend of the German game with almost 500 goals for Hamburger SV alone, Seeler bagged over 40 international strikes and even found the net twice twice in his one and only game for Cork Celtic.

8. Ferenc Deak (1940-1957) – 576+ goals

One of countless prolific Hungarian goalscorers in the mid-20th century, Deák boasted an outrageous ratio of three goals per game during his pomp at Szentlőrinci AC.

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Where was Cristiano Ronaldo born?

7. Gerd Muller (1962-1981) – 734 goals

The man, the myth, the legend. Muller is a colossus of the beautiful game as Bayern Munich’s record goalscorer with a Ballon d’Or and winning goal in a World Cup final on his decorated resumé.

6. Ferenc Puskas (1943-1966) – 746+ goals

The second lethal ‘Ferenc’ from Hungary on the list, Puskas’ finishing exploits for Budapest Honvéd and Real Madrid were such that FIFA’s award for the best goal in each year is named after him. 


5. Lionel Messi (2003-present) – 755 goals

Who the hell is this bloke? It’s interesting to note that Messi has notched his 755 goals in 155 fewer games than Ronaldo has amassed his total of 801, so the Portuguese better look over his shoulder.

4. Pele (1957-1977) – 767+ goals

Contrary to his Instagram bio of: “Leading Goal Scorer of All Time (1,283)”, Pele’s goalscoring tally is slightly less galactic once friendlies are removed from the equation.


3. Romario (1985-2007) – 772 goals

Another Brazilian goalscorer who claims to have surpassed the 1,000-goal mark, Romario has at least 750 strikes officially accounted for including five goals on the way to World Cup glory in 1994.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (2001-present) – 801 goals

Now, depending on whose statistics you believe, maybe Ronaldo is already in top spot for you, but there are a few statisticians and footballing historians who would have something else to say…


1. Josef Bican (1931-1956) – 805+ goals

Ok, so, if ‘805+ goals’ feels a little nebulas and you want to know exactly how many goals Ronaldo needs to score, then our best guess is taking the word of Czech football’s governing body.

When it was claimed that Ronaldo had become the greatest goalscorer in history upon scoring his 760th career goal, the Czech FA fired back by claiming that Bican had actually scored 821 goals.

“The History and Statistics committee of the Czech FA counted all the goals scored by the legendary Josef Bican and we can declare he scored 821 goals in official matches,” they tweeted at the time.

Ronaldo on the verge of No. 1

So, there you have it, Ronaldo still has some way to go to become the undisputed number one goalscorer.

However, even if you subscribe to the incredibly strict parameters of the Czech FA, it seems pretty certain that Ronaldo will become the goalscorer to rule them all by the time he hangs up his boots.

The only question after that will be whether or not Messi will be able to hunt him down…



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