It may have ultimately only been a consolation in the overall scheme of the game, but Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 700th career goal on Monday when scoring from the penalty spot in Portugal’s 2-1 European qualifying loss to Ukraine in Kiev.
The defeat may have taken off some of the gloss, but Ronaldo’s sensational achievement cannot be discredited. The guy has simply scored goals wherever he has gone.
His 95 international goals dwarf Pauleta’s previous Portuguese record of 47, while he also made light work of superseding Raul’s Real Madrid high by tallying 450 goals in just nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Even at Manchester United, where he arrived as a raw 18-year-old winger, he struck 118 times in a six-year span including a 42-goal campaign in 2007-08 which ranks third in the Red Devils’ long history.
With three years still to run on his Juventus contract there is every reason to believe that there is plenty of life in the 34-year-old just yet. Having become only the sixth player in football history to score 700 goals in official senior competition, Ronaldo’s sights will now be set on the five who preceded him.
Who would be brave enough to bet against him usurping all of these legends of the game and become the greatest goal scorer football has ever seen?
Gerd Muller - 735
The vast majority of German hero Gerd Muller’s staggering haul came in his 15-year tenure at Bayern Munich. He remains the highest goalscorer in the Bavarians’ history by some stretch, with almost twice the number of nearest contender Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. ‘Der Bomber’ was also the record scorer for the Germany men’s national team for a 40-year period between 1974 and 2014 until Miroslav Klose nudged past his tally of 68 goals in the famous white and black colours of Die Mannschaft.
Ferenc Puskas - 746
For the national team of Hungary, the legendary Puskas recorded an incredible 84 goals in 85 appearances and was an intrinsic part of the iconic ‘Aranycsapat’ (The Golden Team) which collected gold at the 1952 Olympics and destroyed England 6-3 at Wembley Stadium the following year in what became known as ‘The Match of the Century’.
His prolificacy at club level for Real Madrid after moving from his home city of Budapest is legendary. Upon his death in 2006, his former Los Blancos teammate Alfredo di Stefano stated: “The man was a super-talent. I have lost a friend and quality player. That’s how Puskas was as a person and a football player. He was one of the greatest players of all time.”
Pele - 767
It is a stat the Brazilian may argue with - Pele claims to have scored 1,284 goals in 1375 games. Basically, if you want to compile a similar statistic, work out how many goals you bagged on the field after school.
However, 767 goals across two decades and 831 games is still a fantastic haul, with 77 goals in 92 internationally for Canarinha an exceptional bragging right to go alongside his three World Cups.
Pele, voted the Player of the Century ahead of the new millennium, also won six Brasileirão titles and a brace of Copa Libertadores in an 18-year career in his homeland with Santos. “I was born to play football,” Pele has stated, “just like Beethoven was born to write music and Michelangelo was born to paint.”
Romario - 772
Boasting a career which spanned 14 clubs, Romario’s talent was spotted at 13 and he began his professional career with Vasco da Gama after scoring four goals against them in a single match. PSV Eindhoven is where his status erupted thanks to a prolific goal-scoring rate, before Johan Cruyff - not a bad player himself in his day - procured him for Barcelona.
At the 1994 World Cup tournament in which he emerged with the Golden Ball, Romario’s goal against Sweden took Brazil to their first final in 24 years and the forward then scored one of the decisive penalties to best Italy in the showpiece. He was unfortunate to miss out on 1998 and the 2002 triumph through injury.
At 39 years old, he continued to play at the highest level of Brazilian football before retiring as the world’s second-highest scorer of all-time.
Josef Bican - 805
The only player to have broken the 800-goal barrier, Josef ‘Pepi’ Bican scored more than 500 of overall for Slavia Prague from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. Bican - who passed away in 2001 - was inducted into the Czech Football Association’s Hall of Fame on what would have been his 100th birthday in 2013, but he also played for Austria’s storied national team in the 1930s and Bohemia & Moravia during the uncertain political times that existed during his career.
As documented by football historian Radovan Jelinek, via Radio Prague International: “He was a very complex player; he used both of his feet, he scored with his head, and from long and short distance shots. That’s very rare now. He was also extremely fast – he ran 100 metres in 10.8 seconds, just 0.5 second slower than the world record at the time.“
Since recording of match data across parts of his career was sketchy at best Bican’s total could actually be more than 805, and he is known to have scored at least 1468 times across all official and unofficial matches.