Ranking the Top 60 Strikers of All Time

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterFebruary 14, 2014

Ranking the Top 60 Strikers of All Time

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Welcome to B/R's countdown of the top 60 strikers in world footballing history.

    It's never an easy task when you compare players from different eras, but we've done our level best to define who the greatest ever to grace the game were.

    In terms of ranking, trophy hauls have largely dictated the top half of the list, but we've made exceptions for outrageous natural talents where necessary.

A Note on 'Strikers'

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    Marty Lederhandler/Associated Press

    You won't find Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Teofilo Cubillas, Francesco Totti, George Best, Matthias Sindelar or Rivaldo in this list.

    We've walked the divide between "striker" and "forward" pretty precariously, but we've tried to limit this list to genuine strikers who played as the furthest man forward, played in a partnership or had clear striking responsibilities.

    Dennis Bergkamp was an incredible player, but like Totti, he wasn't regarded as a striker, more a forward—and a deep one at that.

    If your favourite guy is missing, it might well be because of this definition.

60. Filippo Inzaghi

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    It wasn't always pretty, but boy, was Filippo Inzaghi reliable at finding the net at clutch moments.

    He scored 70 UEFA Champions League goals throughout his career and fell second only to Raul in that category, while his 313 Serie A goals propelled Milan to multiple titles.

    He was master of the offside, an incredibly frustrating player to watch, but once he got it right, he scored. No question.

     

59. Denis Law

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    Denis Law, part of the "Holy Trinity" of Manchester United, kept the club afloat with his goals following the awful Munich air disaster.

    His 11-year spell at the club peaked in 1964 when he scored an incredible 46 competitive goals in a single season. He also picked up a European Cup win in 1968.

58. Marcelo Salas

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    Marcelo Salas was a real journeyman, but he enjoyed success wherever he went.

    He spent time in the Argentine, Chilean and Italian domestic leagues, totaling three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia and even a Bronze Shoe at the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

    "El Matador" is a true Chile legend.

57. John Charles

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    John Charles, nicknamed "The Gentle Giant," never received a single yellow or red card despite playing at both centre-forward and centre-back.

    He spent close to a decade at Leeds United and scored 150 goals in all competitions, then crossed Europe to play for Italian heavyweights Juventus.

    There he recorded close to 100 goals and won Serie A three times. 

56. Alan Shearer

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    Alan Shearer still holds the record for the most goals in the Premier League with a whopping 260.

    He was a scoring machine for Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, and perhaps his silverware cabinet would be better stocked had he not turned down Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United to play for his boyhood club.

    He was a physical menace, a true battering ram.

55. Georgi Asparuhov

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    Georgi Asparuhov's life and career was cruelly cut short by a car crash in 1971.

    In the decade preceding that sad day, he had become a Levski Sofia legend and refused to leave the club—his boyhood team—despite strong interest from a Eusebio-inspired Benfica and Italian giants Milan.

     

54. Ivan Zamorano

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    Ivan Zamorano is perhaps the Chilean striking legend in world football.

    He played for both Real Madrid and Internazionale, winning titles with both, and wore his heart on his sleeve when donning the international Roja jersey.

    He picked up La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup honours throughout his time in Europe.

53. Davor Suker

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    Davor Suker was a one-man wrecking ball who single-handedly hauled Croatia to an astonishing third-placed finish in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

    He played club football and won titles with Real Madrid, including La Liga in 1997 and the UEFA Champions League in 1998.

52. Patrick Kluivert

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    Patrick Kluivert scored the only goal in Ajax's 1995 UEFA Champions League final win over Milan—their last title to date.

    He went on to play for Barcelona and deliver some scintillating showings, and he remains one of the Netherlands' greatest-ever strikers. He blitzed Yugoslavia with a hat-trick in Euro 2000, but the team lost on penalties (again) in the semifinal against Italy.

51. Hernan Crespo

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    Injuries, a failed spell with Chelsea and Argentina's lack of silverware at the time may have tarnished Hernan Crespo's legacy a bit in the minds of fans, but there's a reason Lazio paid a then-record £35 million in 2000 for the services of "Valdanito:" Crespo was oh-so good.

    The Argentinian hitman scored more than 300 career goals for club and country but always seemed to defend the colours of the losing side. His scoring two goals for Milan yet losing the 2005 UEFA Champions League final to Liverpool perfectly sums up his career.

50. Henrik Larsson

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    Henrik Larsson dominated the Scottish Premier League for so many years with Celtic, creating a home away from home for he and his family. He scored just shy of 250 goals for the Bhoys.

    He then moved to Barcelona in 2004 and, despite not playing too much, picked up two Liga titles and a UEFA Champions League medal. A brief spell at Manchester United on loan opened English eyes to his talent...and his crazy, crazy hair.

49. Mario Kempes

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    Mario Kempes will live forever as an Argentine legend, his brace in the 1978 FIFA World Cup final bringing the trophy home for the first time.

    He jumped from club to club domestically but always found the back of the net with regularity, excelling for Valencia, Rosario and more on the way to 300 career goals.

48. David Villa

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    David Villa did what Raul Gonzalez had failed to do for so long: led Spain to a major international tournament victory.

    Perhaps it was his €40 million transfer to Barcelona that finally fixed the issues plaguing the Spanish national setup; installing a striker so well-versed in the tiki-taka passing game was the tipping point for success.

    Villa now has a trophy cabinet rivaled by few.

47. Oleg Blokhin

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    Oleg Blokhin is more famous to the younger generation due to his managerial role with Ukraine at Euro 2012, but he remains one of the best Eastern Europeans ever to have played the game.

    He scored 266 goals for Dynamo Kiev and holds the record for most goals for the Soviet Union (46). He won eight Soviet League titles, five domestic cups and won European Footballer of the Year in 1975.

46. Telmo Zarra

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    Telmo Zarra's record is under threat: His 335 goals for Athletic Club—the most for a single club in the history of La Liga—has just been equaled by Lionel Messi.

    The Barcelona magician will go on to beat it, but it's a proud total that stood for more than 50 years.

    Zarra played just 20 games for Spain but scored 20 goals; he was a key figure in La Roja's run to fourth place in the 1950 FIFA World Cup.

45. Samuel Eto'o

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    Samuel Eto'o is a different player in 2014, but before his physical skills declined, he was one of the most rapier-like weapons this game has ever seen.

    For a long time, he was the face of African football—particularly post-George Weah—and has a decorated trophy cabinet most would kill for.

    Trophy-laden years at Barcelona and Internazionale have seen him collect numerous titles, including two UEFA Champions League wins.

44. Wayne Rooney

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    Wayne Rooney is still in the prime of his career and could be rising higher up this list in decades to come.

    He remains criminally underrated in his native England despite winning everything there is to win at club level bar the FA Cup. His five league titles and 2008 UEFA Champions League triumph rank among the best of his achievements.

    International success eludes him up to this point.

43. Alessandro Del Piero

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    It doesn't matter where Alessandro Del Piero is on the pitch when he receives the ball; if it's at his feet, you're in danger.

    In his heyday, he was an incredibly technical, fluid, skillful striker, capable of firing in long-range bullets and free-kicks as well as slotting home clinically from close range.

    ADP won countless honours, but perhaps those that will stick out are the 2006 FIFA World Cup and 1996 UEFA Champions League wins.

42. Rudi Voller

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    Rudi Voller can't boast the mesmeric domestic trophy haul many of his compatriots do, but his impact on the international stage should never be doubted.

    The German scored 47 goals for his country in 90 appearances, including four at the 1990 FIFA World Cup final. Die Mannschaft won the tournament in Italy that year.

    He also claimed a UEFA Champions League trophy in a formidable Marseille side in 1993.

41. Gary Lineker

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    Gary Lineker scored an impressive 46 goals in 80 appearances for England and won the 1986 Golden Shoe thanks to his exploits at the FIFA World Cup.

    He remains one of the most consistent and reliable English strikers ever to don the shirt and was a standout player for Tottenham Hotspur.

40. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a top-five striker in Europe ever since he exploded on to the scene at Malmo.

    His technical skill and outrageous technique belie his big, burly somatotype, and his goal return at both Milan and Paris Saint-Germain has been simply breathtaking.

    The amount of golazos he scores is simply unreal.

39. Just Fontaine

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    Just Fontaine, a legendary French striker, scored an incredible 13 goals in one sole FIFA World Cup (1958). Unfortunately, his goals could only bag les Blues third place in the tournament.

    He won numerous titles in his native country for Stade de Reims and Nice, picking up four Ligue 1 titles and two Coupes de France.

38. Didier Drogba

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    Didier Drogba's career is coming to a close, but he'll be fondly remembered by most world football fans thanks to his dominant, powerful, awesome displays for Chelsea, Marseille and later Galatasaray.

    He won an assortment of trophies with the Blues and left the club just weeks after hauling in the most important of all: the UEFA Champions League.

    It was his incredible header that dragged the side into extra time against Bayern Munich in the final before he converted his penalty in the shootout to seal it.

37. Miroslav Klose

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    Miroslav Klose has come oh-so close to glory with Germany but has fallen short in three consecutive FIFA World Cups.

    He shares Gerd Muller's record of most goals in the finals (14) and managed to negotiate the entire 2002 edition by scoring only headers.

    His time at Bayern Munich was never wildly successful, but he did haul in a fair chunk of silverware, and his Coppa Italia win with Lazio last season was a welcome addition to the cabinet.

36. Ian Rush

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    During the 1980s and early '90s, there were few more prolific and reliable goalscorers than Ian Rush.

    He didn't enjoy the international success many of his colleagues on this list did due to the paucity of talent in the Welsh national pool, but he did pick up numerous domestic honours with Liverpool.

    He was their top scorer a whopping nine times, won the European Golden Boot in 1984 and claimed five league titles and two European Cups with the Reds.

35. Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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    Ruud van Nistelrooy was one of the most incredibly clinical, reliable strikers Europe has ever seen.

    He was secured by Manchester United in a then-record deal of £19 million from PSV Eindhoven after hauling in two Dutch league titles, then moved to Real Madrid five years later on the back of 150 goals in a red shirt.

    There he added signifcantly to his trophy collection before winding down at Hamburg and Malaga.

34. Kenny Dalglish

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    Kenny Dalglish is one of the most decorated players in world football history, with spells at both Celtic and Liverpool producing an insane amount of silverware.

    He won a combined 10 league titles, six domestic cups, seven Charity Shields and, critically, three European Cups.

    The Scot was named Britain's finest striker since World War Two by FourFourTwo magazine.

33. Raul Gonzalez

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    Raul is Real Madrid's all-time leading scorer with 323 goals—just ahead of the fabled Alfredo Di Stefano—and holds the record for total appearances for the club with 741.

    He'll treasure his feats at the Santiago Bernabeu and in La Liga for the rest of his career, but on an international level, he wasn't quite so successful. Spain were still in the throes of their underachieving phase—spanning several decades—when he was a mainstay.

32. Jimmy Greaves

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    Jimmy Greaves is a striking legend in England, and his consistent form for Tottenham Hotspur—for whom he scored more than 200 goals—will mean his name will be forever treasured in those parts.

    He was the starting striker for England in the 1966 World Cup and scored 44 times in a total of 57 appearances for his country.

    In the 1962-63 Premier League season, Greaves scored 44 goals from 49 showings; he remains the last man to score more than 40 in a single top-tier English season.

31. Silvio Piola

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    Silvio Piola has an impressive two Italian stadiums named after him, with both Pro Vercelli and Novara deciding to honour him after his death in 1996.

    He scored a brace in the 1938 FIFA World Cup final to help send the trophy back to Italy and maintained a remarkable scoring record despite switching clubs with regularity.

    He is the Serie A all-time top scorer for Pro Vercelli, Novara and Lazio.

30. Jurgen Klinsmann

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    Jurgen Klinsmann, scourge of the English.

    The former Internazionale and Tottenham player did most of his damage on the international stage, winning the FIFA World Cup in 1990 and the European Championships in 1996. 

    He also bagged a couple of UEFA Cups and a Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich.

29. Guglielmo Gabetto

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    The story of Guglielmo Gabetto is a sad one.

    He remains one of only two players to win Serie A with both Torino and Juventus—a rare feat given the rivalry between the two clubs—and he was part of a dominant Torino side that hauled in five Scudettos in seven years.

    That team, said to be one of the great in the history of football, was killed in the Superga air crash in 1949.

28. Andriy Shevchenko

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    His swan song in the Premier League was a huge disappointment, but Andriy Shevchenko was a rabid goal-getter over the 12 years he spent with Dynamo Kiev and AC Milan.

    He scored 59 goals in the UEFA Champions League and fired the Rossoneri to success in 2003, then added a selection of domestic titles with every club he played for.

    "Sheva" managed a near one-in-two record for Ukraine over the course of 111 caps and stands a living legend in the country.

27. Thierry Henry

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    Not only was Thierry Henry a joy to watch, but he also backed it up with an absolutely incredible trophy haul. It's a balance many miss out on, and for that the Frenchman should be celebrated.

    He's Arsenal's leading all-time goalscorer with 228 goals in all competitions and became one of their greatest-ever players under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger. After transferring to Barcelona, he won the UEFA Champions League under Pep Guardiola, playing in a front three alongside Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o.

    For France, he won the 1998 FIFA World Cup on home soil, then captured the European Championships just two years later. 

26. Roberto Baggio

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    Football is a cruel sport. The lasting legacy of Roberto Baggio—his missed penalty in the 1994 FIFA World Cup final to hand Brazil the trophy—is proof of this sentiment.

    But he was some player, and although young generations may know his name for the wrong reasons, those who had the privilege of taking in his many prime showings revel in the memory of the pony-tailed star.

    He scored in three consecutive World Cups, the only Italian ever to do so.

25. Hristo Stoichkov

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    We've run through plenty of Real Madrid striking legends in this list, but a Bulgarian by the name of Hristo Stoichkov would frequently torment los Blancos in his heyday.

    The Barcelona hitman won five La Liga titles and one European Cup while playing at the Camp Nou, collected the Ballon d'Or in 1994 and remains Bulgaria's finest-ever export.

24. Jose Aguas

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    It's arguable Jose Aguas should receive the same sort of fanfare Eusebio did, but for some reason the Benfica legend's work never exploded into the wider public gaze.

    He scored 290 goals from 281 appearances with the Eagles and was a key cog in their back-to-back European Cup wins in the early 1960s.

    He scored 11 goals as they won it in 1961, then scored his side's first the following year as they completed a consecutive swoop.

23. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

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    Karl-Heinz Rummenigge holds the position of chairman of the European Club Association, but during his playing days, he was a truly standout striker.

    His best spell was at Bayern Munich where he won the European Cup and two Bundesliga titles, but he also hauled in a European Championship with Germany in 1980 and finished runner-up in the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

    He was twice named European Footballer of the year.

22. Jean-Pierre Papin

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    Jean-Pierre Papin was a hugely popular player during his heyday and took in spells at many of Europe's elite.

    He won titles with Marseille, Milan and Bayern Munich but found it hard to settle in Serie A and lost the 1993 UEFA Champions League final to his former team L'OM.

    He became wildly famous for his volleyed goals.

21. Hugo Sanchez

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    Hugo Sanchez won silverware wherever he went—in 1999, he was voted the best CONCACAF player in history by the IFFHS.

    The Mexican hauled in five La Liga titles with Real Madrid during the prime of his career, was the division's top scorer five times in six years and won the European Golden Boot in 1990.

    Success was also found at cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid and back home with an assortment of clubs.

20. Leonidas Da Silva

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    Leonidas Da Silva was a wonderfully gifted striker credited with inventing (or perhaps perfecting) the bicycle kick in his native Brazil.

    He was top scorer in the 1938 FIFA World Cup with seven goals despite only playing up until the quarterfinal; he was "rested" for the semifinal where the Selecao lost 2-1 to Italy.

     

19. Uwe Seeler

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    Uwe Seeler became the first player ever to score in four different FIFA World Cups—beating Pele to the feat.

    He never won the tournament but came closest in 1966 when his West Germany side were beaten in the final by hosts England. HE scored more than 400 goals in his domestic career for Hamburg.

18. Gabriel Batistuta

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    Gabriel Batistuta, nicknamed "Batigol" for obvious reasons, was a well-polished forward who could score every type of goal.

    He sits 10th in the all-time top-scorers list for Serie A and remains Argentina's most prolific striker in history, netting 56 goals in 78 appearances for the Albiceleste.

    He played nine glorious years at Fiorentina before going on to pastures new and remains a legend at the Artemio Franchi to this day.

17. George Weah

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    George Weah was a physical phenomenon with the poise, balance and finishing skills to match.

    The 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year is regarded as one of the finest African exports this game has ever witnessed, with his long, weaving dribbles and firm shot proving too much for so many.

    Paris Saint-Germain and Milan were very happy to have him in his prime.

16. Giuseppe Meazza

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    Giuseppe Meazza played in a time before YouTube highlights reigned supreme, but it's impossible to doubt his pedigree even to this day.

    To have a stadium named after you is an honour and the San Siro—where Milan and Internazionale play—is officially called the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

    He led Italy to two FIFA World Cup wins in 1934 and 1938, excelling for Inter for more than a decade.

15. Emilio Butragueno

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    Emilio Butragueno is yet another historic Real Madrid striker who hauled in an incredible amount of silverware during his spell with los Blancos.

    The Spaniard won La Liga six times at the Santiago Bernabeu and earned the nickname "El Buitre" (The Vulture) due to his ability to hoover up opportunistic chances and convert them into goals.

    He represented Spain 69 times but could only finish as a runner-up in the 1984 European Championships.

14. Gunnar Nordahl

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    Gunnar Nordahl tore the Swedish domestic leagues to shreds for more than a decade before chancing it at Milan in Serie A.

    The striker didn't disappoint, never failing to score more than 20 goals in a season where he played 20 or more games. He finished top scorer in Serie A five times and picked up an Olympic gold medal with the Swedish national team.

13. Paolo Rossi

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    The 1982 FIFA World Cup was the Paolo Rossi show.

    He led Italy to the title and scored six goals—a finals high—on the way to lifting the trophy. His opener in the showpiece event paved the way for a 3-1 win over an impressive Germany side.

    Domestically, he won a European Cup and Serie A title with a mighty Juventus side.

12. Josef Bican

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    Josef Bican, an Austrian-Hungarian whom you may never have heard of, could run 100 metres in just 10.8 seconds. 

    That's Olympic pace (or was at the time), and most of his 607 league goals from 406 games were borne from his incredible speed and agility.

    He played for an assortment of clubs but never left Eastern Europe in his career, meaning many were starved of his genius.

11. Fernando Peyroteo

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    Haven't heard of Fernando Peyroteo? You're not alone; many are unaware of his successes.

    He remains the most prolific striker in the history of football, averaging 1.7 goals per game and scoring a total of 331 from 197 appearances.

    He played his entire career for Sporting, won six Liga titles and four Tacas de Portugal.

     

10. Arthur Friedenreich

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    At the very start of the last century, a German-Brazilian striker named Arthur Friedenreich took the world by storm.

    He finished top scorer in the Sao Paulo League in 1912, 1914, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1921, 1927 and 1929. Not even Pele managed that.

    B/R's Willie Gannon has written an enthralling profile on him here.

9. Marco Van Basten

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    Jaws dropped worldwide when Marco van Basten found the net with this sublime, acute-angled volley in the 1988 European Championships final.

    The Dutchman enjoyed a remarkable career with Ajax and Milan, flourishing under the guidance of tactical expert Arrigo Sacchi at the San Siro.

    He hauled in league titles with both teams and two European Cups with the Rossoneri. His career was cruelly ended at the age of 28 due to injury.

8. Romario

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    Romario is, at times, criminally left out of the conversation when it comes to the greatest strikers in world due to the emergence of other Brazilian heavyweights near his time.

    But there were few more reliable in front of goal, and he was a particular menace when converting one vs. one situations. He scored more than 1,000 official goals in an illustrious playing career and helped his nation claim the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

    Domestically, he excelled for PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and many, many more.

7. Sandor Kocsis

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    Sandor Kocsis scored an incredible 11 goals in the 1958 FIFA World Cup, but his Hungary side fell just short of victory.

    He scored 153 goals from just 145 showings for Honved Budapest, then moved on to enjoy great success with Barcelona in the Spanish league.

    He registered an astonishing seven hat-tricks for Hungary.

6. Alfredo Di Stefano

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    Alfredo Di Stefano is one of just two players to have had a direct hand in Real Madrid's five consecutive European Cup wins from 1955-1960.

    He scored a massive 216 goals for los Blancos while playing in La Liga and won the Copa America with Argentina in 1947 before going on to represent Colombia and Spain, too.

    Sadly, he never participated at a FIFA World Cup for an assortment of reasons.

5. Gerd Muller

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    Gerd Muller is one of the finest strikers ever to have represented both Germany and Bayern Munich.

    His nickname, "Der Bomber," came about thanks to the reliability with which he bombarded the opposing team's goalkeeper with strikes; more often than not, they found the back of the net.

    He scored 68 goals in 62 appearances for West Germany, won the FIFA World Cup, the European Championships and the European Cup three times.

4. Ferenc Puskas

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    Ferenc Puskas, a key cog in Hungary's famed "Magical Magyars" side, scored a ridiculous 84 goals in 85 international appearances.

    He tore the Hungarian domestic leagues apart to the tune of 352 goals for Budapest Honved, then moved to Real Madrid at the age of 31 and defied biology by scoring 156 more.

    Puskas ended his career having won five La Liga titles and three European Cups, and being crowned an Olympic champion (1952) and World Cup runner-up (1954).

3. Eusebio

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    Eusebio was, and will remain, Portugal's true treasure to football.

    Over the course of a glittering career, the Black Pearl amassed an incredible 638 goals from 614 games, won a European Cup, was crowned European Footballer of the Year and brought joy to millions.

    His death earlier this year saw all of Portugal mourn.

2. Ronaldo

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    The original Ronaldo, the one they called "the phenomenon," is one of the greatest and most impactful strikers ever to have played at the FIFA World Cup.

    The three-time World Player of the Year holds the record for the most goals scored in the tournament (15), and unless Miroslav Klose, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo shock the world in Brazil this summer, he's set to retain his place in history for decades longer.

    When fit, he combined pace, power, insane dribbling ability and super finishing skills into one complete, world-class set.

1. Pele

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    Pele is the greatest striker to have walked the planet and played the beautiful game.

    He holds nearly every record under the sun: Brazil's top scorer, Santos' top scorer, most league goals (541, as per the IFFHS), most total goals (1281), won the Copa Libertadores twice and the FIFA World Cup an unparalleled three times.

    This year he received the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or Prix d'Honneur in recognition of his astonishing achievements on the pitch, as an ambassador for the game and as a marketability tool throughout his career and life.