Most goals in international football: With club football being the most prominent form in the sport, international football does tend to take a back seat. With that being said, a footballer has to be among the most gifted to earn a cap for their nation. It takes even more talent and consistency to score a considerable number of goals at the international level. Given the competition for the position and the sparseness of international fixtures.
However, today we will raise the bar, looking at the crème de la crème among the many greats that have laced up a boot on the international stage. Here is a list of the top five goal scorers in international football.
5. Ferenc Puskás
Widely regarded as football’s first international superstar, we have the Hungarian Ferenc Puskás to start the list. Modern media tags him as one of the finest players in Real Madrid’s history. While there is no denying what the man from Budapest has achieved at the club level. Having lifted ten league titles and three European Cups to name a few, his crowning achievements have come for his national side.
Puskás guided Hungary to Olympic gold in 1952 and Central European International Cup 1948–53. Magyarok was carried by Ferenc in the 1954 World Cup all the way to the finals. However, despite Puskás opening the scoring his side ended up losing 2-3 to West Germany.
Ferenc would go on to represent the Spanish national team for four fixtures. He even represented the Madrid autonomous football team once. However, it is the 84 goals he scored in 85 games for Hungary that puts him on the list of legends of the sport and in our list.
5. Sunil Chhetri
Sunil Chhetri is considered universally as one of the greatest players that Asia has produced. However, he is considered nothing short of a demigod by Indian football fans. The forward is his nation’s most-capped player and obviously the all-time top goalscorer.
Chhetri has won numerous accolades at the club level within India. However, he has enjoyed limited success outside of Asia and a very brief stint in the European game. It is for this reason, that the 38-year-old is not much recognisable by many outside Asia.
Sunil has won the 2007, 2009, and 2012 editions of the Nehru Cup. As well as 2011, 2015, and 2021 SAFF Championship. Furthermore, he won the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, guiding India to its first AFC Asian Cup in 27 years.
The Bengaluru FC man is currently the joint fifth-highest goal scorer in international football with 84 goals. Still active in the international game, he is expected to surpass Puskás very soon.
4. Lionel Messi
Widely regarded as the greatest footballer and universally as one of the greatest players of all time Lionel Messi, comes in 4th on the list. Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards and a record six European Golden Shoes.
The Argentine has won 35 titles with Barcelona and a couple at PSG at the time of writing. In club football, his stats are 853 appearances. In which he has scored 698 goals.
Messi’s international career was long considered a disappointment. When compared to the lofty standards he set for himself in Barcelona. However, Messi holds the national record for appearances. And is also the country’s all-time leading goalscorer. Furthermore, holds the record for most international goals by a South American.
La Pulga’s 86 goals in 162 caps for the Argentine national team, puts him 4th on our list. He is expected to reach at least the 3rd position by the time he retires. However, he holds the worst goal-scoring ratio among the top 15 goal scorers in international games.
3. Mokhtar Dahari
Mohd Mokhtar bin Dahari, commonly referred to as Mokhtar Dahari, gets us started with the podium. Dahari is best known for his time with Selangor. A club, where he made 375 appearances across 15 years. He managed to score 177 goals during that time.
Reports suggest that he had an offer from Real Madrid. However, he declined to join because of his patriotism to his country and native club of Selangor.
The patriotic Malaysian was nicknamed Supermokh due to his playing skills and strength. He scored 89 goals in 142 international matches for Malaysia. This helped the team reach its highest-ever Elo ranking of 61 in 1977.
Dahari retired in 1986 and passed away in 1991 due to motor neurone disease. Chhetri and Messi are both expected to surpass the Malaysian’s record.
2. Ali Daei
The Iranian centre-forward is regarded as the greatest footballer from Western Asia. Daei has represented the likes of Arminia Bielefeld, Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga.
In all honesty, the Iranian’s work at the club level puts him nowhere near all-time greats in football. As he has scored 134 goals in 351 appearances for his clubs. However, just 30 of those goals have come in Europe, in 146 Bundesliga appearances.
However, on the international stage none but one has produced better stats than him. In 2003 Daei became the highest goalscorer in international football. In 2004, Daei became the first male footballer with 100 international goals. He eventually ended his international career in 2006 with 109 goals, an (then) all-time record for most goals in international football.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is universally regarded as one of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch. Many would argue against him being the GOAT of football. However, none could deny the fact that the Portuguese has scored the most goals in international football. Moreover, as long as Messi, Lewandowski or Lukaku don’t produce superhuman-like numbers like we have never seen before until they retire, this record is staying with CR7 for the foreseeable future.
The former Juventus man made his international debut for Portugal in 2003 at the age of 18. And he has since earned over 180 caps, making him Portugal’s most-capped player. He has captained A Seleção since 2008. On 1 September, Ronaldo surpassed Ali Daei’s international record of 109 goals to become the sole record holder. His current record stands at 117 goals in 189 caps at a ratio of 0.62.