Cristiano Ronaldo’s double in Juventus’ semifinal first-leg victory over Inter Milan on Tuesday took his career scoring tally to 762, cementing his record as the highest goalscorer of all time – or is he?
The 35-year-old, who is Portugal’s leading goalscorer with 102 goals, previously played for Sporting Lisbon (five goals), Manchester United (118) and Real Madrid (450) and has scored 85 times for Juventus.
While none of the Portuguese star’s goals can be questioned, the same can’t be said for his goalscoring predecessors.
The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF), an international organization dedicated to collecting statistics about football, still lists the late Austro-Czech striker Josef Bican as the sport’s all-time top goalscorer with more than 805 goals.
However, it notes that some of those goals came in amateur and reserve club matches, as well as non-official international games. Adjusting his total tally accordingly, multiple reports suggest Bican’s official total is 759 goals.
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FIFA, world football’s governing body, credits Bican, who passed away in 2001, with an “estimated 805 goals” during his career, which spanned from 1931 to 1955.
“‘Pepi’, as he was known, is credited with scoring 805 goals in 530 games, giving him a career average of 1.52 goals per game – a better return than Romario, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo,” FIFA says on its website.
While the RSSSF has Brazil legend Pele as only the fourth highest goalscorer of all time with 767 goals, the Guinness Book of World Records has him in first place with 1,279. In his Instagram bio, Pele also claims to be the football’s highest goalscorer with 1,283 goals.
The authenticity of many of Pele’s goals has always been the subject of intense scrutiny. His case wasn’t helped by former club Santos claiming that Lionel Messi actually needed to score another 448 goals to break Pele’s record of goals for a single club after the Argentine scored his 644th for Barcelona.
These claims prompted a slew of memes questioning Pele’s tally.
Pele’s compatriot Romario, widely considered one of the greatest strikers of all time, also claims to have scored more than 1,000 goals, though that tally includes friendly and youth matches. Following a career that spanned 24 years, the RSSSF has Romario in third place with 772 goals, behind Bican and Ronaldo.
Ronaldo’s perennial rival Lionel Messi is currently 41 goals behind the Portuguese’s tally, but is younger and has played considerably less matches.
In short, perhaps we’ll never know.