World Cup

World Cup all-time top scorers: Ronaldo, Pele and the goal kings

This is one goalscoring list Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are yet to crack! Check out our definitive list of the best scorers in competition history.

12:56pm on Monday 22nd March 2021
Chris Myson

The next World Cup is under two years away, with France poised to defend their world title in Qatar at the end of 2022.

Brazil have famously won the World Cup a record five times, though by the time of the next tournament it will be over two decades since they last lifted the famous gold trophy in 2002.

Germany and Italy are next as they have four World Cup victories each.

Argentina, France and Uruguay all hold two wins, putting them ahead of one-time winners Spain and England.

As you would expect, all of those nations have produced some of the world game’s greatest goalscorers over the years, many of whom feature on the list of World Cup all-time top scorers.

We have looked at who the highest scorer in World Cup history is and reviewed who else makes the top 20 in the scoring charts for the global game's biggest competition.

Who is the all-time top World Cup scorer?

The highest goalscorers in World Cup history

1.Miroslav Klose1624
3.Gerd Müller1413
4.Just Fontaine136
6.Sándor Kocsis115
7.Jurgen Klinsmann1117
8.Helmut Rahn1010
9.Gary Lineker1012
10.Gabriel Batistuta1012
11.Teófilo Cubillas1013
12.Thomas Müller1016
13.Grzegorz Lato1020
15.Christian Vieri99
17.David Villa912
18.Paolo Rossi914
20.Roberto Baggio916

Germany legend Miroslav Klose is the World Cup all-time top scorer with 16 goals.

The players directly below Klose in the rankings – Ronaldo, Gerd Muller, Just Fontaine and Pele – all have a better goals per game ratio.

But Klose took full advantage of playing in four World Cups at a time when the tournament had expanded, with teams who reach the last four all playing in seven matches.

That advantage, combined with playing for a Germany team who consistently reached the latter stages, meant he played in 24 World Cup matches, more than anyone else in the top 20.

Take nothing away from Klose’s performances, though. Never quite as prolific at club level, he was magnificent for his country and ended his career with 71 Germany goals.

Klose scored five goals at World Cup 2002 and another five in 2006 – the second tournament giving him the golden boot on home soil. He played the full seven matches on both occasions, making a flying start to his record pursuit.

He followed up with four goals from five matches in 2010, while two goals in five outings in 2014 saw him overtake Brazil great Ronaldo to become the greatest goalscorer at the World Cup.

Klose equalled the record in a 2-2 draw with Ghana and then claimed it outright in the famous 7-1 semi-final win over Brazil.

He did not score in the final but fittingly ended his International career with a winners' medal to go with his record after Germany beat Argentina 1-0.

Former Barcelona, Inter, Milan and Real Madrid star Ronaldo had 15 goals from 19 World Cup games, with all of his goals impressively coming in three tournaments from 1998 until 2006, having played but not scored in 1994.

He won the golden boot award for being the highest scorer in 2002 as Brazil won the trophy after previously lighting up the 1998 tournament until hosts France convincingly won the final amid controversy over Ronaldo's fitness to play.

Germany have four of the top eight players including Gerd Muller (14), who was the record holder prior to Ronaldo, with Jurgen Klinsmann (11) also boasting a fine record.

Two stars of the 1950s, Sándor Kocsis (11) and Fontaine (13), have the best goals per game ratio, both averaging over two per match.

Pele (12) may not hold the record but will always have a prominent place in World Cup history.

Who has scored the most World Cup goals, including qualifiers?

Including qualifying, former Guatemala forward Carlos Ruiz has the most World Cup goals with a remarkable 39, though it was never enough to get his country to reach the tournament.

Guatemala’s record cap holder and goalscorer, Ruiz played in five qualification campaigns and reached his total from 47 matches.

While Cristiano Ronaldo is yet to reach the main list of the top-20 World Cup all-time goalscorers, he does feature on this one.

Ronaldo has 30 goals in World Cup qualifying, the most of any European player, plus seven at the World Cup proper.

He therefore has 37 and sits just two goals behind Ruiz, who he could catch and pass this year to become the highest scorer in the World Cup, including qualifiers.

Uruguay star Luis Suarez has a formidable World Cup record, with 25 goals in qualifying and seven at the tournament itself for a total of 32.

Milan great Andriy Shevchenko scored 26 times in qualification campaigns plus twice in the full World Cup.

How did Klose and Ronaldo fare in qualifying?

Klose impressively had 13 goals in qualifying for a total of 29 World Cup goals, including qualifiers.

Brazil’s Ronaldo netted 10 times, all scored in one tremendous qualifying campaign for the 2006 tournament. But featuring in just one meant those exploits were not enough to sit above Klose in this ranking either, with his total being 25.

And what about Lionel Messi? He has 22 qualifying goals and six at the full World Cup, so is not far away from the leading group of greatest goalscorers at the competition.

Who has scored the most World Cup goals in a single tournament?

All of the 13 World Cup goals scored by France forward Just Fontaine came at a single tournament in 1958, with him reaching that total by playing in six games.

Over 60 years on from his heroics, Fontaine remains the highest scorer in a single World Cup competition.

He beat the mark of 11 recorded by one of the tournament's other greatest goaslcorers, Sándor Kocsis, who recorded his total in five matches during the previous 1954 tournament.

In third place for most goals in a single World Cup is Gerd Muller, who scored 10 times from six appearances in 1970.

No player has reached double figures at a World Cup in over 40 years since, with Brazil striker Ronaldo coming closest when he netted eight times in the 2002 Mundial.

For the last two golden boot winners, James Rodriguez and Harry Kane, six goals were enough to win the honour.

Who is the oldest scorer in a World Cup?

The oldest scorer in a World Cup is Cameroon striker Roger Milla.

Astonishingly, Milla was 42 years and 39 days old when he scored for Cameroon against Russia in the 1994 World Cup, which was held in the USA.

Milla actually broke his own record by doing that – he already held the title of the oldest World Cup scorer having netted four times at World Cup 1990 in Italy.

There is a huge gap between Milla and the rest who feature in this category.

In second place is Gunnar Gren, who was 37 years and 236 days old when he scored for hosts Sweden at the 1958 World Cup.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco is third having been 37 years and 151 days old at World Cup 2010 in South Africa when he netted for Mexico.

Mirsolav Klose had just turned 36 when he scored the last of his 16 World Cup goals in 2014. That puts him ninth overall.

If Cristiano Ronaldo scores at World Cup 2022, he will feature prominently on this list as the forward will be nearing his 38th birthday if he plays in Qatar.

Ronaldo is already the oldest player to score a World Cup hat-trick. He was 33 years and 130 days old when he scored a treble against Spain in 2018.

Who is the youngest goalscorer in a World Cup?

Pele is the youngest player to score a goal in a World Cup match.

He was 17 years and 239 days old when he netted against Wales in the 1958 competition in Sweden.

Five days later, Pele became the youngest player to score a World Cup hat-trick against France. That record also still stands today.

In a historic tournament, he later became the youngest to score in a World Cup final with the first of his two goals in the 5-2 win against hosts Sweden at the age of 17 years and 249 days. That is another record which is yet to be beaten.

When Pele became the youngest goalscorer in World Cup history, he took the record from Mexico player Manuel Rosas, who scored in the first World Cup in 1930.

Rosas remains the second-youngest scorer over 90 years on from his effort.

Former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Man Utd forward Michael Owen is third as he was 18 when he struck for England at the 1998 World Cup.

Lionel Messi was 18 years and 358 days old at the time he got his first World Cup goal in 2006.

That puts him sixth in the rankings and makes the Barcelona forward the youngest World Cup scorer in this century.

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