There are many competitions from very different sports around the world, but nothing comes close to the FIFA World Cup. Inarguably the biggest sporting event on the planet, soccer’s flagship competition is the ultimate stage for all players. However, only a few have gotten to leave their mark in the competition.
Though e’re talking about a team sport, some players have written history on their own. Here, let’s take a look at the top scorers in World Cup history.
The FIFA World Cup has seen the greatest players in soccer history. But this tournament has a history of its own, and some names that didn’t necessarily shine in other competitions did cement a legacy in the World Cup. These are the all-time top scorers.
The German striker may not be remembered as the greatest striker the game has ever seen, but he boasts an impressive record: Miroslav Klose is the FIFA World Cup’s all-time top goalscorer. With 16 goals in 24 matches, Klose surpassed legendary players such as Ronaldo or Gerd Müller. Besides, he’s the only player to have won four medals: one gold (2014), one silver (2002), and two bronze (2006 and 2010).
It’s safe to say that much of Ronaldo’s reputation as probably the greatest striker of all time was forged at the World Cup. The Brazilian legend did shine at the club level, but his performances for Brazil in the biggest of stages simply put him in a higher tier than any other club game could have.
Ronaldo is one of the few to have won two World Cups—he reached three finals—and he won the Golden Boot in the South Korea/Japan 2002 event. With an impressive 15 goals in 19 games, he’s among the best players in World Cup history.
Back in the day, it was hard to find a more prolific striker than Gerd Muller. Four years after winning the Golden Boot at Mexico 1970, the Bayern Munich legend scored the game-winning goal for Germany in the 1974 World Cup final vs. the Netherlands.
Unlike other players, Just Fontaine needed only one World Cup to be among the all-time top scorers. With a staggering 13 goals in six matches in the 1958 edition, the French legend holds the record for most goals scored in a single World Cup.
It took him a while, but Lionel Messi eventually wrote his name in the World Cup history books. With a brilliant performance at Qatar 2022, Messi became Argentina’s all-time top scorer at World Cups with 13 goals. He also won the Golden Ball on two occasions (2014, 2022).
The most successful player in World Cup history with three titles, it’s safe to say Pele is the most iconic player of the tournament. The Brazilian legend didn’t get to win a Golden Boot, but at the Sweden 1958 World Cup he set records for being the youngest player to score a hat trick in a semifinal, and for being the youngest goalscorer in a final.
In only two editions, Kylian Mbappe managed to make World Cup history. Winner in his first participation at Russia 2018 and runner-up in his second at Qatar 2022, the French star has already tied Pelé with 12 goals in 14 games but has plenty of time to write even more history. He’s also one of the few players to score in different finals.
Sándor Kocsis found a way to score multiple World Cup goals in only one edition (1954). He was a pivotal member of Hungary’s Golden Team that fell just short of World Cup glory.
Jürgen Klinsmann always stepped up for his nation, scoring in all six international tournaments he played in. He was part of the West Germany team that won the 1990 World Cup in Italy, scoring the opener in the round of 16 against the Netherlands.
A two-time World Cup veteran, Helmut Rahn left his mark in the tournament not only by scoring 10 goals in as many games, but especially by giving West Germany a shocking victory over Hungary’s Golden Team in the 1954 World Cup final in Bern, Switzerland.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest English strikers, Gary Lineker still holds the record for the most World Cup goals scored for England. Lineker had a fantastic performance in the 1986 edition, winning the Golden Boot after scoring on six occasions.
Gabriel Batistuta was Argentina’s all-time top scorer at World Cups for a long time before Messi surpassed him. However, “Batigol” is still remembered in his country for his ability to find the net in every possible way.
Teofilo Cubillas went down in history as the greatest Peruvian player in history, having recorded 10 goals in 13 World Cup games. Cubillas represented his nation in three World Cups (1970, 1978, 1982).
Thomas Muller is one of the most fascinating players Germany has produced in recent years, as his ability to perform in different roles proved crucial for his nation. A 4x World Cup veteran, Müller was crucial in Germany’s first success as a unified nation in 2014.
Eusebio won a reputation for being one of the most prolific strikers in soccer history, cementing a legacy with Benfica and the Portuguese national team. With nine goals in six games, not only did he help Portugal reach third place at the 1966 World Cup but also finished as the tournament’s top scorer.
Diego Maradona may have not scored as many World Cup goals as other players, but he did produce some of the most iconic goals in tournament history. In a memorable 1986 World Cup, Diego scored the infamous “Hand of God” goal as well as the “Goal of the Century” in a historic quarterfinal against England en route to Argentina’s success.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player in history to score in five consecutive World Cups: 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022. The Portuguese superstar hasn’t been able to take his country to the promised land so far, but he has still made his country proud.
World Cup glory has also been quite elusive to Neymar thus far, but you cannot say the PSG winger hasn’t tried. With eight goals in 13 matches, he is among the most renowned players to score multiple World Cup goals.
Having already looked at some of the greatest goalscorers that left their mark on the World Cup, now let’s take a look at the top scorer of every edition. In each World Cup, at least one player wins the Golden Boot award.
In every edition of the World Cup, the Golden Boot award is given to the tournament’s top scorer. When two or more players finish with the same goals scored, the number of assists given is the first tiebreaker. If the draw persists, the number of minutes played comes into play. If not, the accolade is shared—just like it happened in 1966.
At the end of the day, this game is about goals, and those who score them get the most attention. Throughout World Cup history, these players got to make a name for themselves by finding the net on more occasions than the rest.
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