Messi has overtaken Iran legend Ali Daei...

The top 10 international goalscorers of all time: Lionel Messi up to 2nd…

Lionel Messi has moved up to second, behind his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo, in the list of football’s top international goalscorers. But which other legendary names feature in the all-time top 10?

International football is a different beast. Beyond the World Cup, European Championships, AFCON and Copa America, there are all kinds of wonderful tournaments and interesting stories happening away from the spotlight.

That results in a top 10 that’s a refreshing mix of household names who have spent their careers at elite clubs alongside obscure players who are heroes in their home countries but relatively unknown worldwide. Here are the names that make the list.

10. Godfrey Chitalu (Zambia) – 79 goals

African football’s all-time top goalscorer is level on goals with Neymar but sneaks into our top 10 on a goals-per-game basis.

Chitalu scored 79 goals in just 111 appearances for Zambia between 1968 and 1980, beating Neymar’s rate of 79 goals in 128 Brazil caps.

The Zambian FA claim that he scored over a hundred goals in the calendar year of 1972, which would mean that Lionel Messi’s widely-cited tally from 2012 was not actually a world record.

He spent his entire career in Zambia and later coached the national team, but tragically died in a plane crash along with the entire squad in 1993.

9. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – 83 goals

The first of five currently active players in the top 10, Poland’s long-serving captain is both their all-time top goalscorer and appearance-maker by a country mile.

The Barcelona forward scored his 83rd and latest international goal at Euro 2024, equalising from the penalty spot against France.

Aged 35, Lewandowski could conceivably keep going until the next World Cup and potentially even become only the second international centurion of the European game, but at this point it’s a big ask.

8. Ferenc Puskas (Hungary) – 84 goals

The legendary Gerd Muller famously bettered a goal-per-game ratio with 68 goals in just 62 appearances for West Germany, but he doesn’t quite make the top 10 international goalscorers list.

No player in this top 10 can quite boast a goal-a-game record, although Hungarian icon Puskas gets pretty damn close.

The Mightiest of the Magyars scored 84 goals in 85 international caps, including the opener in Hungary’s shock 3-2 1954 World Cup final defeat to West Germany.

As well as his outrageous international record, he holds the title of most goals scored in European Cup finals, having scored four in one and a hat-trick in another for Real Madrid.

READ: The top 20 European Cup/Champions League final goalscorers of all time

7. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) – 85 goals

Lewandowski might have his work cut out to become the second European to hit a hundred international goals, but Lukaku has time on his side.

His current predicament – a third successive summer awkwardly unwanted by parent club Chelsea – sums up his strange and difficult-to-parse career. As does ending up the top scorer in Euro 2024 qualifying with 14 goals before failing to score in the tournament proper, fluffing numerous big chances and having three goals ruled out after VAR intervention.

Still, for all his flaws and misfortune, there’s no arguing with his overall international record. Eighty-five goals in just 118 appearances at the age of 31. A better goals-per-game ratio than the two era-defining icons at the very top of this list.

6. Ali Mabkhout (UAE) – 85 goals

Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, Mabkhout is a relatively lesser-known name, having spent his entire career in the United Arab Emirates.

But as careers in the UAE go, it’s difficult to imagine a better one. The 33-year-old scored over 250 goals for Al Jazira before moving Al Nasr earlier this year.

Mabkhout’s 85 goals for his country came via just 114 caps. He’s still going today, although he was controversially left as an unused substitute by coach Paulo Bento at the recent 2023 Asian Cup. A lesson in courage for Roberto Martinez, there.

5. Mokhtar Dahari (Malaysia) – 89 goals

Now onto a legend of the Asian game. Malaysian forward Dahari, who spent almost his entire career with boyhood club Selangor, scored 89 goals in 142 international appearances in the 70s and 80s.

Supermokh once scored twice in a 1975 friendly victory over Arsenal and famously rejected Real Madrid. Like Zambian legend Chitalu, he also died tragically young in the early 90s – just 37 years of age – after suffering with motor neurone disease.

READ NEXT: 12 footballers who overcame adversity to make it to the top: Haller, Salah, Messi…

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the top scorers for these 25 European nations?

4. Sunil Chhetri (India) – 94 goals

The greatest Indian footballer of all time, Chhetri spent almost all of his career moving between clubs in his home country, but he also spent time abroad with Sporting Kansas City and Sporting Lisbon, albeit without ever making any kind of impact for their senior teams.

It was also reported that Leeds United were interested back in their League One days.

He made his international debut against Pakistan back in 2005 and is yet to hang up his boots, although he did finally retire from the international game last month.

“The kid inside will probably keep fighting to play football, but the sensible, mature player and person knows that this is it,” Chhetri said in an announcement video.

Chettri scored 94 goals in 151 appearances for the Blue Tigers.

3. Ali Daei (Iran) – 108 goals

For a long time, Iran’s Daei held one of those records you thought would never be beaten. Especially when you consider that the top two’s international goalscoring numbers didn’t go truly stratospheric until they hit their thirties.

Messi and Ronaldo were still fresh-faced youngsters when Daei scored his 108th and last goal for Iran back in 2006.

Who’d have known back then that summer’s World Cup in Germany was to play host to three greats of the international game? And Daei at the opposite end of his career to the two men that would eventually surpass him.

2. Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 109 goals

Messi didn’t open his account at the 2024 Copa America until the semis, in which he all-but confirmed Argentina’s place in a third successive major tournament final with a somewhat scruffy effort to make it 2-0 against Canada.

A goal that took him beyond Daei to take up outright second in this list.

It’s not completely out of the realms of possibility that Messi pushes on until his forties, like his eternal rival, and one day takes the top spot. But there are finally some signs of the 37-year-old slowing down, and he’s talking as if he knows he’s approaching the end of his international career.

There’d be an ugly kind of beauty in his goal against Canada being the last of his incredible Argentina career.

Messi helped Argentina reach the Copa America final.

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1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – 130 goals

Who else but–?

Ronaldo left Real Madrid as the club’s all-time top goalscorer. He left the European game as the all-time top goalscorer in the history of the European Cup. He’ll surely end his Portugal career as international football’s all-time top goalscorer too.

Euro 2024 was arguably one step too far as he failed to score at a major tournament for the first time in the 11 he’s played in, but his legacy with Portugal was secured a long long time ago.