With the World Cup Qualifiers resuming in September, now’s a good time to take a look at the current crop of international players and their goalscoring exploits. These are the top 11 active international scorers and it just so happens that they’ve all banged in at least 50 goals for their country at the senior level.
This list has changed over the past few months since several players with at least 50 goals have recently retired from international duty. These include Robbie Keane of the Republic of Ireland, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden, Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast, Carlos Ruiz of Guatemala and Younis Mahmoud of Iraq.
11. Shinji Okazaki
Thirty-one-year-old Shinji Okazaki has been playing in the English Premier League with Leicester since 2015. He helped the unglamorous club upset the odds to win the title in 2015/16. The Japanese international forward has scored 50 times for his homeland in 108 appearances since 2007 for a goals-per game average of .46. He also played for the Japanese Under-23 squad when he was younger, but scored just once in 14 matches. Okazaki is one of the most-underrated scorers out there at the moment and has consistently proven his touch around the net with clubs in Japan, Germany and England. With one international goal in two games so far in 2017, Okazaki will be relied on by Japan to help the nation reach next year’s World Cup. He’s Japan’s current top scorer and ranks third in the team’s history.
10. Robin van Persie
Dutch international striker Robin van Persie may not be an automatic choice for the national side anymore, but he’s still the country’s all-time leading scorer. The former Feyenoord, Arsenal and Manchester United forward now plays in Turkey for Fenerbahce. The 34-year-old represented Holland at the Under-17, 19 and 21 levels and debuted for the senior side back in 2005. He’s managed to bang in 50 goals for the Netherlands in 101 games for an average of .49 goals per match. He’s played in three World Cups and is hoping to make it four when the tournament in Russia rolls around next summer. However, the Dutch have been struggling in international football lately. Van Persie has been a consistent scorer everywhere with more than 250 club goals to his name and won a couple of Golden Boots in the Premier League.
9. Edin Dzeko
Big Edin Dzeko of Bosnia and Herzegovina started playing for his country in the Under-19 squad and also played for the Under-21’s. He scored just once in 10 games for those teams so it comes as a bit of a surprise to many fans that he’s been able to net 50 goals in 85 contests for his home nation since his debut in 2007. Dzeko is now 31 years old and currently playing with Roma of the Italian Serie A. He started his pro career at home and has also played with Wolfsburg in Germany and Manchester City in England. Dzeko’s international goal-scoring average for Bosnia is .59 goals-per-game. He’s the leading scorer of all time for Bosnia and Herzegovina and helped the nation reach the World Cup for the first time in 2014 by scoring 10 times in the qualifying campaign.
8. Bader Al-Mutawa
Most fans reading this list might have no clue who Bader Al-Mutawa is. So here goes. He’s a 32-year-old forward who plays internationally for Kuwait and domestically with Qadsia Sporting Club. He’s played 158 times for his homeland and managed to find the back of the net on 51 occasions. He’s scored at a rate of .32 times per outing, which ranks the lowest on this list, but he’s still ranked number two all-time in scoring for Kuwait and number one when it comes to appearances. Unfortunately for Al-Mutawa, Kuwait, and the country’s fans, the team won’t be playing in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Due to politics, the nation is currently under suspension by FIFA and has been since October of 2015.
7. Ali Ashfaq
Ali Ashfaq is another name on this list which may not be that recognizable to the average football fan. The 31-year-old striker plays for Maldives internationally and domestically with New Radiant. He’s played 77 times for his country since making his debut in December of 2003 at the age of 18 and has 52 goals to his name. He also played for the nation’s Under-23 side. His goal scoring record per game is quite impressive as he tops the list in that category by scoring .68 goals per game. Ashfaq is the second-highest all-time scorer for Maldives and has made the most appearances for the country. In addition, he’s also the national team’s captain. Ashfaq is the first player from Maldives to play abroad as he played in Malaysia in 2016.
6. Neymar Jr.
Every football fan knows Brazilian international forward Neymar Jr. as he’s currently the most expensive soccer player in the world. He was transferred from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain this summer for $263 million U.S. (222 million euros). Neymar is just 25 years old, making him the youngest player on this list and he already has 52 goals in 77 games with Brazil. His goals-per-game ratio is .68, which ties him with Ali Ashfaq of Maldives for the best ranking on the list. Neymar debuted for his homeland’s senior side in 2010 after playing with the Under-17, 20 and 23 squads. He started his pro career in Brazil where he played for Santos from 2009 to 2013. He was then sold to Barcelona in 2013 for a controversial fee as the Spanish giants were investigated over the alleged shady deal.
5. Wayne Rooney
England’s Wayne Rooney is another well-known player across the globe as he’s the all-time leading scorer for both England and Manchester United. The 31-year-old Rooney has scored 53 times in 119 contests for his homeland for a goals-per-game ratio of .46. He debuted for the senior side in 2003 after playing with the Under-15, 17 and 19 squads. The striker became the youngest scorer ever for England when he found the back of the net for the first time in 2003 at the age of 17. Rooney scored 183 times for Man United in 293 matches to break Bobby Charlton’s record and ironically he also broke Charlton’s old record of 49 goals for England. Rooney has returned to Everton in the English Premier League and scored his 200th league goal on August 21, 2017. He’s now the second-highest scorer in Premier League history behind Alan Shearer’s 260.
4. Sunil Chhetri
We now return to another relative unknown as we visit Sunil Chhetri. The 33-year-old striker has played 94 times for the Indian national team after making his debut in 2005. He’s scored at a rate of .57 goals per game which means he’s slammed in 54 goals so far during his international career. Chhetri currently plays with Bengaluru FC in India and spent last year on loan with Mumbai City. The talented player also played with India’s Under-20 squad and also signed in MLS with the Kansas City Wizards in 2010. Chhetri is the all-time top scorer for his homeland and also ranks first overall for games played. He’s widely regarded as India’s best ever footballer and the statistics agree with that consensus.
3. Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey will soon quietly become the all-time top scorer for the American national team. He’s currently tied with former great Landon Donovan at the top of the list with 57 goals. Dempsey is now back with the Seattle Sounders of MLS after playing with Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. Dempsey started his pro career in 2004 with the New England Revolution of MLS and also made his international debut the same year. He has scored his 57 goals for the U.S. in 137 games at a rate of .41 goals per outing. The native of Nacogdoches, Texas has scored 70 MLS goals and is still going strong both for club and country at the age of 34. Dempsey’s played in three World Cups and could very well make it four in 2018.
2. Lionel Messi
Argentine international striker and captain Lionel Messi certainly needs no introduction. The 30-year-old Barcelona striker may have struggled early on in his international career, but he’s now the all-time leading scorer for his homeland with 58 goals in 118 appearances. Messi scores at a rate of .49 goals per game, which may be lower than his club ratio, but is still one of the best on the international level. Messi has been named the best player in the world an unprecedented five times by taking home the Ballon d’Or in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. Messi has yet to hoist the World Cup though, but has won numerous winners’ medals with Barcelona. He made his international debut in 2005 when he was 18 and should add to his scoring tally for Argentina significantly before retiring.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
It may come as no surprise that Portuguese star forward and team captain Cristiano Ronaldo leads this list with 75 goals in 143 games. Ronaldo scores at a rate of .52 goals per game and is the all-time leading scorer for Portugal and also leads the way in appearances. He started his pro career with Sporting Lisbon and then made a name for himself while at Manchester United between 2003 and 2009. Ronaldo was then transferred to Real Madrid for a price of 94 million euros, which was a world-record fee at the time. He’s a four-time winner of the Ballon d’Or award (2008, 2013, 2014 and 2016) and along with Lionel Messi is arguably the best soccer player of the modern era and in world history. Ronaldo’s now 32 years old and should easily add to his all-time record for Portugal.