Who are the highest-scoring midfielders of all time in football?

Who are the highest-scoring midfielders of all time in football?

Lenah Ann
updated at April 22, 2024 at 9:56 AM

One fan fact about soccer is that legends are being created a day in and day out; Defenders, goalkeepers, forwards, wingers, and midfielders. Football history has witnessed many great legends, some of which are underrated. But, of course, even though that is the case, the game can never go on without them. SportsBrief has looked at some of the highest-scoring midfielders of all time.

highest-scoring midfielders of all time
Who are the highest-scoring midfielders of all time in football? Photo: BeFunky.com (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Many strikers have hung up their boots without scoring 200 career goals, so the number of midfielders who have come close to the stated tally is minimal. Being a position of passing and play-making, sometimes a player gets a chance to score too.

Highest-scoring midfielders of all time

According to the most recent statistics, we have compiled a list of the most-scoring midfielders of all time. They are also among FIFA's top midfielders of all time.

10. Lothar Matthäus - 227

highest-scoring midfielders of all time
Lothar looks on during the UEFA Europa Conference League group D match between FC Koln and FK Partizan at Rhein Energie Stadion on 6 October 2022 in Cologne, Germany. Photo: Stefan Brauer
Source: Getty Images

Often described as one of the most concrete midfielders ever graced the game itself, Matthäus established a niche in the West Germany team during the 1980s and 90s. It was his unique style of play that set a template for many of his successors, including the likes of Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

In addition, the German player ended his career with a stellar tally of 227 career goals. This incredible record made him one of the most effective midfielders in history.

9. Jan Ceulemans - 230

EPL's highest-scoring midfielders of all time
Jan Ceulemans and Kristine Geerts pictured during the 68th edition of the Belgian Golden Shoe award on 12 January 2022 in Antwerp, Belgium. Photo: Nico Vereecken
Source: Getty Images

Even though he barely makes it to the top 5 highest-scoring midfielders, Jan Ceulemans holds a distinction for being one of the few Belgian players to take over the field for his country for more than three decades. Consequently, his colleague, Pele, named him among the 125 greatest living footballers.

While most of his fans would often call him the soccer magician, his height and imposing physique told it all. Arguably one of the best players to take over Belgium's field, his 230 goals made him unforgettable.

8. Ricardo Kaka - 237

EPL's highest-scoring midfielders of all time
Kaka of Brazil carries the winner's trophy during the presentation ceremony after the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 Finals on 11 February 2021 in Doha, Qatar. Photo: David Ramos
Source: Getty Images

At the eighth position sits the Brazilian legend Ricardo Kaka. Even though he may not have had the longest of careers, he was virtually unplayable at the absolute peak of his powers. He notably rose to stardom following his goal against Manchester United that sent Daren Fletcher and Gabriel Heinze tumbling during the 2007 UEFA Champions League.

He had an impressive career scoring a total of 237 goals. To date, his soccer skills still amaze his fans.

7. Socrates - 258

most-scoring midfielders of all time
Socrates of Brazil lines up before the World Cup match against Spain at the Jalisco Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo: David Cannon
Source: Getty Images

Just from his name, some of his fans dubbed him a magician. And mind you, it was not only his name that sounded like it but also his skills around the soccer ball. He is, arguably, one of the best Brazilians to ever lift the World Cup.

Moreover, he was known for his ability to pick out the perfect through-ball, and his control system was that of a talented Brazilian side at the 1982 World Cup. Aside from being a player, the legend also captained his team as he had incredible leading skills. The central midfielder ended his career with 258 goals to his record.

6. Frank Lampard - 303

While some players are known to play the game with bravado and menace, Lampard's idea, on the other hand, was clear right from the word go. But keep in mind, if there is a discussion about the best midfielders of all time, Frank would definitely top the list.

The Chelsea midfielder was known for his intelligence, abilities, and prowess on the football pitch. So, even though he sits in the sixth position, his stellar tally of 303 career goals is arguably the most impressive of the lot.

5. Bobby Charlton - 309

most-scoring midfielders of all time
Bobby Charlton arrives ahead of the FA Cup Third Round Replay match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on 15 January 2020 in Manchester, England. Photo: Ash Donelon
Source: Getty Images

England's national team has not had much to celebrate in its previous seasons, especially during the 1950s. However, in the 1960s, the emergence of legends like Bobby Moore, Roger Hunt, Geoff Hurst, and Bobby Charlton changed the perspective.

Bobby Charlton, Manchester United's legendary midfielder, became the solution for England. He was always good at his strikes, especially those of penalties. Bobby had a stellar tally of 309 career goals. To date, he remains England's highest-scoring midfielder of all time.

4. Teofilo Cubillas - 340

EPL's highest-scoring midfielders of all time
Former Peru International Teofilo Cubillas in action during a Charity Match ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Finals on 3 July 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Clive Mason
Source: Getty Images

At the fourth position sits Teofilo Cubillas, one of Peru's highly regarded players. He is not only one of the greatest players in his home country but also part of the Peruvian team that took the pitch to soccer history.

During the 1970s and 80s, the midfielder was famous for outscoring the strikers in his team. He later ended his career with a staggering 340 goals, including 26 strikes for Peru.

3. Michel Platini - 353

Even though Michael has his name dragged in controversy after controversy, it did not deter the fact that he was a phenomenal player on the pitch. He was a vital part of the all-conquering Juventus side of the 1980s.

Additionally, he was an illustrious player who created innumerable chances for his other teammates. He also played a crucial role in Juventus' 1985 European Cup and later completed his career with 353 goals.

2. Fritz Walter - 390

England's highest-scoring midfielder of all time
A portrait of Fritz Walter on 22 October 1985. Photo: Roland Witschel
Source: Getty Images

Soccer history has moments enveloped in a cloud of immortality. While some of these moments are often etched in soccer folklore, the excitement experienced by respective audiences speculates sighs of relief. In this case, Fritz Walter was not an exception.

Even though he is late, the German player is still considered among EPL's highest-scoring midfielders of all time, having bagged 390 career goals before his demise.

1. Zico - 476

most-scoring midfielders of all time
Zico, an ex-Brazil player and Japan manager during the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 match between Kashima Antlers and CD Guadalajara on 15 December 2018 . Photo: Matthew Ashton
Source: Getty Images

Which midfielder has the most goals in football history? The FIFA World Cup trophy is every footballer's dream. Others would say the trophy makes all the turmoil worth it. Zico was a minute from taking the Cup but unfortunately did not. However, he remains unbeaten from his midfielder record of 476 career goals hence being the standing highest-scoring midfielder of all time.

Africa's highest-scoring midfielders of all time

Several highest-scoring midfielders hailing from Africa as of October 2022 include:

  • Abedi Pele: Caps/Goals: 73 / 33
  • Michael Essien: Caps/Goals: 58 / 9
  • Lakdar Belkoumi: Caps/Goals: 74 / 20
  • Yaya Toure: Caps/Goals: 97 / 19
  • Seydou Keita: Caps/Goals: 99 / 26

Midfielders play an equally important role on the soccer field. There are more than 20 highest-scoring midfielders of all time who have not appeared on the list. However, that does not deter the fact that they are all amazing soccer players.

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Although they are still trailing among the last teams in the Ghana premier league, it has improved their winning percentage rate and gained more fans. Find out more about Tamale here.

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Lenah Ann
Lenah Ann is a Kenyan-based content creator with 2 years of experience. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media and Communication from Dedan Kimathi, Kenya in 2021.