Lionel Messi, already the all-time record scorer in any of Europe’s top-ten leagues, reached another milestone on Sunday when he registered his 400th Spanish Liga goal. In many respects, the Barcelona forward is out on his own – but some epochal totals may well be beyond the 31-year-old, as UEFA.com discovers.
Spain: Lionel Messi (2004–present) – 400 goals
Having eclipsed Telmo Zarra’s Spanish top-flight record of 251 goals back in 2014, Messi has been in a league of his own ever since. His latest milestone came in a 3-0 victory against Eibar on Sunday, the Argentinian ace finishing off a fine move involving Luis Suárez and Philippe Coutinho. “His numbers are stratospheric, incredible, but it’s not just the goals – it’s everything else he does too,” said Barça coach Ernesto Valverde.
England: Jimmy Greaves (1957–71) – 357 goals
“When I came out onto the pitch at White Hart Lane, Wembley or wherever, I became a totally different person,” recalled England’s foremost first-division marksman. “In a way, when I passed through that tunnel, it wasn’t me any more.” At Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham, Greaves’s strike rate suggested he was indeed in the zone.
Italy: Silvio Piola (1929–54) – 274 goals
“I still don’t know whether he shoots better with his right foot or his left,” said coach Vittorio Pozzo of the forward who helped his Italy side lift the 1938 FIFA World Cup. “I did not fear anything, a crucial quality in those days,” added Piola, who found the net for Pro Vercelli, Lazio, Torino, Juventus and Novara but never landed a Serie A title.
Germany: Gerd Müller (1965–79) – 365 goals
The ultimate goalmouth predator, ‘Der Bomber’ set a near-impossible target for all future Bundesliga aces with his 365 goals in only 427 games. The prolificacy of the man who hit West Germany’s 1974 FIFA World Cup final winner did much to make Bayern a football powerhouse. As Franz Beckenbauer often says: “Without Gerd’s goals, perhaps we would still be working in a little wooden hut on Säbener Strasse.”
France: Delio Onnis (1971–86) – 299 goals
Born in Italy and raised in Argentina, Onnis never made an international appearance yet found the target at a fearsome rate for Reims, Monaco, Tours and Toulon. He is confident his league tally will remain a record “long into the future” but knows that in another age his attacking prowess might have earned him a move abroad. “Ten years in one league is not common nowadays,” he said.
Russia and Ukraine: Oleh Blokhin: (1972–87) – 211 goals
Blokhin’s Soviet-era mark casts a long shadow over all of the USSR’s successor states. The 1975 Ballon d’Or winner was the Soviet league’s leading striker in five campaigns with Dynamo Kyiv. “He is utterly consistent in pursuing his main target – scoring goals,” said his coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy. “Behind each one there is hellish toil in training, total commitment in matches and many years of spartan lifestyle.”
Portugal: Fernando Peyroteo (1937–49) – 332 goals
Aged 19, Peyroteo struck twice on his Sporting CP debut against Lisbon rivals Benfica back in 1937, and his huge Liga haul came in just 197 league games – including nine in a single fixture. He retired at 31, saying: “I am a soldier and a soldier does not run from his duties, but I feel I am an old soldier that can no longer help his club the way he should.”
Belgium: Albert De Cleyn (1932–55) – 377 goals
A one-club man, representing Malinois – now Mechelen – De Cleyn might have scored more had three Belgian seasons not been abandoned during the Second World War. Famously, he notched all seven in a 7-1 victory against Racing Club de Bruxelles that secured his team the 1943 title; the club’s official history says he was “spontaneously lifted onto team-mates’ shoulders and given a bouquet of flowers”.
Turkey: Hakan Şükür (1987–2008) – 249 goals
The ‘Bull of the Bosporus’ claimed only 11 league goals in overseas spells with Torino, Internazionale, Parma and Blackburn, but registered regularly for Sakaryaspor and Bursaspor, as well as during three stints at Galatasaray. He once said: “I’m the kind of striker who gets into a lot of good scoring positions, but also misses a lot of them, and all I can think about are the chances I’ve missed, not the goals I scored.”
European national-record league totals that Messi has yet to surpass
Some high scorers who played in more than one European league
Josef Bican: Austria 18, Czechoslovakia 500 (1931–55) – 518 goals
Ferenc Puskás: Spain 159, Hungary 358 (1943–66) – 517 goals
Imre Schlosser: Hungary 411, Austria 6 (1905–28) – 417 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo: Portugal 3, England 84, Spain 311, Italy 14 (2002–present) – 412 goals
Gyula Zsengellér: Hungary 387, Italy 24 (1935–53) – 411 goals
Gunnar Nordahl: Sweden 149, Italy 225 (1937–58) – 374 goals