Top 10 Best Finishers In Soccer History

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Finishing in soccer simply means scoring goals or, better still, converting chances. It is what fans love to see and the ultimate target on the pitch.

It may be a long-range strike into the top corner, a tap-in, a poke, a volley, or a high jump header; goals win you soccer games.

While finishers are typically strikers, attacking players in the other various forward positions can be very good finishers.

A clinical finisher ensures that all the team’s good play, possession, tactics, and efforts are rewarded.

The best finishers across soccer history are those who remain consistent across multiple years and tournaments, showing their ability over and over again with the same (or even better) efficiency.

In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG looks at the top 10 best finishers in the history of football.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo soccer players who grew up poor
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Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored over 850 official senior career goals for club and country, making him one of the greatest goalscorers of all time.

While not a natural striker, Ronaldo is a versatile attacker capable of playing on either wing as well as through the middle. And while ostensibly right-footed, he is very much capable with both feet.

Tactically, he has undergone several evolutions throughout his career. While at Sporting and during his early years at Manchester United, he was typically deployed as a traditional winger on the right side of midfield.

Later on, especially at Real Madrid, CR7 transformed into what can best be described as a “goalscoring machine.”

He is undoubtedly one of the best finishers in soccer history.

2. Pelé

Pele best soccer players of all time
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While being an all-round attacker, Pele’s 1,279 goals in 1,363 games (including friendlies) is recognized as a Guinness World Record. The Brazilian is widely accepted as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Averaging almost a goal per game throughout his career, Pele was adept at striking the ball with either foot in addition to anticipating his opponents’ movements on the field.

With 77 goals in 92 games for Brazil, he held the record as the national team’s top goalscorer for over fifty years. At club level, he is Santos’s all-time top goalscorer with 643 goals in 659 games.

3. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi FIFA Golden Ball 2022 Footballers with the most individual awards
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Lionel Messi is widely regarded as arguably the greatest player of all time or GOAT of soccer.

While he is not an out-and-out striker, he is a versatile winger capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or as a “False Nine.”

Also, despite having a short stature, Messi’s short, strong legs allow him to excel in short bursts of acceleration, while his quick feet enable him to retain control of the ball when dribbling at speed.

The Argentine legend is known for his finishing, positioning, quick reactions, and ability to make attacking runs to beat the opposition’s defensive line.

He has often been described as a magician, a conjurer, creating goals and opportunities where seemingly none exist.

Moreover, he is an accurate free kick and penalty kick taker. As of September 2023, Messi ranks 5th all-time in goals scored from direct free kicks with 65, the most among active players.

He also has a penchant for scoring from chips.

However, apart from being one of the best finishers in the world, Lionel Messi also provides a lot of assists as a playmaker. In fact, he is one of the soccer players with the most assists in history.

Furthermore, Lionel Messi holds the records for most goals in La Liga (474), most hat-tricks in La Liga (36) and the UEFA Champions League (eight), and most assists in La Liga (192) and the Copa América (17).

He also has the most international goals by a South American male (106).

Messi has scored over 800 senior career goals for club and country and has the most goals by a player for a single club (672).

4. Gerd Müller

Gerd Müller best soccer players ever

Widely regarded as one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of soccer, Gerd Müller is renowned for his clinical finishing, especially in and around the six-yard box.

He used extreme acceleration and deceptive changes of pace to get to loose balls first and bypass defenders.

At international level with West Germany, he scored 68 goals in 62 appearances.

At club level, in 15 years with Bayern Munich, he scored 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga matches, and he became – and is still – the record holder of that league.

In 74 European club games, he scored 65 goals.

Averaging over a goal a game with West Germany, Muller was 21st on the list of all-time international goalscorers, despite playing fewer matches than every other player in the top 48.

Among the top scorers, he has the third-highest goal-to-game ratio. He also had the highest ratio of 0.97 goals per game in the European Cup, scoring 34 goals in 35 matches.

Nicknamed “Der Bomber” (“the Bomber”), Müller was named European Footballer of the Year in 1970.

After a successful season at Bayern Munich, he scored 10 goals at the 1970 FIFA World Cup for West Germany, where he received the Golden Boot as top goalscorer, before winning the 1970 Ballon d’Or.

In 1972, he won the UEFA European Championship and was the top goalscorer, scoring two goals in the final. Two years later, he scored four goals in the 1974 World Cup, including the winning goal in the final.

Gerd Muller held the all-time goalscoring record at the FIFA World Cup (with 14 goals) for 32 years.

5. Ferenc Puskás

Ferenc Puskàs best soccer players of all time
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Ferenc Puskás had excellent ball control, mostly with his left foot, and had a great first touch of the ball, giving very quick and precise passing and crossing.

He also was able to maneuver and change positions quickly on the pitch by moving from inside left to center forward. He was also able to dummy his opponents with fake dribbles and would confuse his markers by pretending to go one way before going another.

The Hungarian had one of the most powerful left shots in history and often scored from 30 to 35 meters from goal.

Known as the “Galloping Major,” in 1995, Puskas was recognized as the greatest top-division scorer of the 20th century by the IFFHS.

He netted 806 goals in 793 official games scored during his career, and is considered one of the best number 9s in soccer.

He scored an incredible 84 goals in 85 international matches for Hungary!

In October 2009, FIFA announced the introduction of the FIFA Puskás Award, awarded to the player who has scored the “most beautiful goal” over the past year. It is one of the most prestigious awards in soccer.

6. Romario

(Photo by Ruediger Fessel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

A prolific striker renowned for his clinical finishing, Romario scored over 700 goals and is one of the few players to score at least 100 goals for three clubs.

Considered a master of the confined space of the penalty area, his rapid speed over short distances (aided by his low center of gravity) took him away from defenders, and he was renowned for his trademark toe-poke finish.

With 55 goals in 70 appearances, he is the 4th-highest goalscorer for the Brazil national team — behind Pelé, Neymar, and Ronaldo.

He is third on the all-time list of the Brazilian league’s top scorers with 155 goals.

Romario is the 9th-highest goalscorer in football history, with 784 goals in 1002 official games.

He is considered one of the greatest players of all time.

Romario starred for Brazil in their 1994 FIFA World Cup triumph, receiving the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year the same year.

7. Marco Van Basten

Marco Van Basten best finishers in soccer NAPLES, ITALY - NOVEMBER 27: Marco Van Basten of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between Napoli and AC Milan at the Stadio Sao Paulo on November 27, 1988 in Naples, Italy.history
(Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Marco Van Basten scored 300 goals in a high-profile career but played his last match in 1993, at the age of 28, due to an ankle injury, which forced him to announce his retirement two years later.

His height and strength allowed him to excel in the air, and his technical ability and agility saw him execute spectacular strikes throughout his career, such as volleys and bicycle kicks.

A fast and opportunistic striker with quick reactions and excellent movement, he often took advantage of loose balls in the penalty area due to his ability to anticipate defenders and was capable of both controlling fast and difficult balls well with one touch or even shooting the first time.

Possessing a powerful and accurate shot and clinical, varied finishing from anywhere along the pitch, Van Basten was capable of scoring goals with either foot from inside or outside the penalty area, as well as with his head.

8. Eusébio

Eusebio individual awards

Nicknamed the “Black Panther,” the “Black Pearl,” or “O Rei” (“The King”), Eusébio is considered one of the greatest players of all time, as well as Benfica’s best player ever.

He was known for his speed, technique, athleticism, and his ferocious right-footed shot, making him a prolific goalscorer — accumulating 733 goals in 745 matches.

The Portuguese soccer legend is one of the players with the most individual awards in history.

Eusebio helped Portugal reach third place at the 1966 FIFA World Cup, being the top goalscorer of the tournament with NINE goals.

He is Benfica’s all-time top scorer, with 473 goals in 440 competitive matches.

He is the second-highest goalscorer (behind Alfredo Di Stefano) in the pre-Champions League era of the European Cup with 48 goals.

He was the European Cup top scorer in 1964/65, 1965/66 and 1967/68.

Moreso, Eusebio won the Bola de Prata for the Portuguese Primeira Liga top scorer a record seven times.

He was the first-ever player to win the European Golden Boot in 1968, a feat he replicated in 1973.

9. Josef Bican

Josef Bican best finishers in soccer history
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Josef Bican is one of the most prolific goalscorers of all time, with over 950 goals scored in 624 official matches.

He scored 427 goals in 221 games for Slavia Prague across his 11-year playing career at the club.

Bican was a tall and powerful player with the technical ability to play with both feet and had considerable pace.

During his athletic prime, he was reportedly capable of running 100 meters in 10.8 seconds, which was not far off the leading sprinters of his time.

According to UEFA, he is the leading all-time goalscorer in European top-flight leagues with 518 goals (447 in Czechoslovakia and 71 in Austria), narrowly ahead of the legendary Ferenc Puskás.

Josef Bican was a member of the Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s and represented the nation at the 1934 FIFA World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals.

10. Zlatan Ibrahimović


Zlatan Ibrahimovic oldest footballers still playing
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Zlatan Ibrahimović is renowned for his acrobatic strikes and volleys, technique, and ball control.

He is regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time and is one of the most decorated footballers in the world, having won 34 trophies in his career.

An accurate finisher with his head as well as with his feet, his height, elevation, and strength often give him an advantage at winning aerial challenges and also allow him to function as a “target man.”

Despite his large stature, Ibrahimović is uncommonly agile for a player of his size, and his athleticism and ability in the air have seen him score several goals from acrobatic strikes and volleys throughout his career — which earned him the moniker “Ibracadabra” in the Italian media.

He scored over 570 career goals, including more than 500 club goals, and scored in each of the last four decades.

He is the Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer with 62 goals. His 35-yard bicycle kick goal for Sweden against England won the 2013 FIFA Puskás Award and is often considered one of the best goals of all time.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Robert Lewandowski
  • Thierry Henry
  • Raul Gonzalez
  • Ian Rush
  • Ronaldo de Lima
  • Jimmy Greaves
  • Didier Drogba
  • Hugo Sanchez
  • Alfredo Di Stefano
  • Sándor Kocsis
  • Samuel Eto’o
  • Luis Suarez
  • Sergio Aguero.
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