Playing international football is a tough environment that forces the best of the best to give everything they got in just a few games each year. For some players, it is a once in a lifetime chance to test themselves against the very best in the world. Every now and then, a few players will come along and take this chance most notably those who bag crucial goals for their country. Amazingly, very few players have passed 50 goals in international football and only ten have notched over 75 or more. Those that have reached that threshold are legendary names in their homeland and some across the planet. So which ten players have scored the most international goals?
10 players with the most international goals
- Sandor Kocsis (Hungary – 75 goals in 68 games)
In the 1950’s, Hungary boasted one of the most fearsome sides anywhere in the world. The “Mighty Magyars” pushed themselves to the verge of greatness several times only to fall at the final hurdle. Much of their success came from a fearsome strike force that was spearheaded by Sandor Kocsis.
An all-out striker, Kocsis was lethal in front of the net and very rarely missed a chance in the area. He became the first player to reach double figures in a World Cup scoring 11 goals at the 1954 tournament as well as being the first player to score two hat-tricks in a single tournament. With a goals-to-game ratio of 1.10, Kocsis still remains one of the greatest strikers of all time.
- Ali Mabkhout (UAE – 77 goals in 94 games)
Middle Eastern football is often home to footballers who are never given the headlines they deserve and Ali Mabkhout is a clear example of this. Despite never having played outside of the UAE, Makhout has struck up a formidable record scoring 77 goals for his country in just 94 appearances.
A pacey forward who is cool under pressure, Mabkhout always finds himself in the right place at the right time to convert golden chances. Having shone for the UAE prominently at both the 2015 and 2019 Asian Cups, Mabkhout has carved out a surprising record to become one of the leading international strikers of the modern generation, scoring the ninth most international goals ever.
- Pele (Brazil – 77 goals in 92 games)
Whilst Pele’s records may fall to others as modern football evolves, his impact is still felt prominently today. A player light years’ ahead of his contemporaries, his amazing solo goals and bag of tricks still inspires kids to this very day. The fact that Pele was the heartbeat of a Brazil side that won both the 1958 and 1970 World Cup’s shows the true level of one of the footballing elite.
His consistency in front of the net helped Brazil dominate world football for the best part of two decades and inspire millions across the world decades later. It’s no wonder that Pele is still considered to be one of the best of all time.
- Hussein Saeed (Iraq – 78 goals in 137 games)
The Iraq national football team has produced some excellent players over the years and none more so than Hussein Saeed. Having starred for the Iraq side in three different decades, Saeed was always capable of finding the net no matter where he played.
He had an outstanding year in 1984 scoring 12 goals in 11 games including being one of the breakout stars of the 1984 Olympic tournament. With such a formidable reputation in the final third, Saeed set several records for his country that stand to this very day. An underrated superstar of world football.
- Lionel Messi (Argentina – 79 goals in 153 games)
There are very few things that Lionel Messi has failed to achieve in his career. International success had eluded him until Argentina’s 2021 Copa America win which was the icing on the cake for Messi’s sparkling career. Typically for a player regarded by many as the best ever, Messi has had a glittering career and has the 6th most international goals of all time.
He has captained his side, won the Best Player award at a World Cup and broken both the goals and appearance records for his country. Having taken his mesmerizing skills from the club game to the international scene, Messi has underlined why he has proven himself to be one of the best players of the 21st century.
- Godfrey Chitalu (Zambia – 79 goals in 111 games)
No player has stirred more debate in the record books than Zambia’s Godfrey Chitalu. Chitalu has often flirted with all-time goal records with much debate due to no official recognition of his domestic feats. However, the international scene is very different. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Chitalu’s pace and power made him one of Africa’s best strikers helping Zambia become a regional powerhouse including memorable run to the 1974 African Nations Cup final.
His form made him a legend in his home country which led him to coaching the national side in the 1990s. Chitalu would tragically perish with the entire national squad in a 1993 plane crash but his goal scoring feats ensures that he remains a legend of African football.
- Ferenc Puskas (Hungary – 84 goals in 85 games)
Alongside Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas made Hungary a nightmare for defences across world football. The skill and consistency that Puskas showed in the final third was undeniable and led to other legends such as Pele being inspired by his performances.
Having helped “The Mighty Magyars” to reach the 1954 World Cup Final, Puskas took the Golden Ball for best player as well as winning that year’s Ballon D’Or. Puskas left behind a legacy that few have managed to eclipse with FIFA even naming their Goal of the Year award in his honour. Puskas’ form has made him unforgettable even to many in the modern game and proved himself to be one of the greatest players of all time.
- Mokhtar Dahari (Malaysia – 89 goals in 142 games)
Malaysia may not be a footballing powerhouse but for much of the 1970s and 1980s, they had a magician leading their ranks. Mokhtar Dahari could play anywhere in attack either on the wing or centrally and was extremely skilful. Known by many as “SuperMokh”, his technical ability and finishing was just as good as anyone starring in Europe or South America.
His consistency helped Malaysia earn a bronze medal at the 1974 Asian Games and he was also acknowledged by the AFC as part of their AFC Century Club nominating the continent’s best players of the 20th century. Sadly, Dahari would fail to see his legacy unfold as he would tragically pass away from motor neurone disease in 1991 having only retired in 1988. A local legend who surely deserves more recognition on a global scale.
- Ali Daei (Iran – 109 goals in 149 games)
Seen by many as the godfather of Iranian football, Ali Daei was truly a pioneer for any sportsman in his country and he has the second most international goals ever as a result. With predatory instincts unmatched by many, Daei was a threat whenever he took to the pitch.
Having been one of the few Iranian players to leave his homeland, Daei’s stints in Germany and Qatar only pushed his skill level to higher limits. It was his ridiculous consistency in front of the net that helped Iran win their first ever game in a World Cup as he got an assist helping his country to a 2-1 win over the USA. His overall total of 109 goals made him the first player to reach triple figures for his country and win a spot in the Asian Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
- Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal – 111 in 180 games)
For the best part of 20 years, Cristiano Ronaldo has been terrorizing players all over the globe. The Portuguese superstar has never disappointed when he has been on the pitch leading his country at every major tournament in the 21st century. Ronaldo’s ability to strike from distance, in the air or from a dead-ball situation always make him likely to score in a game.
It was this form that helped Portugal triumph at Euro 2016 and help his country reach the 2006 World Cup semi-final. Ronaldo has proved himself time and time again to be one of the best of all time and being the most goals in international football is just another record to add to his already illustrious career.
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