Top 6 International Goal Scorers in Football: Messi Closes in on Ronaldo

Top 6 International Goal Scorers in Football: Messi Closes in on Ronaldo

Isaac Darko
updated at September 14, 2023 at 4:22 AM
In this article:
Cristiano Ronaldo logo
C. Ronaldo
Al Nassr FC logoFPortugal logo
Lionel Messi logo
Inter Miami CF logoFArgentina logo
  • Lionel Messi scored yet again for Argentina in their first World Cup qualifier
  • The Argentine notched a last-minute free kick to force a penalty shootout
  • Sports Brief takes a look at international football's top scorers of all time

Lionel Messi once again came through for Argentina in their 2026 World Cup qualifying clash against Ecuador, delivering a breathtaking late winner.

Lionel Scaloni's team kicked off their South American qualifying campaign at Buenos Aires' Estadio Monumental but found themselves struggling to find inspiration for the majority of the match.

During the first half, Argentina failed to register a single shot on target, prompting the introduction of Angel Di Maria just past the hour mark in hopes of changing the game's trajectory.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Ali Daei, Lionel Messi, Ferenk Puskas
Sports Brief takes a look at the top 10 highest scorers in international football of all time. Photos by Achim Scheidemann/Quality Sport Images/Manuel Alvarez.
Source: Getty Images

However, it wasn't until the 78th minute that they found the winning goal and predictably, it was Messi who made the decisive impact.

Following Argentina's free kick opportunity from just over 20 yards out, the 36-year-old maestro stepped up and expertly curled the ball over the wall, nestling it perfectly into the bottom corner of the net, per SportBible.

With his stunning goal against Ecuador, the Inter Miami star has closed in on Cristiano Ronaldo in the list of the highest international scorer of all time.

Sports Brief examines the six best international football scorers in all history.

Ferenc Puskas - 84 goals

Puskas, the most well-known Hungarian football player on this list, is best recognised for his time spent playing for Real Madrid. With 84 goals in just 85 games, the forward was also a key player for his country, guiding them to a gold medal at the Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 1954 World Cup.

In recognition of his outstanding performance, the Hungarian legend received the Golden Ball in the 1954 iteration. He currently holds the fifth-highest scoring position in the annals of international football history.

Sunil Chhetri - 85 goals

Sunil Chhetri, India's all-time leading scorer, appearance maker, and captain ranks among the top four active footballers in the world for goals scored.

The 37-year-old has been the primary goal scorer for his nation and most recently scored one goal against Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers in Kolkata.

The fact that Chhetri is ageing like fine wine suggests it won't be long before he climbs higher up this ranking.

Mokhtar Dahari - 89 goals

Between 1972 and 1985, Supermokh - as he is popularly known - ruled Malaysian football as a vicious goal-scorer. Named the best Asian forward when he was just 23, he had a storied career that saw him lead the Malaysian team to a bronze medal in the 1974 Asian Games.

Dahari also led his country to their best ranking of 61 in 1977. He made his international debut at 19 years of age and scored an astonishing 89 goals for his nation in 142 games.

A big-time crowd favourite, Dahari was a huge reason why many youngsters took up the sport in Malaysia.

Lionel Messi - 104 goals

Lionel Messi led Argentina to a narrow 1-0 victory over South American rivals Ecuador, courtesy of a magnificent free kick in the 78th minute, per Marca.

As is customary, whenever the World Cup winner stands over a dead ball situation, the crowd in Buenos Aires collectively holds its breath. The Inter Miami star expertly curled the ball over the wall and into the near corner of the net.

Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez could only watch in despair as Argentina's hopes of securing three points in the CONMEBOL 2026 World Cup qualifier opener remained alive.

The diminutive No. 10 received a standing ovation and the warm salute of Argentina's beloved son when he was substituted in the 89th minute.,

Ali Daei - 109 goals

The player Cristiano Ronaldo was pursuing was generally recognised as Ali Daei among the current generation of supporters.

At one time, the Iranian's 109 goals seemed insurmountable. He began his career in 1993 in a Tehran-hosted ECO Cup match, where he remained for 13 years.

The legendary feat was accomplished by the former Bayern Munich star in just 149 games, during which time he led the group to an Asian Games gold title in 1998.

Cristiano Ronaldo - 123 goals

Ronaldo holds the record for most goals scored at the international level with 123. In a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier encounter against Ireland, the Portuguese star scored twice to surpass Daei's mark.

Since then, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has increased his total. He scored a brace against Liechtenstein on Wednesday and continued to bag another two goals against Luxembourg on Sunday in the European qualifiers.

In forthcoming matches, the nation's talisman will try to extend Portugal's advantage at the top of the list of all-time leading international scorers. Another milestone held by the player is becoming the all-time leading scorer in men's international football.

Messi humiliates Moises Caicedo

Apart from the goal, Sports Brief reported on Messi demolishing Chelsea signing Moises Caicedo with one of his characteristic tricky moves.

The Blues man, who has become a midfield lynchpin for Ecuador, found himself on the wrong side of the veteran as he tried to close him down.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)