The Greatest Goalscorers in World Cup History

To help fans determine who is the greatest goalscorer in the tournament’s history, Gambling.com have analysed all 159 players to have scored four or more goals at the FIFA World Cup. The answer, of course, is subjective, depending on which metric one values the most. Total goals, goals per game and minutes per goal are just some of the key statistics we’ve used to identify the best goalscorers in World Cup history. Who gets your vote? 

Total World Cup Goals

Total World Cup Goals Goals W/O Penalties Goals Per Game (Avg) Goals Per Tournament (Avg) Mins Per Goal (Avg)

Historically, Miroslav Klose is the all-time top scorer in the World Cup. The German opened his account with a hat-trick against Saudi Arabia in his tournament debut in 2002, and 12 years later he had amassed a record 16 goals in total. 

Though he didn’t score, his final appearance saw Germany defeat Argentina to win the 2014 World Cup, ensuring he signed off in style.

His record is unlikely to be broken at the 2022 World Cup, but it’s not impossible that a countryman could get close to it. Only once since 1974 has a player scored more than six goals in a single edition and Thomas Muller has arrived in Qatar with 10 goals in his account. 

The Bayern Munich man has scored five goals at two World Cups. Muller was the second top scorer in Brazil eight years ago and won the Golden Boot four years earlier. 

Top World Cup Goal Scorers Featuring at Qatar 2022

#1
Lionel Messi

ArgentinaLionel Messi

Total World Cup Goals: 13 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 9 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.50 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 178 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 2.60
#2
Kylian Mbappé

FranceKylian Mbappé

Total World Cup Goals: 12 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 10 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.86 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 94 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 6.00
#3
Thomas MĂĽller

GermanyThomas MĂĽller

Total World Cup Goals: 10 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 9 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.53 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 157 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 2.50
#T4
Cristiano Ronaldo

PortugalCristiano Ronaldo

Total World Cup Goals: 8 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 5 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.36 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 221 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 1.60
#T4
Harry Kane

EnglandHarry Kane

Total World Cup Goals: 8 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 4 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.73 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 122 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 4.00
#T4
Neymar

BrazilNeymar

Total World Cup Goals: 8 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 6 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.62 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 148 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 2.67
#7
Luis Suárez

UruguayLuis Suárez

Total World Cup Goals: 7 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 7 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.44 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 188 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 1.75
#T8
James RodrĂ­guez

ColombiaJames RodrĂ­guez

Total World Cup Goals: 6 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 5 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.75 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 92 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 3.00
#T8
Ivan Perišić

CroatiaIvan Perišić

Total World Cup Goals: 6 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 6 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.35 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 260 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 2.00
#T8
Enner Valencia

EcuadorEnner Valencia

Total World Cup Goals: 6 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 6 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 1.00 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 88 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 3.00
#T11
Romelu Lukaku

BelgiumRomelu Lukaku

Total World Cup Goals: 5 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 5 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.42 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 141 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 1.67
#T11
Xherdan Shaqiri

SwitzerlandXherdan Shaqiri

Total World Cup Goals: 5 World Cup Goals W/O Penalties: 5 Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg): 0.42 Mins Per Goal (Avg): 196 Goals Per Tournament (Avg): 1.25

Golden Boot Winners

England’s Harry Kane is the reigning Golden Boot holder, thanks to the six goals he scored in Russia in 2018 and the Tottenham striker still harbours hopes of becoming one of the top World Cup scorers of all time by the end of Qatar 2022. 

He was the bookmakers’ favourite to retain his crown coming into the tournament, though it’s worth bearing in mind that no player has ever retained the award. The aforementioned Klose and Muller have both won it and finished second in their careers. 

Though the Golden Boot was only formally introduced for the 1982 tournament in Spain, it’s obviously possible to look back to 1930 to see who the top scorers were at every World Cup.

The record for most goals at a single tournament could well stand forever. France’s Just Fontaine scored 13 goals at the 1958 edition in Sweden. In the Group Stage, he scored three times against Paraguay, twice against Yugoslavia and once against Scotland. 

Goals Per World Cup

#1
Just Fontaine

FranceJust Fontaine

13.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#2
Sándor Kocsis

HungarySándor Kocsis

11.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T3
Ademir

BrazilAdemir

9.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T3
Eusébio

PortugalEusébio

9.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#5
Guillermo Stábile

ArgentinaGuillermo Stábile

8.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#6
Gerd MĂĽller

GermanyGerd MĂĽller

7.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T7
Josef HĂĽgi

SwitzerlandJosef HĂĽgi

6.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T7
Max Morlock

GermanyMax Morlock

6.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T7
Erich Probst

AustriaErich Probst

6.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T7
Oleg Salenko

RussiaOleg Salenko

6.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T7
Salvatore Schillaci

ItalySalvatore Schillaci

6.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)
#T7
Gyula Zsengellér

HungaryGyula Zsengellér

6.00

Goals Per Tournament (Avg)

That group stage haul alone would probably win the Golden Boot these days, but Fontaine then scored two more goals against Northern Ireland, one against Brazil, and finally four in the Third-Place play-off with West Germany. 

Injury sadly forced him to retire in 1962 and so he only appeared at one World Cup. Had he remained fit, it would likely be the name Just Fontaine featuring in the opening paragraph as the highest World Cup scorer. 

He is not the only player to have hit double figures at a World Cup. Sandor Kocsis bagged 11 goals for runners-up Hungary in 1954, while Gerd Muller netted 10 times for West Germany in 1970.

The three men with 10+ goals in a single edition all bagged two hat-tricks as part of their haul too. 


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Hat-Tricks At World Cup

At the time of writing, there have been 52 instances of a player scoring at least three goals in a World Cup match, with Kane’s hat-trick in a 6-1 victory against Panama in June 2018 the most recent example. 

This is where Fontaine and Kocsis can be separated from Gerd Muller. They both scored four goals in a game, as have Ernst Wilimowski, Ademir, Eusebio and Emilio Butragueno. 

But top of the tree is Oleg Salenko, a Russian forward who struck five times against Cameroon at the 1994 World Cup. What makes his feat stand out more is that his only other international goal occurred in the preceding match – a loss against Sweden – and his side did not make it through the Group Stage. 


2022 World Cup Top Scorer Odds


Salenko’s meagre total of eight caps still provided enough opportunity for him to secure football immortality, and no player has even managed four goals in a World Cup match since. 

There has been one interesting achievement though. Seven days before Salenko scored five, Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta notched a hat-trick against Greece. Four years to the day later he bagged three in a 5-0 win against Jamaica, becoming the only man to date who has scored hat-tricks at two World Cups. 

Batistuta is also one of 13 men who have accumulated at least 10 goals in their World Cup career. He falls short of his high scoring contemporaries in one sense though, as we elaborate on below. 

Goals Per World Cup Game

#1
Ernst Willimowski

PolandErnst Willimowski

4.00

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#2
Sándor Kocsis

HungarySándor Kocsis

2.20

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#3
Just Fontaine

FranceJust Fontaine

2.17

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T4
Guillermo Stábile

ArgentinaGuillermo Stábile

2.00

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T4
Josef HĂĽgi

SwitzerlandJosef HĂĽgi

2.00

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T4
Oleg Salenko

RussiaOleg Salenko

2.00

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#7
LĂ©Ă´nidas

BrazilLĂ©Ă´nidas

1.60

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T8
Ademir

BrazilAdemir

1.50

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T8
Eusébio

PortugalEusébio

1.50

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T8
Gyula Zsengellér

HungaryGyula Zsengellér

1.50

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T11
Gino Colaussi

ItalyGino Colaussi

1.33

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)
#T11
Bert Patenaude

USABert Patenaude

1.33

Goals Per World Cup Game (Avg)

Top World Cup Scorers: Penalties and Group Stage Goals Scrutinised

There are four men with 10 goals who would not have reached double figures if penalties were excluded. Batistuta bagged the most from the spot in this elite group (four), ahead of Teofilo Cubillas, Gary Lineker (both two) and Thomas Muller (one). 

Another way to value goals is to look only at those which were scored in the knockout phase. Cubillas got just one beyond the Group Stage, though it was at least in a quarter-final; Batistuta and JĂĽrgen Klinsmann did not score beyond the Round of 16.

World Cup Top Scorers Round By Round

Player World Cup Goals Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Finals Semi-Finals Third Place Play-Off Final Knockout Stage Goals (excl. 3rd/4th play-off)
Miroslav Klose 16 11 1 3 1 0 0 5
Ronaldo 15 7 4 0 2 0 2 8
Gerd MĂĽller* 14 8 0 3 2 0 1 6
Just Fontaine 13 6 0 2 1 4 0 3
Pelé 12 5 0 1 3 0 3 7
Sándor Kocsis 11 7 0 2 2 0 0 4
JĂĽrgen Klinsmann 11 8 3 0 0 0 0 3
Gary Lineker 10 4 2 3 1 0 0 6
Helmut Rahn 10 5 0 2 0 1 2 4
Thomas MĂĽller 10 5 2 1 1 1 0 4
Grzegorz Lato* 10 6 0 3 0 1 0 3
Gabriel Batistuta 10 8 2 0 0 0 0 2
TeĂłfilo Cubillas 10 9 0 1 0 0 0 1

*Gerd MĂĽller and Grzegorz Lato each scored three goals in a second group stage, which is considered the Quarter-finals here as eight teams remained in the tournament at that point.


 

It also seems fair to discount goals scored in the Third-Place play-off, as it is effectively a glorified friendly between two disappointed teams who don’t take the match too seriously. 

By looking at the Round of 16, Quarter and Semi-finals and Final, we find that Brazil legend Ronaldo is the top goal scorer in the World Cup in fully competitive knockout matches. 

The 2002 World Cup top scorer netted a total of four goals across Last 16 matches in three successive editions, semi-final goals against Netherlands (in 1998) and Turkey (2002), plus both goals in the final when his nation last won the trophy 20 years ago.

Overall, he may have ultimately finished runner up to Klose, but Ronaldo has arguably scored more important goals than any other player in World Cup history.

By Andrew Beasley

FAQ

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