The likes of Alan Shearer, Raul and Francesco Totti are rightly recognised as some of the greatest forwards of the modern era, but they don’t quite make it into the pantheon of Europe’s very top goalscorers of all time.
Europe’s five major leagues – the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Serie A and England’s Football Leauge First Divison (since rebranded to the Premier League) – have proud histories that stretch back decades, with some legendary figures setting records that haven’t been broken in over half a century.
But which modern-day legends are among the all-time greats? We’ve taken a closer look at the all-time top 10 goalscorers in the history of Europe’s big five leagues.
10. Gordon Hodgson – 288 goals
Harry Kane is chasing down Shearer’s Premier League goal record, but the England captain is only 19th in the all-time list of the English top flight’s top scorers. Shearer is fifth, five behind Hodgson.
One of the greats of the pre-war era, Hodgson was born in Stoke and represented both South Africa and England at international level.
He scored 233 league goals in 359 appearances for Liverpool between 1925 and 1936 and added a further 62 goals for Aston Villa and Leeds United for good measure.
The striker’s professional career came to an end when the 1939-40 season was abandoned due to the outbreak of World War II. He then worked in a munitions factory in Leeds.
9. Delio Onnis – 299 goals
Kylian Mbappe is already PSG’s all-time top goalscorer, but he’ll have to stick around the French capital for a few more years if he’s to dethrone Argentinian icon Onnis as Ligue 1’s all-time top scorer.
Onnis was born in Italy but emigrated to Argentina as a youth and emerged through Buenos Aires side Almagro. He returned to Europe in 1971, signing for Rennes, where he began his fabled career in the French top flight.
He represented four clubs in Ligue 1 but his most prolific spell came at Monaco, where he scored 157 goals in 200 appearances between 1973 and 1980.
He finished as Ligue 1’s top scorer in five seasons but only won the title once, with Monaco in 1977-78 – having fired them to promotion the year before.
8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 302 goals
Ibra is only missing the Bundesliga goals to complete the set. He scored 17 Premier League goals for Manchester United, 113 Ligue 1 goals for PSG and 16 La Liga goals for Barcelona. But his biggest tally came in Italy, with 156 Serie A goals for Juventus, Inter and AC Milan.
He also scored a further 103 league goals for Malmo, Ajax and LA Galaxy and won no fewer than 12 league titles (not including the two revoked at Juventus). Some going.
7. Dixie Dean – 310 goals
Dean’s achievements have enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent months as the historic benchmark for Erling Haaland.
Haaland might’ve finished as the Premier League and Champions League’s top scorer as Man City claimed the treble but he couldn’t quite beat Dean’s legendary record of 63 goals (60 in the league) set in 1927-28.
The Birkenhead-born centre-forward scored 310 top-flight goals for the Toffees in total. That remains a record for an English club.
🐐 | The world's first football number nine was born #onthisday in 1907.
383 goals – including a record 60 in one league season – in 433 games. 🔥
William Ralph 'Dixie' Dean. The original. The greatest. 💙 pic.twitter.com/W5p7eVtPGB
— Everton (@Everton) January 22, 2021
6. Steve Bloomer – 314 goals
Now we’re really dusting off the history books. Bloomer’s name isn’t as widely known as some of the other icons of the English game, partly due to the fact his career took place between the years of 1891 and 1914 and there’s no footage of his exploits.
Derby County’s greatest-ever player scored 255 top-flight goals in 410 appearances for the Rams, with 59 goals for Middlesbrough in between his two stints at the Baseball Ground.
5. Robert Lewandowski – 335 goals
Lewandowski had already scored 32 goals for Lech Poznan in the Polish Ekstraklasa by the time he arrived as a 21-year-old at Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2010.
He then scored 30 Bundesliga goals for Jurgen Klopp’s side as they claimed back-to-back titles in his first two seasons with the club and soon established himself as one of Europe’s most elite finishers.
The goals have just kept flowing from there. Only once in the last 12 years has Lewandowski netted less than 20 league goals in a campaign, while in 2020-21 he broke Gerd Muller’s exalted single-season record by notching 41 Bundesliga goals.
Had the Poland international stuck around in Bavaria, he almost certainly would’ve broken Der Bomber’s all-time record, but instead he tested himself in a new environment – and passed with flying colours by scoring 23 goals to fire Barcelona to the 2022-23 La Liga title in his debut season in Spain.
4. Jimmy Greaves – 357 goals
It’s easy to imagine Kane scoring another 48 goals to break Shearer’s Premier League record. It’s much more of an ask for him to score another 145 goals to surpass Greaves as the English top flight’s all-time top scorer.
Kane recently overtook Greaves to become Tottenham’s all-time top scorer but the iconic striker’s overall top-flight record will more than likely remain unmatched.
Greaves scored 357 goals in 516 top-flight appearances for Chelsea, Spurs and West Ham.
3. Gerd Muller – 365 goals
The aforementioned Muller was – until a couple of notable names emerged on the scene – always the standard-bearer for logic-defying goal stats. Sixty-eight goals in 62 games for West Germany. More than one per appearance.
Not to mention 398 league goals for Bayern Munich, 365 of which came across 14 Bundesliga campaigns – an average of 26 per season.
“Without him, we’d still be getting changed in a wooden cabin,” famously said former team-mate Franz Beckenbauer. Der Bomber’s goals propelled Bayern to become the powerhouse we know them as today.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – 495 goals
To say that Ronaldo scores goals wherever he’s been is something of an understatement. He became a great goalscorer at Manchester United and became a member of the Premier League’s 100 Club upon his return.
Ronaldo became Real Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer over the course of his nine seasons in La Liga, in which he scored 311 goals, averaging 34(!) a season – a better-than-goal-a-game average. He then scored 81 goals in 98 Serie A appearances for Juventus.
And if you’re to add the three Primeira Liga goals Ronaldo scored for his boyhood club Sporting Lisbon, Ronaldo is out in front as the all-time top scorer in the history of Europe’s top-flight leagues.
One of 𝘵𝘩𝘦 best ever in football and #LaLigaHistory. 🤍
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 5, 2022
1. Lionel Messi – 496 goals
Messi already held the record for the most goals in any one of Europe’s top five leagues, as well as for any European club, with a mindblowing 474 La Liga goals in 520 appearances for Barcelona.
The Argentinian leaves Europe for MLS at the age of 36, having bested his era-defining rival Ronaldo by just one goal – with his 22 Ligue 1 goals for PSG taking his overall tally in Europe’s top five leagues to 496.
Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland will have ambitions of one day dethroning Messi, but they’ll have their work cut out. It wouldn’t be a shock if Messi’s record stands intact forever.