Records are made to be broken. But sometimes they last for a quite a long time to the point that they become both legendary and haunted. Someone said that and if you don’t have any record to beat, then you can’t excel. So what a thrill, what an excitement, what a glorious moment when a soccer player breaks a current record! Some records have remained untouchable throughout time, still waiting to be broken and others have been unexpectedly set by rather unknown players. And that’s the charm of the beautiful game. Let’s have a look at the greatest goal-scoring records in the soccer history focusing on the categories below:
- the 1,000-goal club
- the highest scorers in a single match
- the fastest goals ever scored
- goalkeepers and defenders with the best scoring ability
- best scorers of Olympic goals (direct corner kicks)
The 1,000-goal club
Pelé, Romario, Arthur Friedenreich and Josef Bican have reached a millennium of goals in the history of soccer. Bican was awarded the “Golden Ball” by IFFHS in 2000 as the greatest goalscorer of the 20th century for his 1468+ goals in 918 matches including friendlies. Pelé scored 1,279 in 1,363 games according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Guinness also acknowledges that his Brazilian fellow Arthur Friedenreich scored an’’ undocumented’’ 1,329 goals in 26-year career span. And on 20 May 2007, Vasco da Gama’s Romário scored his 1000th goal converting a penalty against Sport Recife.
“The interesting thing about records is that they are not always limited to the most accomplished and well known players.”
But recently, the RSSSF (Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation) updated its Prolific Scorers Data with lesser-known Hungarian striker Lajos Tichy topping the list of the best goal-scorers in history with 1,912 goals in 1,301 matches. German Erwin Helmchen grabbed the third place in the list with 1573+, behind second placed Josef Bican. According to RSSF the Czech had scored 1812+ goals. Also, other players like Ferenc Puskas, Gerd Muller, Ferenc Deak, Franz Binder, Sandor Kocsis, Guyla Szilagyi, Ferenc Szusza, Guyla Zsengeller, Ernst Willimowski, Albert Florian and Nandor Hidegkuti seem to have hit the net more than 1,000 times in their careers.
Players with most goals in single match
From the 1,000 club, Pelé (in 1964) and Bican (in 1943) scored 8 goals in a single match, while Ferenc Deak bagged 9 in 1946 and Ernst Wilimowski 10 in 1939. But the interesting thing about records is that they are not always limited to the most accomplished and well known players. In 1942, French striker Stephan ‘’Stanis’’ Dembicki, a player was born in German Empire to Polish parents, but moved to France at a young age, set a record that lasted for 65 years. During the preliminary round of the 1942-43 French Cup, he scored 16 goals in Racing Lens’ 32-0 victory over Auby Asturies! Dembicki was an one-club man playing all his career for Racing Lens.
His record was first equaled and then surpassed in the same year. On 7 May 2007, Cypriot striker Panagiotis Pontikos scored an also astonishing 16 goals for Olympos Xylofagou in their 24-3 thrashing of SEK Ayios Athanasios FC in the last match day of the 2006-07 Cypiot third division. A breathtaking equaling record from a player who spent the his career in the lower divisions of Cypriot soccer.
But a few months later, on 3 August 2007 the 65-year old record would finally be broken. Passang Tshering scored 17 times in Transport United’s 20-0 away win over RIHS FC. It was on the last match day of the Bhutan first division. Passang Tshering who had scored just 11 goals during that season, was of course awarded the top-scorer title after that game, reaching 28 in total.
Eight years later in July 2015, Jean Kaltack came close to equal that record but his tally stopped at 16. The national team of Vanuatu from Oceania demolished Micronesia by 46-0 (!) in the Olympic qualifying tournament. But in any way, that match was part of an under-23 tournament, therefore it is considered as youth soccer.
When it comes to full internationals, Archie Thompson holds the world record since 2001. He then bagged 13 goals including eight before half-time in a World Cup qualifier between Australia and American Samoa which ended 31-0.
A hat-trick fascinates fans and gives a great boost of confidence to the scorer. An extremely old term that we meet not just in soccer but also in cricket (where it first appeared), baseball, rugby, handball, water polo. Scottish player John McDougall achieved the first hat-trick ever recorded in an international game against England on 2 March 1878.
But since then, there have been countless players who celebrated hat-tricks throughout the world. Pelé is the soccer player who scored most of them, with 96 during his 21-year career. Unfortunately he did not manage to record a century of hat-tricks, but he probably did it including youth matches.
Cristiano Ronaldo is short of 40 to equal Pele’s record and most likely he will not catch up. Nevertheless, he holds the record of the player who scored a hat-trick in most competitions, 10 in particular! The evergreen Portuguese from Madeira scored at least one hat-trick in the Spanish League, Copa del Rey, Serie A, Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Champions League, World Cup Qualification, European Qualification, Nations League and the FIFA World Cup. Pretty impressive and let’s see if Messi has not said yet his last word.
On 9 November 2016, Croatian amateur player Stjepan Lucijanic broke an 18-year-old record held by Japanese Masashi Nakayama, since 29 April in 1998. And that was the record with the most consecutive hat-tricks. Lucijanic recorded his fifth hat-trick in a row during the NK Dracice Dakovo – NK Zrinski Drenje match (10-0) in the Croatian seventh division. He tallied 20 goals in those five games. On the other hand, 54-year old Masashi Nakayama was still active until January playing in the Japanese third division. He was chasing Kazu Miura in the race of the oldest professional player in history but he gave up soccer to become Jubilo Iwata’s manager.
On 24 June 1958, Pelé became the youngest soccer player who scored a hat-trick in a World Cup. He achieved that during the 1958 semifinal between Brazil and France (5-2), at 17 years and 8 months and 2 days. But, the record for the youngest player to ever score a hat-trick belongs to Greek forward Ntinos Pontikas who achieved that feat at the age of 14! On 21 September 1996, the Greek youngster in his first ever competitive match scored his team’s all 3 goals in the Ampelokipoi-Haravgi match (4-3), in the Greek fifth division, at the age of 14 years, 6 months and 18 days. A year earlier he had hit 13 goals in a youth game! Unfortunately, a serious injury forced him to retire from soccer at a young age.
On 4 May 2013, 20-year old part-time player and sports science student Alex Torr scored the fastest hat-trick in history. Torr bagged 3 goals in just 70 seconds (!) during the match between Rawson Springs and Meadowhall (7-1), in the English Sunday league of Sheffield. He broke Tommy Ross‘ record which was set in 1964 when he scored a hat-trick in 90 seconds for Ross County against Nairn County in the Scottish fifth division.
Olympic goals (direct corner kicks)
To score a goal directly from the corner when everyone is fighting for a header, requires a lot of skills and possibly luck. But if a soccer player has done more than 2-3 times, then we are talking about expertise. The ‘’Olympic goal’’ term dates from 2 October 1924, when Argentina’s Cesáreo Onzari scored against Uruguay, the reigning Olympic champions.
Alvaro Recoba (world’s best-paid player in 2001) scored 6 corner kick goals in the Italian and the Uruguayan league. Greek wizard Vassili Hatzipanagis scored 8 in the Soviet and Greek league. Moreover, Serbian midfielder Dejan Petkovic scored 9 in the Brazilian leagues! And you would think this is the top3 in history.
There was a Turkish player who did 3 and 4 times better than that. Şükrü Gülesin sent the ball directly to the net from the corner 32 times! Gulesin was a striker who played between 1940 and 1955, even featuring for Lazio and Palermo in Serie A (1951-1953). It wan era when a transfer for a soccer player from Turkey to an elite championship seemed impossible. Lefter Küçükandonyadis also played for Italian club Fiorentina at the same time.
Goalkeeper scoring records
Until the mid-90s two South American goalkeepers were worldwide known for their outfield skills and ability. And they were sitting comfortably on top of the goal-scoring list. It was the ‘’scorpion kick’’ inventor, Colombian René Higuita and the Paraguayan free kick and penalty specialist, José Luis Chilavert. The latter also scored a hat-trick of penalties in one match! It was recorded on 28 November 1999, in Vélez Sársfield’s 6-1 victory over Ferro Carril Oeste, in the Argentinian first division. He still remains the only goalkeeper in history to have achieved this feat.
Chilavert’s record of 67 goals got doubled by 2002 World Cup winner, Rogerio Ceni who by 2015 when he announced his retirement from soccer had scored 132 goals! Take a deep breath: 62 free kicks (record), 70 penalties (record) and also captained Sao Paulo for 982 games (another world record). One-club man Rogerio Ceni also remains one of the top10 all-time goalscorers in the history Sao Paulo.
Defender scoring records
In this category, Barcelona’s manager, Dutch Ronald Koeman seems to be unbeatable holding the record with the most goals ever scored by a defender. He scored 207 goals in 581 games during a 17-year career, of which 60 were converted from a free-kick. An average of 1 goal every 2.8 games. He previously broke Argentine Daniel Passarella’s record of 175 goals, which lasted until 1993.
Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos who retired in 2015, came close to break Koeman’s free-kick record for a defender. Nevertheless, his tally stopped at 49, which makes him the second best in history.