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Who Has Scored The Most International Goals?

Published on September 28, 2022
Updated on November 14, 2023
Written by Sam

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Who Has Scored The Most International Goals?

Only one other player apart from Cristiano Ronaldo has broken the century mark.

There are 74 male footballers with over 50 international goals, but our focus here is on the players at the top of that list from Ronaldo onwards. 

The top scorers from UEFA, AFC, CONMEBOL and CAF all feature below, and there is a considerable bias towards more recent players given the increase in international fixtures.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo – 117* goals

Cristiano Ronaldo broke Ali Daei’s international goals record in September 2021 with a brace over the Republic of Ireland. Ronaldo has scored at least once for Portugal in every calendar year since 2004. 

Scorer of 10 international hat-tricks, including one against Spain at the 2018 World Cup, Ronaldo is simply one of the greatest goalscorers in football history.

Unfortunately, he had to enjoy his greatest team success with Portugal from the sidelines after suffering an injury in the first half of the 2016 Euros final.

With his best years behind him, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner isn’t going to add many more goals to his tally. How long will his record stand?

2. Ali Daei – 109 goals

Ali Daei was the all-time leading international goalscorer for 18 years after scoring his 90th goal for Iran against Lebanon in 2003. 

Only two players in the top 10 scored at a better rate than Daei’s mark of 0.74 goals per game. He played in Germany for several seasons either side of the turn of the century, and was named Asian Footballer of the Year in 1999. 

3. Lionel Messi – 90* goals

Many already consider Lionel Messi to be the greatest footballer ever. The Argentine has 90 goals in 164 caps, and finally won his first major international silverware with the Copa America in 2021 after losing three Copa America finals and the 2014 World Cup final.

A six-time Ballon d’Or winner and owner of numerous records, Messi won the World Cup Golden Ball in 2014, and has what is likely his last shot at the sport’s most prestigious trophy in Qatar this winter.

While his numbers at club level have decreased, Messi is not slowing up with Argentina, having scored 19 goals in 22 caps since the start of 2021. 

4. Mokhtar Dahari – 89 goals

Mokhtar Dahari became the top international goalscorer in 1980, a record he held for over two decades.

Dahari is widely renowned as the best Malaysian footballer of all time, and won 10 Malaysian Cups throughout his career. 

He sadly passed away just a few years after his retirement having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. 

5. Ferenc Puskas – 84 goals

Ferenc Puskas scored his 84 goals in a mere 89 caps, giving him the best goals-per-game ratio of any player on this list. 

In fact, Puskas’ return for Hungary was even better, as four of those caps were for Spain, and he was goalless in those matches.

The face and skipper of the Mighty Magyars, Puskas’ influence on the sport went far beyond his goal scoring prowess. Puskas’ Hungary side produced numerous historic victories, including emphatic wins over England in 1953 and 1954, and their spectacular run to the 1954 World Cup final. 

6. Sunil Chhetri – 84* goals

A three-time winner of the SAFF Championship and seven-time AIFF Player of the Year, Sunil Chhetri is India’s most-capped player with 131 appearances for his country. 

Previously linked with moves to Leeds and Celtic, Chhetri has ultimately spent the vast majority of his career in India.

At 38 years old, it will be interesting to see how much higher he can climb on this list.

7. Ali Mabkhout – 80* goals

Ali Mabkhout’s tally of 80 international goals has taken him just 108 caps for the United Arab Emirates.

Mabkhout has been prolific for Al Jazira at club level and won the 2013 Arabian Gulf Cup with UAE. 

Twice top scorer at the Gulf Cup, Mabkhout also scored 14 international goals in 2021.

Still delivering for his national side and only 31 years old, the Abu Dhabi native has a real shot at reaching three figures. 

8. Godfrey Chitalu – 79 goals

The top scorer from CAF, Godfrey Chitalu found the net 79 times in just 111 caps for Zambia. Chitalu was Zambian Footballer of the Year on five occasions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Finishing as runners up in the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations is the closest Chitalu came to international glory. 

9. Hussein Saeed – 78 goals

Called up to the Iraqi senior team at just 18 years of age, Hussein Saeed began his international career early and soon established himself as one of the most reliable goal scorers in the AFC.

Saeed went on to win the Arabian Gulf Cup in 1979 and 1984, finishing as the top goalscorer in both tournaments. He was also named in IFFHS’ 30 best Asian players of the 20th century in 2000. 

10. Pele – 77 goals

There is some debate about the validity of Pele’s overall goal tally.

The Brazilian’s international statistics are not questioned in the same way – the three-time World Cup winner was named FIFA Player of the Century in 2000, and scored 77 goals for Brazil in just 92 caps.

Pele is one of just four players to score at four separate World Cups. He totalled 12 goals at World Cups, including four at the 1970 tournament. 

11. Robert Lewandowski – 76 *goals 

One of the greatest strikers of the 21st century, Robert Lewandowski has 76 international goals to his name and he’s still going strong.

Lewandowski has generally faced stronger teams than most others on this list, but he has still averaged 0.57 goals per match.

Many are in the decline phase by the time they get to the age of Lewandowski, who celebrated his 34th birthday in August. But the Pole continues to score at a relentless rate.

With 11 goals in 12 Poland caps in 2021, don’t be surprised if he finishes his career with over 90 international goals.  

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