Best Strikers of All Time: Throughout history, forwards in soccer have always received a lot of attention. They are the ones with the best chance of scoring goals, and becoming the stars and celebrities that many fans admire.
While touch football is promoted nowadays and coaches prioritize possession over their opponents, the ultimate objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team. That’s why forwards, who are responsible for scoring goals, are the players who attract the most attention and money in the football business.
Best Players In The World By Position
Being a successful forward requires a combination of composure, efficiency, technical skills, and physical abilities to outsmart defenders. The top strikers on this list are exceptional players who have scored hundreds of goals throughout their careers.
If you go through this list of the best soccer forwards of all time, you will recognize most of these names. They have achieved great success in their careers, and some are still adding to their legacy.
Best Strikers of All Time
Below, we present the 20 best soccer strikers of all time, each with their own unique story to tell.
20. Thierry Henry
Considered by Arsenal fans themselves as the greatest player to have ever worn their shirt, Thierry Henry is widely regarded as one of the best strikers of his time. He is often ranked among the top 50 players in the history of the sport. Henry has earned numerous individual and team accolades throughout his career, including winning the Premier League Golden Boot four times, the European Golden Shoe twice, and the FIFA World Player of the Year award. He holds the record for the most goals scored for Arsenal and is the second-highest goal scorer in the history of the French national team.
Henry’s playing style was characterized by his exceptional speed, dribbling ability, and finishing skills. He possessed great intelligence on the field, enabling him to read the game well and create opportunities for both himself and his teammates. He was a versatile striker who could score goals in various ways and was particularly dangerous during set pieces.
During his eight seasons at Arsenal, Henry played a vital role in the club’s success, helping them secure two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, and two FA Community Shields in 2002 and 2004. He later went on to play for Barcelona, New York Red Bulls, and Monaco.
In 2022, Henry was voted as the greatest player in the history of the Premier League by fans. He currently holds the 7th position in the list of all-time Premier League goal scorers.
In the relevant decade, Henry made a move from Arsenal to Barcelona. Although he didn’t reach the same mesmerizing level he displayed in London, he was a part of the famous Barcelona team that won seven titles.
19. Kylian Mbappe
Being included on such a list at a young age is a remarkable achievement for Kylian Mbappe. He has demonstrated early in his career that he has the potential to become one of the greatest players in the sport, as long as he remains healthy and focused. Mbappe has already won a World Cup with the French national team and is currently a star player for Paris St. Germain.
In terms of accolades, Mbappe has earned several individual and team awards. He has been the top goalscorer in Ligue 1 five times, received the FIFA World Cup Golden Boot in 2022, and achieved the UEFA Nations League Golden Boot in 2021.
At just 24 years old, Mbappe has plenty of time ahead of him to continue improving and solidify his position as one of the world’s best strikers. If he can maintain his fitness and further develop his skills, there is no doubt that he has the potential to be regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time.
The future holds many possibilities for Mbappe, and while it remains uncertain, he is well on his way to achieving greatness. His combination of speed, athleticism, and understanding of the game makes him incredibly difficult to defend against.
18. Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero has been widely regarded as the top striker for the Argentina national team, alongside Lionel Messi, during his career. He has been a standout player in the English Premier League, representing Manchester City and making a name for himself over the past decade.
Aguero has accumulated numerous individual and team honors throughout his career. He won the Premier League Golden Boot once and received the World Soccer Young Player of the Year award in 2009, as well as the FSF Player of the Year award in 2014. Notably, he holds the record for the most goals scored in Manchester City’s history, with an impressive tally of 260 goals in 389 appearances.
Prior to his time at Manchester City, Aguero spent five seasons playing for Atletico Madrid. During this period, he played a key role in the team’s triumph in the UEFA Europa League in 2009-2010 and the UEFA Super Cup in 2010. In 2011, Aguero made the move to Manchester City, where he has since achieved great success, winning five Premier League titles, six League Cups, and an FA Cup. He was also inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2022.
With over 260 goals scored for Manchester City and an additional 124 goals during his spells at Independiente and Atletico Madrid, Aguero has proven himself as a prolific goal scorer. Despite his relatively smaller stature, he possesses elusive and precise skills that make him incredibly difficult for defenders to handle.
17. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Until this point in the list, most forwards have similar characteristics, with a focus on speed and athleticism to create scoring opportunities. However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic stands out as a different type of striker who has achieved remarkable success.
Ibrahimovic holds the record for the most goals scored for the Swedish national team, with an impressive tally of 62 goals in 122 appearances.
His playing style is defined by his physical strength, exceptional aerial ability, and powerful long-range shots. He is a versatile striker who can score goals from various situations, including open play, set pieces, and headers.
Throughout his career, Ibrahimovic has represented some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, and LA Galaxy. He has accumulated an astonishing 34 trophies in his career and has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or award 11 times.
Being tall and physically imposing forward, Ibrahimovic often utilizes his strength to gain control of the ball and dominate opponents. He has built a remarkable career and continues to leave a lasting legacy.
However, it’s important to note that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has recently retired from professional football. He made the announcement on June 4, 2023, after an illustrious 23-year career.
16. Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez is undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures in football. Despite the controversies surrounding him, there is no denying his exceptional performance on the field.
Suarez has achieved the impressive feat of winning the Golden Boot award twice, showcasing his prowess as a complete striker who possesses fighting spirit and a natural ability to score goals, which has struck fear into opposing defenses.
For over a decade, Suarez has been a prominent figure in the Uruguay national team and has proven his ability to compete at the highest level, both internationally and at the club level. He has primarily played in Europe, with his longest tenure at Barcelona from 2014 to 2020.
Even in his current club, Grêmio, Suarez continues to demonstrate his goal-scoring abilities, and his unique style of play makes it incredibly challenging for opposing teams to contain him.
The 14th-ranked player on the list is a Brazilian striker who is widely recognized for his decisive impact on the field. Despite his young age, he has already gained worldwide admiration for his electrifying and imaginative style of play.
At just 25 years old, he has already achieved tremendous success at the club level with FC Barcelona, where he formed a formidable attacking trio alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, known as the “MSN.” Together, they became one of the best-attacking forces in the history of the sport.
In 2021, he made a record-breaking transfer to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), becoming the most expensive signing in football history. Prior to his move, he had successful stints with Santos and Barcelona. He has also been a standout player for the Brazil national team, although he is still chasing the elusive achievement of winning the World Cup. His emotions were evident when he was seen crying after the defeat in the 2022 World Cup.
While he may not reach the very top of the list, there is no denying his immense talent, which places him among the greatest strikers in the history of the game.
14. Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski has quietly established himself as one of the greatest forwards in the history of football. The Polish national team captain has spent the majority of his professional career in Germany, representing Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, and he currently plays for Barcelona.
Lewandowski is renowned for his clinical finishing, scoring goals in various ways, and his exceptional work ethic. He is also an intelligent player who possesses excellent game reading abilities, allowing him to create opportunities for himself and his teammates.
In 2021, Lewandowski broke the Bundesliga record for most goals scored in a single season, netting an impressive 41 goals in just 29 games. He played a crucial role in Bayern Munich’s treble-winning season, which included securing the Bundesliga title, the Champions League title, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
During his time at Bayern Munich, Lewandowski has amassed a remarkable total of 344 goals for the club, leaving a lasting impression on the fans. His exceptional efficiency in front of goal enables him to score in a variety of ways.
Despite being 33 years old, Lewandowski continues to perform at a high level and shows no signs of slowing down. If he maintains his prolific goal-scoring rate, he will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time.
13. Alfredo Di Stefano
When Alfredo Di Stéfano joined Real Madrid, he proved himself as a prolific goal scorer on the international stage. Despite initial doubts due to his previous experience in Argentina with River Plate, Huracan, and Millonarios, he quickly silenced critics.
Di Stéfano is widely regarded as one of the greatest strikers in the history of the game and is often ranked among the top 20 players of all time. His contributions to Real Madrid are notable, as he is the fourth-highest goal scorer for the club, with an impressive tally of 308 goals.
During the 1950s, Di Stéfano played a crucial role in Real Madrid’s dominance of European football, helping the club secure five consecutive European Cups.
Throughout his career, Di Stéfano also represented Barcelona and Millonarios. His achievements include winning eight La Liga titles, five European Cups, and the 1947 South American Championship. He was honored with the Ballon d’Or award in 1957 and 1959.
Di Stéfano exceeded expectations and emerged as a formidable talent, showcasing his individual brilliance and becoming a force to be reckoned with in football.
12. Fernando Peyroteo
Fernando Peyroteo’s arrival at Sporting Lisbon as a young player didn’t generate much attention, but he would go on to become one of the most prolific goal-scorers the game has ever seen. His achievements place him among the best strikers of the 1930s and 40s.
During an era where scoring goals was relatively easier, Peyroteo’s statistics are truly remarkable. In his 344 appearances for Sporting, he scored a staggering 541 goals, averaging an incredible 1.58 goals per game. He was a key member of the famous “five violins” alongside Travassos, Manuel Vasques, Albano, and Jesus Correia, who formed the legendary Sporting attack in the 1940s.
Peyroteo enjoyed great success with Sporting, winning the Portuguese championship five times and the Portuguese Cup five times. He also represented Portugal on 20 occasions, finding the back of the net 20 times for his national team.
Despite not receiving the same level of recognition as Eusebio, Peyroteo was a highly talented striker in his own right. His versatility in attacking and ability to score goals in various ways contributed to his club’s success. It is clear that Fernando Peyroteo deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest forwards in the history of the game.
Romario, despite sometimes being overlooked due to the abundance of great Brazilian strikers, was undoubtedly one of the top scorers of his era, claiming to have scored over 1000 goals in his career.
He began his professional journey at CR Vasco de Gama before moving to PSV Eindhoven. During his five seasons there, Romario won the Dutch championship three times and secured the National Cup on three occasions. His exceptional scoring ability caught the attention of FC Barcelona, and he joined the Catalan club in 1993. With Barcelona, he clinched the championship in 1994 and reached the final of the Champions League that same year, although they ultimately lost to AC Milan.
Romario also enjoyed success representing the Brazilian national team. He was a key player in winning the Copa América in 1989 and 1997, but his most notable achievement came in the 1994 World Cup, where Brazil emerged as champions. Romario played a pivotal role in their victory, scoring five goals throughout the tournament.
While there may be some debate surrounding the exact number of goals he scored, including counting exhibition matches, there is no denying the impact he made in important games. Romario proved to be a prolific goalscorer for both PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona, and his performances earned him the title of World Player of the Year in 1994. Romario’s accomplishments solidify his place as one of the greatest strikers of all time.
10. Josef Bican
Josef “Pepi” Bican, a legendary player for Rapid Vienna and Slavia Prague, was an extraordinarily prolific striker and holds the record as the top scorer in football history with 805 official goals.
Bican’s speed was one of his defining attributes, as he could run the 100 meters in less than 11 seconds, allowing him to easily outpace defenders. Alongside his impressive pace, Bican possessed remarkable skill on the ball, enabling him to score goals at will.
He made his debut with Rapid Vienna in 1931 and spent four seasons there, already showcasing his scoring prowess with 92 goals in 74 games. Bican then moved to Slavia Prague, where he enjoyed his most successful years. He won the Czechoslovakian championship five times and scored a staggering 534 goals in 274 games for the club.
In terms of international play, Bican initially represented Austria as part of the famed “Wunderteam” in the 1930s, which reached the semi-finals of the 1934 World Cup. After scoring 14 goals in 19 caps for Austria, he later played for Czechoslovakia from 1938 and scored 12 goals in 14 games for them.
With a career total of 805 goals, Josef Bican has firmly established himself as not only one of the greatest strikers of all time but also the highest-scoring player in the history of football. His incredible achievements have cemented his place in the annals of the sport.
Eusebio, also known as the “Black Panther,” was a famous football player from Portugal who is still highly regarded in his country and across Europe. He played for Benfica Lisbon for most of his career and scored a remarkable 473 goals in 440 games for the club. He was also a key player for the Portugal national team.
During his time at Benfica, which spanned 15 seasons, Eusebio achieved great success, winning numerous titles including 11 Portuguese championships, 5 National Cups, and 1 Champions League. He has also been crowned the top scorer in the Portuguese championship on 7 occasions and received the European Golden Shoe twice. Overall, Eusebio scored an impressive 514 goals in 504 games for Benfica.
Eusebio became a national star in Portugal during the 1966 World Cup. Although Portugal reached the semi-finals but lost to the eventual champions, England, led by Bobby Charlton, Eusebio’s outstanding performance earned him the title of the tournament’s top scorer with 9 goals. He went on to score a total of 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal.
Despite Portugal not winning the World Cup during Eusebio’s time, he left a lasting impact. He was awarded the Ballon d’Or, a prestigious individual football award, and his style of play would still be highly regarded in today’s game. Eusebio is considered one of the greatest strikers in history.
8. Sandor Kocsis
Sandor Kocsis played a significant role during Hungary’s peak in world football. He was a prolific goal scorer, scoring 11 goals in the 1958 World Cup, although Hungary did not win the tournament. Kocsis also achieved success at the club level, playing for Honved Budapest and later Barcelona in Spain.
Kocsis spent ten seasons playing in the Hungarian championship. He began his career at Ferencváros before joining Honved Budapest in the capital. During this period, he scored an impressive 287 goals in 265 games and won the championship four times. In 1958, Kocsis moved to FC Barcelona, which is considered one of the greatest clubs in European history. He won the Spanish championship twice and also claimed the King’s Cup twice with Barcelona. The team even reached the final of the European Cup in 1961, but unfortunately lost to Benfica, despite a goal from Kocsis.
Kocsis was also a vital part of Hungary’s “Golden Eleven” in the 1950s. The team won the gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games. However, it was the 1954 World Cup where Hungary, led by Kocsis and Puskás, truly shone. Despite an impressive campaign, Hungary unexpectedly lost 3-2 to West Germany in the final.
Kocsis had a remarkable ability to score many goals, as evidenced by his seven hat-tricks for Hungary alone throughout his career.
7. Marco Van Basten
Marco Van Basten was an exceptional forward during the 1980s and 1990s, known for his versatility and skills. He played for both Ajax and AC Milan, and he was considered the best player in the Netherlands during that era. He won the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy three times and was named World Player of the Year in 1982.
Van Basten started his professional career with Ajax Amsterdam, where he played for six seasons. During this time, he achieved significant success, winning the league title three times, the National Cup three times, and the Cup Winners’ Cup. He scored an impressive 152 goals in 172 games for Ajax. In 1987, Van Basten joined AC Milan. With the Italian club, he won the Serie A title three times and notably lifted the Champions League trophy in 1989 and 1990.
Van Basten also made a significant impact on the international stage. He helped the Netherlands secure victory in the Euro 1988 tournament, which remains the only major title in Dutch football history. Van Basten showcased his talent to Europe by scoring a memorable hat-trick against England and a remarkable volley in the final against the USSR. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest Dutch players of all time.
Unfortunately, Van Basten’s career was cut short due to health issues. While many star forwards continue playing into their mid-30s, Van Basten had to retire early to prioritize his well-being and the interests of his team.
6. Ferenc Puskas
Puskás was undeniably one of the greatest players during Hungary’s golden era. As a forward, he scored an impressive 84 goals in 85 appearances for Hungary, including his participation in the 1954 World Cup. He also won an Olympic gold medal with Hungary in 1952 and led the team to unprecedented success.
Although the game has evolved significantly since his prime, Puskás’s legacy endures. Since 2009, FIFA has honored his talent by presenting the Puskás Prize for the most beautiful goal of the year. This annual award recognizes the player who has scored the most stunning goal. Puskás, being the second Hungarian in our rankings, is undoubtedly the most renowned. He was an exceptional scorer and playmaker, leaving an indelible mark in his homeland and at Real Madrid in Spain. With his left foot, he mesmerized audiences with countless magnificent goals.
Puskás began his career at Budapest Honvéd (formerly Kispest AC), where he spent 15 years. During this period, he won the Hungarian championship four times with his club. In 1956, due to political unrest, Puskás made the decision to leave Hungary and eventually joined Real Madrid two years later. In Spain, Puskás astounded audiences, finishing as the league’s top scorer four times. He helped Real Madrid secure five league titles and clinch the prestigious Champions League three times. In total, Puskás scored an impressive 242 goals in 262 games for Real Madrid before retiring at the age of 40. He is still regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the club.
Puskás was a key member of the Hungarian “Golden Eleven,” which dominated European football in the early 1950s. The attacking trio he formed with Hidegkuti and Kocsis was incredibly effective. Even today, Ferenc Puskás is revered as one of the greatest forwards of all time.
5. Gerd Muller
Gerd Muller is a legendary figure in the history of Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga, and the World Cups. He was not only one of the top scorers for the German national team, known as the Mannschaft, but also left an indelible mark on the various World Cups he played in, earning recognition beyond Bavaria.
Comparing strikers from over 50 years ago to modern players is challenging, but Gerd Muller stood out during the 1960s and 1970s.
Muller’s statistics with the German national team are particularly impressive. In 62 international matches, he scored 68 goals, including 14 in the final stages of the World Cup. He was equally prolific in the Bundesliga and remains among the best goal-scorers in history. No team could completely contain his scoring prowess.
The young Bavarian signed his first professional contract with Bayern Munich in 1964 when the club was in the second division. By 1965, Bayern had joined the elite, boasting a team that included legendary figures like Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier. Over the course of 15 seasons with the club, Muller achieved success on all fronts. He won the league title four times, the National Cup four times, and most notably, three consecutive Champions League titles between 1974 and 1976. In his 611 appearances for Munich, he scored an astonishing 571 goals and was the league’s top scorer on seven occasions.
Muller also contributed to his remarkable record by winning the European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974. His record of 67 goals in a season was only recently surpassed by Lionel Messi in 2012. The Ballon d’Or award in 1970 crowned the extraordinary career of one of the greatest forwards in football history.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Many people argue that Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest striker of all time. His ability to score consistently for every team he has played for is a testament to his skill and talent.
Ronaldo has been awarded the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy five times throughout his career. He has been a key player for Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus, and is currently with Al Nassr.
As the captain of the Portuguese national team, Ronaldo led them to victory in the Euro 2016 tournament. Although he initially started as a winger due to his speed and dribbling, his exceptional goal-scoring ability and striking of the ball have transformed him into one of the most complete center forwards in the history of football.
Ronaldo has left an indelible mark in football history through his winning mentality, ambition, and strong work ethic. He holds the record for being the all-time top scorer for both Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team. He has also achieved great success in the Champions League and international tournaments, winning the Euro Cup in 2016 and the Nations League in 2019 with Portugal.
His name will be forever etched in football history as one of the greatest goal-scorers of all time. Ronaldo’s success is a result of his hard work, talent, dedication, and unwavering determination. His remarkable mindset has propelled him to the highest levels of achievement, and his career coinciding with that of Lionel Messi has made their rivalry truly remarkable in the football world.
3. Ronaldo (R9)
Ronaldo, also known as “R9,” is a gifted striker known for his exceptional dribbling skills and clinical finishing ability. Despite facing injuries throughout his career, he reached near-perfection during his prime. He possesses agility and a wide array of technical moves that allow him to thrive in tight spaces. In fact, he is considered one of the top 10 dribblers in football history. Had it not been for his recurring knee injuries, he could have achieved even greater heights and potentially claimed the top spot in that ranking.
Interestingly, Ronaldo is often underrated despite being one of the greatest footballers of all time. His level of excellence during his prime deserves more recognition than he receives.
Ronaldo began his career at Cruzeiro in Brazil, where he won the Brazilian Cup. He then moved to PSV Eindhoven, where he became the league’s top scorer in his first season. After a successful stint at PSV, he joined Barcelona. In just one season with the club, he won the Spanish Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and claimed the top scorer title with 34 goals. Ronaldo later moved to Inter Milan, where he won the UEFA Cup before returning to Spain to play for Real Madrid. With Real Madrid, he won the Spanish league title and the Intercontinental Cup.
Ronaldo also experienced great success with the Brazilian national team. Although he did not play a single minute, he became a world champion in 1994. He reached the final once again in 1998, where he was named the best player of the tournament. In 2002, he finally became a world champion and showcased his peak performance level throughout the tournament. He finished as the top scorer, including scoring both goals in the final. Ronaldo received the Golden Ball award twice and was named FIFA World Player of the Year three times. Undoubtedly, Ronaldo is considered one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport.
Pelé, widely regarded as the best player of all time, was an iconic figure in football and an extraordinary striker. Known for his incredible speed, physicality, and technical skills, he had a profound influence on an entire generation of footballers. His agility and ease on the ball allowed him to score remarkable goals, many of which have become legendary.
Pelé’s captivating style of play and ability to score spectacular goals made him a global superstar. Santos, his club team, embarked on international tours to capitalize on his popularity. In 1967, during a tour in Nigeria, a 48-hour ceasefire was declared in the nation’s civil war so that everyone could witness the greatness of the player.
However, Pelé is most renowned for his accomplishments on the international stage. He is the only player to have won the World Cup three times, in 1958, 1962, and 1970. He holds the record as the youngest goalscorer and youngest player to have won a World Cup. His performances during these tournaments captivated the world. In total, he scored 77 goals in 92 matches for the Brazilian national team. Pelé is unquestionably one of the greatest strikers in the history of football, often considered the second-best of all time.
After announcing his retirement in 1974, Pelé surprised the football world by signing a three-year contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League in 1975. This move aimed to promote the sport in the United States. He retired after leading the Cosmos to the league championship in 1977.
1. Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the best player in the history of football, is undoubtedly the finest footballer of our time. There has never been a player quite like Messi. He surpasses even Maradona, with his incredible statistics and his genius on the field. Watching Messi play is not only inspiring, but it also brings back memories of the magical moments created by the greats of the past, such as the Cosmic Keg.
In 2012, Messi launched an assault on the record books. He became the first player to score five goals in a single Champions League game in early March, and a few weeks later, he surpassed César Rodríguez’s long-standing record of 232 goals to become Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer.
By the end of 2012, Messi had achieved an astonishing feat, scoring 91 goals in club and international matches, surpassing Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a single calendar year set in 1972. He fittingly broke yet another record when he was named the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner.
Messi’s journey began at FC Barcelona when he joined the club at the age of 15, and since then, he has made history both at the Catalan club and in world football.
With seven Ballon d’Or awards to his name, and the possibility of an eighth on the horizon as he holds the number one position in the 2022/23 Ballon d’Or rankings, Messi has been an integral figure in the history of FC Barcelona, which has dominated football over the past decade. The “Messiah” has amassed a staggering 34 titles with Barcelona and a total of 42 collective titles, making him the most successful player in football history.
Messi is widely regarded as the most complete player, combining goal-scoring prowess, set-piece expertise, dribbling ability, shooting accuracy, and exceptional playmaking skills. It is for these reasons that he rightfully claims the top spot on our list.