Ranking the top 10 best Brazilian football strikers of all-time

Ranking the top 10 best Brazilian football strikers of all-time

Kenneth Mwenda
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:17 PM

Who are the all-time best Brazilian strikers? As a football fan, the questions seem intriguing and would cause many to reminisce about many past events involving the great team. The team now holds the record for the most World Cup trophies, and this did not happen by chance. The country has launched the careers of some of football's most well-known names across the board.

Ranking the top 10 best Brazilian football strikers of all-time
Brazilian soccer striker Ronaldo Nazario (L) with forward Ronaldinho Gaucho on 11 October, 2004 during a training session at the King Pele stadium in Maceio, Brazil. Photo: Antonio Scorza
Source: Getty Images

In Brazil, the word "football" is synonymous with the word "life." People breed in the hope that their child will one day play for the national team and become a prominent player.

The best Brazilian strikers of all time

The Samba skills and flamboyant flair at the forward position have never been in short supply in their game's history. Brazil has had some footballers who were the admiration of the entire world, whether they were second strikers in the No. 10 shirt or traditional No. 9s.

10. Careca

Best Brazilian strikers of all-time
Antonio Careca from Brazil during a first round match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup against Northern Ireland. Photo: Jean-Yves Ruszniewski
Source: Getty Images

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Careca was a key member of Diego Maradona's Napoli team in the late 1980s, and he represented his country in World Cup competitions in 1986 and 1990. He was a prolific, fast, opportunistic, and powerful striker with the great striking ability and excellent technique.

He showed great goal-scoring ability with Guarani, Sao Paulo, and Kashiwa Reysol, but it was at Napoli that his career truly took off. Although he was typically deployed as a striker, he was also capable of playing in deeper positions, as a creative forward, due to his ability to play off of his teammates and provide assists, as well as his proclivity to make attacking runs starting from outside the area to create space for other footballers.

9. Tostao

The best Brazilian strikers ever
Brazil's Tostao (left) and Pele celebrate the fourth goal scored by captain Carlos Alberto to seal their historic win in the 1970 World Cup Final in Mexico on 21st June, 1970. Photo: Popperfoto
Source: Getty Images

Tostao spent most of his time in a Brazil shirt playing from the left flank rather than as a centre-forward. He could, however, play through the centre and had an impressive scoring record at all levels of the game. His nickname, "Tostao", translates to "Little Coin."

He made 54 appearances for the Brazilian national team and scored 32 goals, including participating in two World Cups. Tostao won the World Cup in 1970 and scored two goals. He was also one of the best Brazilian strikers ever.

8. Rivaldo

The greatest Brazilian strikers
Rivaldo of Brazil escapes the tackle of Tie Li as he approaches Weifeng Li of China during the FIFA World Cup in 2002. Photo: Gary M. Prior
Source: Getty Images

He was an undeniably talented striker, a magician with the ball, and an exceptional dribbler. Many observers have argued Rivaldo could have been even better despite his obvious striking prowess. He appeared to lose control at times while hitting headers in traffic, and he was not as effective inside the penalty area as other players. He was also chastised at times for his unique playing style.

He was mostly used as an attacking midfielder, but he was also used as a second striker. He could do it all: bending free kicks, long-range piledrivers, and quick changes of direction. He won the Ballon d'Or in 1999 after leading Barcelona to La Liga and Brazil to Copa America glory.

7. Jairzinho

The famous Brazilian strikers
Brazil's Jairzinho celebrates after putting the ball into the net for his side's third goal in the 1970 World Cup Final in Azteca Stadium, Mexico: Photo: Popperfoto
Source: Getty Images

The flying winger was a magnificent goalscorer who starred in the 1970 World Cup, scoring a goal in every round before being named player of the tournament. He could play centrally and did so frequently at the club level throughout his career.

The terrifyingly quick and clinical forward formed a deadly front line with Pele and Tostao. Still, England fans of a certain era may not remember him fondly, thanks to his magnificent goal that knocked out the then-world champions.

His lightning-quick pace and dribbling abilities were crucial to his success, but he was also deadly when presented with chances in front of the goal. Given his contribution to success, he is considered a true Brazilian footballing great.

6. Mane Garrincha

Best Brazilian soccer players of all time
Brazil star Garrincha pictured in the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro in July 1967. Photo: Popperfoto
Source: Getty Images

For many, Garrincha was the most skilled football player who ever lived, with an incredible dribbling ability. The Brazilian legend was born with a crooked spine and uneven legs, earning him the moniker "Bent-Legged Angel," but it never showed on the field as he made defenders look foolish with his dazzling dribbling capabilities.

At the 1958 World Cup, Mane Garrincha made his debut in front of the world's soccer fans. After some underwhelming early performances, Brazil coach Vicente Feola changed things up by starting Pelé and Garrincha against the Soviet Union, which worked wonders. Brazil never lost a match with Garrincha and Pelé in the starting lineup.

Mané Garrincha's dazzling dribbling ability earned him the nickname "the Joy of the People" among Botafogo fans. He also played a few games for Corinthians, Atletico Junior, Flamengo, and Olaria at the end of his career. He later suffered a series of financial and marital problems and succumbed to liver cirrhosis on 20 January 1983 in Rio de Janeiro.

5. Neymar Jr.

Brazil's greatest strikers
Neymar Jr of Brazil during the international friendly match between Brazil and Ghana at Stade Oceane on September 23, 2022 in Le Havre, France. Photo: Jean Catuffe
Source: Getty Images

Neymar has been widely regarded as one of the best football players in the world over the last decade and one of Brazil's greatest strikers. The Brazilian forward rose to prominence at Santos, where he made his debut at the age of 17.

Currently (November 2022), with 75 goals in 121 matches for Brazil since his debut at the age of 18, Neymar is the country's second-highest goalscorer, trailing only Pelé. He was a key player in Brazil's victory at the 2011 South American Youth Championship, where he finished as the leading goalscorer, and also won a silver medal in men's football at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

He played in the 2018 World Cup after resigning as captain, and after missing the 2019 Copa América due to injury, he helped Brazil finish second in the 2021 tournament. Neymar is one of the best Brazilian strikers in the Qatar World Cup 2022.

4. Romario

The greatest Brazilian strikers
Romario of Brasil celebrates after scoring a goal during the Brasil v Peru match played on 25th April 2001 at the Morumbi Stadium Sao Paulo Brazil. Photo: Allsport UK
Source: Getty Images

Romario was nearly unplayable at his best. He was a nuisance off the field, but when he had the ball in his feet, few could move with such speed and agility. Even in the depths of his career, he remained lethal in front of the goal.

The 1994 World Cup was the pinnacle of a career that could have lasted much longer at the top level but for discipline issues and personality clashes. He was, however, at the pinnacle of the game for a brief period of time. Romario, a clinical, ice-cold finisher with superb ball control, has 55 goals in 70 Brazil caps, trailing only Pele, Ronaldo, and Neymar in the all-time rankings.

3. Ronaldinho Gaúcho

Who is the best Brazilian striker of all-time?
Ronaldinho of Brazil during the Round of 16 World Cup match between Brazil and Belgium at Kobe Wing Stadium, Kobe, Japan on 17th June 2002. Photo: Alain Gadoffre
Source: Getty Images

Ronaldinho Gaúcho, one of the best Brazilian soccer players of all time in his generation, has millions of fans all over the world. Ronaldinho was a natural midfielder who also played as a support striker.

He also played for the Brazilian national team, with whom he won one FIFA World Cup. Ronaldinho, along with world-class striker Ronaldo and superstar Rivaldo, formed a formidable offensive trio in the Korea-Japan 2002 World Cup, where he was a key contributor to Brazil's success.

2. Ronaldo Nazario

The best Brazilian strikers of all time
Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal for Brazil on June 2002. Photo: Mark Leech
Source: Getty Images

Ronaldo is still regarded as one of the most famous Brazilian strikers and one of the complete strikers in the history of the beautiful game. His consistency and prolific goal-scoring output were remarkable features of his game. Despite nagging injury problems, he scored 62 goals in 98 appearances for his country and put up ridiculous numbers for all of the clubs he represented.

He had everything. Pace, power, skill, and clinical finishing ability all combined to create a lethal cocktail, and he frequently made even the most seasoned defenders look foolish.

Ronaldo could have come close to breaking Pele's goal-scoring record if he hadn't been for injuries. Despite his difficulties, the second-top scorer in FIFA World Cup history achieved greatness over the course of his career.

1. Pele

The best Brazilian soccer players of all time
Pele during the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico. Photo: Popperfoto
Source: Getty Images

Pele is unquestionably the best Brazilian striker of all time, having won the World Cup three times and being regarded by many as the greatest footballer ever to have played the game. Pele scored six goals in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden when he was only 17 years old.

He was the youngest player ever to score in a final, netting a brace to seal victory for Brazil over the hosts, and went on to win international football's most prestigious prize twice more, in 1962 and 1970, a feat never before or since.

What team did Pele play for? He spent his time at Santos, where he helped the club win two Copa Libertadores and two Intercontinental Cups in a row in 1962 and 1963, and by the time he retired, the striker had 1,279 goals to his name.

Brazil has produced some of the best strikers in football history. The Brazilians have dominated most of Europe's top leagues, assisting their clubs in winning prestigious trophies.

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Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.