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The top scorers in European league history

Published: Tuesday 2 December 2014, 11.04CET
Lionel Messi's 253 goals in Spain's top division are a national record, but how does the 27-year-old's historic total compare with the big figures in Europe's other elite leagues?
The top scorers in European league history
Lionel Messi is held aloft by his Barça team-mates after breaking Telmo Zarra's record against Sevilla ©AFP/Getty Images features

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Published: Tuesday 2 December 2014, 11.04CET

The top scorers in European league history

Lionel Messi's 253 goals in Spain's top division are a national record, but how does the 27-year-old's historic total compare with the big figures in Europe's other elite leagues?

By beating Telmo Zarra's Spanish top-flight record of 251 goals, Lionel Messi has underlined his status as a striking legend. But as discovers, the 27-year-old has a way to go to surpass the all-time leading scorers in some of Europe's highest-ranked leagues.

©Getty Images

Jimmy Greaves

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 top-flight marksman. "In a way, when I passed through that tunnel, it wasn't me any more." At Chelsea FC, Tottenham Hotspur FC and West Ham United FC, Greaves' strike rate suggested he was a man possessed; by comparison, the current leading scorer in the Premier League, Manchester United FC's Wayne Rooney, has notched 177 goals in his 12-year career.

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. Claudio Pizarro, his closest present day rival, has netted a mere 176. The prolificacy of the man who hit West Germany's 1974 FIFA World Cup final winner did much to make FC Bayern München 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."

©Getty Images

Silvio Piola

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 World Cup. "I did not fear anything, a crucial quality in those days," added Piola, who found the net for FC Pro Vercelli, SS Lazio, Torino FC, Juventus and Novara Calcio but never landed a Serie A title. AS Roma captain Francesco Totti's ambition was to break Piola's record, but with 237 strikes so far, he may – like Piola – have to play until he is 41 to surpass that total.

Portugal: Fernando Peyroteo (1937–49) – 332 goals
"With great physique, good pace and a fine shot, Peyroteo did not show any signs of pressure on his debut, as the two goals he scored show." That was how Stadium reported on the 19-year-old's Sporting Clube de Portugal bow – against SL Benfica – back in 1937. His huge haul came in just 197 league matches – including nine in a single game – before 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."

France: Delio Onnis (1971–86) – 299 goals
Born in Italy and raised in Argentina, Onnis never made an international appearance yet hit the target at a fearsome rate for Stade de Reims, AS Monaco FC, Tours FC and SC Toulon. He is confident his league tally will remain a record "long into the future" – the nearest challenger in Ligue 1 today, Djibril Cissé, has only 99 Ligue 1 goals in his account. In different times, his attacking prowess might have earned a move abroad. "Ten years in one league is not common nowadays," he said.

©Getty Images

Oleh Blokhin

Russia and Ukraine: Oleg Blokhin: (1972–87) – 211 goals
Blokhin's Soviet-era mark casts a long shadow over all of the USSR's successor states; Russia's current top scorer is 31-year-old Aleksandr Kerzhakov on 138, while Ukraine's leading marksman is 36-year-old Maksim Shatskikh. The 1975 Ballon d'Or winner, Blokhin was the Soviet league's top striker in five campaigns with FC 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."

Netherlands: Willy van der Kuijlen (1964–82) – 311 goals
'Mister PSV', Van der Kuijlen registered 308 of his goals for PSV Eindhoven and the remaining three for MVV Maastricht. He picked up three league championships at PSV though his crowning achievement was the 1977/78 UEFA Cup final triumph, claiming PSV's third goal at home to SC Bastia after a 0-0 draw in France. "When you score a goal like that it stays in your memory," recalled the player, also affectionately known as 'Skiete Willy' (Shoot Willy). "With a very good squad we put in an excellent performance."

Belgium: Albert De Cleyn (1932–55) – 377 goals
The late 'Bert' De Cleyn was a one-club man, representing FC Malinois – now KV Mechelen – from 1932 to 1955. He might have scored even more had three Belgian seasons not been abandoned during the second world war. Perhaps his greatest feat came as he plundered all seven in the 7-1 victory against R. Racing Club de Bruxelles that secured his team the 1943 title; the club's official history says he was "spontaneously lifted onto his team-mates' shoulders and given a bouquet of flowers".

European national record league totals that Messi has yet to surpass
Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia: Josef Bican (1931–55) – 500 goals
Scotland: Jimmy McGrory (1922–38) – 410 goals
Yugoslavia/Croatia/Serbia: Stjepan Bobek (1945–58) – 403 goals
Hungary: Ferenc Szusza (1940–61) – 393 goals
Northern Ireland: Jimmy Jones (1947–64) – 332 goals
Wales: Marc Lloyd-Williams (1992–2010) – 319 goals
Estonia: Maksim Gruznov (1992–2012) – 304 goals
Austria: Hans Krankl (1974–88) – 271 goals
Greece: Thomas Mavros (1970–91) – 260 goals
Sweden: Sven Jonasson, (1927–47) – 254 goals
Bulgaria: Petar Zhekov (1962–75) – 253 goals

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
Gyula Zsengellér: Hungary 387, Italy 24 (1935–53) – 411 goals
Gunnar Nordahl: Sweden 149, Italy 225 (1937–58) – 374 goals
Krzysztof Warzycha: Poland 66, Greece 244 (1983–2004) – 310 goals
Fernando Gomes: Portugal 319, Spain  12 (1974–91) – 331 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo: Portugal 3, England 84, Spain 197 (2002–present) – 284 goals
Johann Cruyff: Netherlands 215, Spain 50 (1964–84) – 265 goals
Shota Arveladze: Georgia 52, Turkey 61, Netherlands 91, Scotland 44 (1990–2008) – 258 goals

Last updated: 16/03/16 11.43CET