Ranking Brazil's 20 Greatest Strikers of All Time

Christopher AtkinsContributor IJune 2, 2014

Ranking Brazil's 20 Greatest Strikers of All Time

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    The Brazilian national side has launched the careers of some of football's most recognisable names, whether it be lightening fast full-backs, elegant defensive midfielders, skilful wingers or creative playmakers. It is their goalscorers, though, who continue to capture the imagination.

    From Leonidas to Pele and Romario to Ronaldo, some magnificent players have carried the burden of being the Selecao's primary goal-scoring threat, to the point where the current crop is seen as a major disappointment.

    Whether it be second strikers in the No. 10 shirt or classical No. 9s, Brazil has had some players who were the envy of the entire world.

    But who are the best 20 strikers in the history of Brazil's national side? Read on to find out.

20. Serginho Chulapa

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    Associated Press

    Poor Serginho was unfairly castigated following Brazil's stylish failure at the 1982 World Cup.

    His selection ahead of Reinaldo was hugely controversial, and his physical style was not in keeping with the elegance of the midfield behind him.

    However, his strike rate in the colours of his country was decent if not great—he managed two goals in five games at the aforementioned tournament.

    In club colours for Sao Paulo, he managed an impressive 243 goals in 401 games, which remains the highest tally in the club's history. His achievements, though, are somewhat tempered by his disciplinary troubles.

     

    Caps: 20, Goals: 8

19. Adriano

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    The man who should have been the heir to the great Ronaldo, Adriano's career threatened to reach the very highest echelons of the game prior to the 2006 World Cup. Off-the-field issues, though, have since taken their toll and resulted in his playing days virtually grinding to a halt.

    At the 2004 Copa America and 2005 Confederations Cup, Adriano was the top scorer and named Player of the Tournament at both. Besides that success, he also hit double figures for Parma and Inter in four consecutive Serie A seasons.

    His goalscoring record at international level is phenomenal, and his role in the aforementioned successes sees him make our list. In reality, it is a real shame that he did not do enough to rank as high as his talent thoroughly deserved.

     

    Caps: 48, Goals: 27

18. Robinho

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    The career of Robinho in the shirt of Brazil is undoubtedly a case of what might have been.

    The Santos prodigy was tipped for the very top when he broke through as a teenager, but he has failed to consistently deliver at the highest level.

    A second striker or wide forward by trade, Robinho's best spell with the national team came under Dunga between 2006 and 2010. He thrived in the former captain's counter-attack-based system, helping the side to success in the 2007 Copa America and 2009 Confederations Cup.

    Since moving to Europe in 2005, his career has failed to ignite. Robinho has never scored more than 15 goals across all competitions in one season, but he has at times shown what he is capable of with his country that he is capable of better.

    The highlight of his career came with Golden Shoe and Golden Ball awards during Brazil's Copa America success in 2007.

     

    Caps: 92, Goals: 27

17. Luis Fabiano

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    While not universally popular in Brazil, Luis Fabiano boasts a fantastic strike rate in the colours of his country and was impressive at the 2010 World Cup, scoring on three occasions.

    The previous year, while playing for Sevilla, the powerful forward had excelled at the Confederations Cup. Dunga's side claimed an unexpected triumph at the competition in South Africa and Fabiano's goals were central to their cause.

    Now 33, Luis Fabiano is one of the top scorers in the history of both Sevilla and Sao Paulo and a two-time winner of the UEFA Cup.

     

    Caps: 45, Goals: 28

16. Edmundo

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    Known as "the Animal" for his ferocious nature on and off the pitch, Edmundo is one of the greatest players in the modern history of Vasco da Gama and Brazilian football.

    Had it not been for some of his incredible teammates with the Selecao, he would likely have won many more caps and been handed more opportunities to play 90 minutes. Instead, he was often forced to play second fiddle to the likes of Romario and Ronaldo.

    While he may have courted controversy away from football, he was an inspirational figure in three Brazilian Serie A successes, such as in 1997, when he scored a remarkable 29 goals in 28 games for Vasco.

     

    Caps: 39, Goals: 10

15. Reinaldo

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    An idol of the Atletico Mineiro club in Belo Horizonte, Reinaldo was Brazil's first-choice centre-forward at the 1978 World Cup and was surprisingly omitted from the squad four years later.

    The 255 goals he scored for Atletico remains a club record, from a time when he helped the side to a remarkable six consecutive successes in the Campeonato Mineiro.

    The majority of fans would have picked him for the competition in 1982, with his omission still controversial to this day. Tele Santana, though, chose to look elsewhere and Reinaldo never hit the heights he should have in a Selecao jersey.

     

    Caps: 39, Goals: 14

14. Ademir

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    The top scorer at the 1950 World Cup with eight goals, Brazilian forward Ademir was well-known for his ability to strike rocket-like shots off either foot and dribble with pace.

    Brazil's competition would end in disaster with defeat to Uruguay in the Maracana, but Ademir was one of the few to escape with little blame. He had been the hero in the 1949 Copa America triumph, when a hat-trick helped defeat Paraguay in the final, and he had lit up the World Cup.

    One of the quickest players of his era, he scored 301 goals in 429 appearances for Vasco da Gama and won six Campeonato Cariocas.

     

    Caps: 39, Goals: 32

13. Bebeto

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    Strike partner of Romario in 1994 and Ronaldo in 1998, Bebeto was a constant figure in the Brazil side for the best part of a decade in which the Selecao returned to former glories.

    At club level, having shone with Carioca sides Vasco and Flamengo, the second striker spent much of his career with La Liga side Deportivo La Coruna. While a popular figure there, it was with the national side he enjoyed his biggest achievements.

    Bebeto was the top scorer for his country at the 1989 Copa America, before going on to play at three World Cup tournaments in which he scored six goals. Often playing second fiddle to a veritable superstar, his intelligent movement was often key to Brazil's attacks.

     

    Caps: 75, Goals: 39

12. Vava

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    Associated Press

    Pele's strike partner in both 1958 and 1962, Vava would earn winners' medals at both tournaments and become the first man to score in two different World Cup finals.

    Vava was known for his determination and skill, and his tally of nine World Cup goals was only bettered by his illustrious teammate in 1970.

    While his name has slipped off the radar outside of Brazil over the years, his reputation remains strong within the Brazilian game. At Vasco da Gama, in particular, he is still widely revered.

     

    Caps: 20, Goals: 15

11. Roberto Dinamite

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    The top scorer in the history of the Brazilian Serie A, Roberto Dinamite is widely considered to be the greatest player to have ever pulled on the shirt of Carioca side Vasco da Gama.

    Despite his success at club level, he wasn't Brazil's first-choice centre-forward at the 1978 nor the 1982 World Cup, although he did manage to score three goals at the former.

    Dinamite managed a total of 470 goals in 758 top-flight games over the course of his career and remains Vasco's record goalscorer and appearance maker. In recent years, he has become the club's president.

     

    Caps: 38, Goals: 20

10. Arthur Friedenreich

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    Nicknamed "the Tiger," mixed-race Arthur Friedenreich was the first major black star of Brazilian football, featuring in the country's Copa America success of 1921 and runner-up finish in the same competition four years later.

    Over a 25-year professional career, he played for many of the leading Brazilian clubs of the day, and as top scorer on seven occasions, he remains one of the most influential players in the history of the Paulista championship.

    He would, though, never get to show his skills at a World Cup, although he did manage to dazzle European audiences on a tour with Paulistano in 1925.

     

    Caps: 23, Goals: 10

9. Careca

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    A major figure in the Diego Maradona-led Napoli side of the late 1980s, Careca represented his country at World Cup competitions in both 1986 and 1990.

    He enjoyed great success at the two tournaments: finishing second to only England's Gary Lineker as the tournament's top scorer in 1986 and scoring a further two goals in Italy four years later.

    With Guarani, Sao Paulo and Kashiwa Reysol, he would show great quality in front of goal, but it was at Napoli that his career would really hit the top level. He helped the Neapolitan club to their first-ever European title in 1989 and their second league championship the following year.

     

    Caps: 64, Goals: 30

8. Heleno de Freitas

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    The biggest idol in the early history of the great Botafogo club, Heleno scored 209 goals in 235 matches for the Carioca giants between 1939 and 1948.

    Now known for his antics off the pitch as much as for his performances on it, Heleno was one of the original flawed geniuses of the footballing world—alcohol, drugs and women were all among his weaknesses.

    His misdemeanours would eventually lead to his early demise and a position of immortality within the Brazilian game. For all his faults, though, his sensational talent should not be overlooked.

     

    Caps: 18, Goals: 19

7. Tostao

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    Rather than playing as a centre-forward, Tostao spent much of his time in a Brazil shirt playing from the left flank. He could, though, play through the centre and boasts a remarkable scoring record at all levels of the game.

    Forced to retire at the age of 27 due to complications with a detached retina, the Cruzeiro icon had already played a major role in success at the 1970 World Cup and asserted himself at the very top of the domestic game.

    Known as the "Vice-Rei," indicating he was second only to Pele at the time, he remains the top scorer in Cruzeiro's history to this very day.

     

    Caps: 54, Goals: 32

6. Zizinho

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    One of the great attackers of pre-Pele era of Brazilian football, Zizinho scored over 100 goals for both Flamengo and Bangu—two of the most historic clubs in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

    A complete forward, Pele has acknowledged the influence that Zizinho would have on his career, with his predecessor also capable of playing in a variety of midfield roles.

    Sadly, due to World War II, Zizinho was 29 by the time World Cup competitions resumed in 1950. It would prove the only time he would enter the tournament, as he rejected call-ups in both 1954 and 1958. Had it not been for the infamous Maracanazo, he could have ended his international career as a world champion.

     

    Caps: 53, Goals: 30

5. Leonidas Da Silva

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    The master of the bicycle kick, Leonidas da Silva scored in every game he played in at both the 1934 and 1938 World Cups. But for the outbreak of war, he could have extended that record.

    At club level, he was sensational. Whether it be for Botafogo, Vasco da Gama, Penarol, Flamengo or Sao Paulo, he was able to score goals for fun, and he wrote his name deep into the early history of Brazilian football.

    Known as the "Black Diamond," Leonidas was a major inspiration for the generation that won Brazil's first World Cup in 1958. Sadly, the man himself had retired eight years earlier.

     

    Caps: 15, Goals: 16

4. Jairzinho

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    The definition of "striker" has been stretched to its limits a few times in this list. Former Botafogo and Cruzeiro forward Jairzinho is another who seldom played through the middle for his country.

    A magnificent goalscorer, the flying winger starred at the 1970 World Cup—scoring a goal in every round before being named player of the tournament. He could operate centrally and did so at club level on many occasions throughout his career.

    Electric pace and dribbling skills were central to his success, but he was also lethal when presented with chances in front of goal. Given his contribution to success, he remains high in the pantheon of true Brazilian footballing greats.

     

    Caps: 81, Goals: 33

3. Romario

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    In the opinion of many, Romario is second only to Pele in the classification of great Brazilian strikers. Unfortunately for the footballer-cum-politician, our list sees him drop behind a long-term teammate.

    At his best, Romario was virtually unplayable. He caused his fair share of problems off the field, but when he had a ball at his feet there were few who could move with such speed and agility. In front of goal, he remained lethal even into the deep autumn of his career.

    The 1994 World Cup proved to be the crowning glory of a career that could have extended much longer at the top level but for disciplinary issues and clashes of character. For the spell of a few years, though, he was at the very pinnacle of the game.

     

    Caps: 70, Goals: 55

2. Ronaldo

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    Had he stayed injury free, Ronaldo could perhaps have come close to challenging the goal-scoring record of Pele.

    However, despite his lengthy troubles, the top scorer in the history of FIFA World Cup history achieved greatness over the course of his career.

    By the age of 21, at the 1998 World Cup in France, the prodigious forward had scored almost 200 senior goals across four countries and had been the top scorer in the Copa Libertadores, Eredivisie and La Liga.

    While he was pipped to that honour in Serie A, he had also been crowned Italian Footballer of the Year.

    The final of the '98 World Cup would prove a turning point in his career, with misfortune seemingly regularly striking from that point on. His eight goals to seal World Cup glory in 2002 offered a form of redemption, though, in a career that electrified the footballing world.

     

    Caps: 98, Goals: 62

1. Pele

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    The only player ever to have won the World Cup on three occasions and, in the opinion of many, the greatest footballer ever to have played the game, Pele is comfortably the greatest striker in Brazil's illustrious history.

    What makes the Santos player so special is not only his supreme striking record, which sees him remain top of Brazil's goal-scoring charts to this day, but also his ability to play a variety of forward roles to equal effect.

    There have been few more complete players than Pele, who was as adept at scoring sensational goals as creating openings for others. His balance, physical excellence and technical skill also set him apart from the ordinary.

    To this day, his position within the Brazilian game—and football in general—is unrivalled. 

     

    Caps: 92, Goals: 77