The FIFA World Cup is without a shadow of a doubt the most prestigious soccer tournament in the world. The tournament is held every four years, giving players a limited time and a limited number of games to become World Cup top scorers and become part of a long history that started with Lucien Laurent, who scored the first World Cup goal ever back in 1930.
Ever since then, more than 2,000 goals have been scored, and a handful of those players managed to earn their place in history. So, who are the players with exemplary performances who scored the most goals in each World Cup to win the coveted Golden Boot?
Before we get there, let’s first check out the all-time World Cup goal leaders.
1. Miroslav Klose
Miroslav Klose is the player with the most World Cup goals. He entered history back in 2014 after he scored his 16th goal in an unforgettable match between Germany and Brazil that ended 7 to 1 in Germany’s favor. Klose played 24 matches for the national team across four World Cups in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014 and averaged 0.67 goals scored per game.
Did you know that Germany never lost a game in which Miroslav Klose scored?
Germany’s best striker has made 137 national appearances and scored a whopping 71 goals in total for his country across various tournaments and qualifications.
Widely regarded as one of the best players of all time, Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima scored 15 goals for his national team and is the second highest goal scorer in international football history when it comes to World Cups.
While he was part of the squad in 1994’s World Cup, Ronaldo didn’t get to play a single game for his country as they went on to win the tournament. However, he did play in 1998, 2002, and 2006, making 19 World Cup appearances in total and averaging 0.79 goals per game. He made 98 national appearances in total and scored 62 goals.
Sadly, his career was hindered by persistent knee injuries, which makes soccer fans all over the world wonder to this day just how much more incredible El Fenomeno could have been.
3. Gerd Müller
Gerd Müller played 13 World Cup games for West Germany in 1970 and 1974 and scored 14 goals. When it comes to World Cup scoring, he was one of the best that Germany had and was nicknamed the nation’s Bomber due to his phenomenal 1.08 goals per game ratio.
Being only 1.76 meters tall, Müller was relatively short for a striker at the time. However, it is precisely that which made him explosive on the pitch over short distances. Known for his agility and speed, Gerd Müller made 62 national appearances and scored 68 times. He also made one appearance for the West Germany U23 team in which he also scored.
4. Just Fontaine
While Just Fontaine scored only 13 goals during World Cups, he is the player that scored the most goals in a single World Cup, which is a Guinness World record that still stands to date.
Namely, Fontaine played only six games for France during the 1958 World Cup, which means that he has a hugely impressive 2.17 goals per game ratio. What’s more, he scored 4 of his 13 goals against defending champions West Germany.
Sadly, Just Fontaine had to retire when he was only 28 due to a recurring injury; otherwise, he had the potential to set many other records. He made 21 appearances for France and scored 30 goals in total.
Pelé needs little introduction, as he is considered a legend of soccer by virtually everyone. He played 14 World Cup matches for his country in 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970. The Brazilian is the scorer of 12 World Cup goals, with a ratio of 0.86 goals per game.
Throughout his career, Pelé made 92 national appearances in total and scored 77 times. However, what’s most impressive about Pelé is the fact that he made 694 club appearances and scored 650 goals. That’s almost as if you start a goal down each time you face Pelé because you know he’s going to score.
In 1999, Pelé was voted World Player of the Century by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics).
6. Jürgen Klinsmann
Klinsmann is yet another German who makes it to our World Cup top scorer list. However, he is sharing the sixth position with the Hungarian striker Sándor Kocsis, since both of them scored 11 goals each.
However, while Klinsmann did it over the course of 17 games at three World Cups in 1990, 1994, and 1998, Koscis managed to score 11 goals in 5 matches, all of which he played in 1954.
As a result, Klinsmann has a ratio of 0.65 goals scored per game, while Koscis averaged a huge 2.20 goals scored per game.
Klinsmann played for numerous teams throughout his career, but as far as national tournaments go, he made 133 appearances and scored 48 goals in total. He also has one FIFA World Cup title under his belt, having won the 1990 World Cup as a key player for West Germany.
7. Sándor Kocsis
When it comes to Kocsis, he was the highest goal scorer in international football history at the highest level for a little while. However, his record of 11 goals was broken the following World Cup by Just Fontaine.
Kocsis was the first player to score two hat tricks during a single World Cup. He made 68 appearances for Hungary and scored 75 goals in total and set a record by averaging 1.1003 goals per game, followed by Gerd Müller with 1.097 and his fellow Mighty Magyar, Ferenc Puskás with 0.99 (84 goals in 85 matches).
8. Helmut Rahn
Rahn is one of the world cup top goal scorers and a true legend of the sport. Due to his leadership skills on the pitch, Helmut Rahn was nicknamed The Boss by his teammates. He gained the status of a legend after leading West Germany to victory over Hungary in the World Cup finals in 1954, a match that is known as the Miracle of Bern.
He played 40 international matches in total and managed to score 21 goals for West Germany. When it comes to World Cups, Rahn played for his country in 1954 and 1958 and scored 10 goals in 10 matches.
9. Gary Lineker
Lineker played in two World Cups, in 1986 and 1990. He scored 10 goals in 12 matches, averaging 0.83 goals per game, and holds the record for the number of World Cup goals scored by an Englishman. One of those goals came was in a memorable quarter-final match against Argentina in 1986, when Diego Maradona scored the infamous goal known as the Hand of God and also the Goal of the Century.
He made 80 international appearances in total and scored 48 goals, and also has several awards under his belt, the Golden Boot being one of them.
Did you know:
Interestingly, despite his long career, Lineker never received a yellow or red card. That feat earned him the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1990.
10. Gabriel Batistuta
In 77 games for Argentina, Batistuta scored 54 goals, which was the nation’s record until 2016, at which time it was surpassed by Leo Messi. Batistuta is one of the top World Cup scorers and still holds the record as the Argentinian who scored the most goals for his country in World Cups — he scored 10 goals in 12 matches in 1994, 1998, and 2002, averaging 0.83 goals per game.
Known for his powerful shots and the ability to score from long distances, Batigol is the only player in the history of soccer to score two hat-tricks in different World Cups.
11. Teófilo Cubillas
Cubillas scored 10 goals for Peru in 13 games, averaging 0.77 goals per game. He played in 1970, 1978, and 1982. However, he didn’t score in the last World Cup he played for Peru. While his country didn’t qualify for the 1974 World Cup, Teófilo Cubillas led his team to victory at the Copa America in 1975.
Teófilo Cubillas is a legend among his countrymen and the only Peruvian to make our World Cup top scorer list. Known for his ability to shoot free kicks and technique, Teófilo Cubillas helped his team reach the quarter-finals during the World Cup in 1970 and 1978.
Nicknamed El Nene, he made 81 appearances for his country and scored 26 goals. Apart from Thomas Müller and Miroslav Klose, he is the only player to score five or more goals in two different World Cups.
12. Thomas Müller
Thomas Müller was a pivotal player in his national team until coach Joachim Löw decided to drop him in March 2019. He started in the U16 squad and played in the U19, U20, U21, and of course, the first national team. He made 116 appearances and scored 40 goals in total, with 100 appearances and 38 goals during his time as a member of the first national team.
When it comes to World Cups, Müller scored 10 goals in 16 matches, averaging a respectable 0.63 goal per game ratio. Additionally, he is also one of the players who scored the most goals in the World Cup in 2010. He played in 2010, 2014, and 2018 World Cups, but he didn’t have a chance to score at the last one, with Germany being eliminated in the group stages.
However, unlike many other players on our list, Thomas Müller is still active. And considering he is only 30, he might get another shot to climb the ranks at the 2022 World Cup if the national coach has a change of heart.
Did you know that, when he plays for the international team, Thomas Müller wears the same number that Gerd Müller did?
13. Grzegorz Lato
Grzegorz Lato is Poland’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup tournaments. He played 20 World Cup games in 1974, 1978, 1982 and scored 10 goals, averaging 0.50 goals per game.
Lato played during what was known as the golden generation of Polish players. Known as one of the most consistent right-wingers, he made 100 national appearances and scored 45 goals for Poland between 1971 and 1984.
After his retirement from playing soccer, one of the top World Cup scorers spent the following decade managing numerous football teams.
Eusébio is widely regarded as one of the best soccer players of all time. While he didn’t have many opportunities when it comes to playing at the World Cups, playing only in 1966, he still managed to score 9 goals in 6 matches for Portugal, averaging a remarkable 1.50 goals per game ratio.
Eusébio was one of the most complete players of all time — he had technique, athleticism, speed, and a powerful right foot, and was a recipient of many rewards, such as the Bronze Ball award and the Ballon d’Or in 1965.
Throughout his career, Eusébio made 436 club appearances and scored 424 goals. When it comes to the national team, he played 64 international matches for Portugal and scored 41 goals.
15. Christian Vieri
Christian Vieri has scored some of the best World Cup goals. He managed to score 9 goals in 9 World Cup appearances for Italy at the 1998 and 2002 World Cup. Sadly, Vieri suffered a knee injury right before the World Cup in 2006, which Italy subsequently won.
Nicknamed after his father, Christian Bobo Vieri played 49 international matches for his country and scored 23 times. In addition, he also made 22 appearances for the Italian U21 squad, where he scored 11 times.
Vieri played for 13 teams during his career; however, the only team where he played for more than one season was Inter Milan. At his prime, he became the most expensive player in the world in 1999 after Inter paid Lazio €46 million for the forward.
Considered one of the best strikers of his generation, Edvaldo Jizidio Neto, simply known as Vavá, made 20 international appearances for Brazil and scored 15 World Cup goals. When it comes to World Cups, Vavá played 10 games for Brazil in 1958 and 1962 and scored 9 goals, which is an excellent 0.90 goals per game ratio.
Vavá scored twice in the 1958 World Cup final and once in 1962 final, becoming the first player to score in two different World Cup finals. So far, only three other players have managed to achieve that: Pelé, Zinedine Zidane, and Paul Breitner.
17. David Villa
David Villa is one of the best Spanish strikes and is one of the highest goal scorers in international football history with 59 international goals to his name, which he scored in 98 matches he played for Spain. Villa played in three different World Cups in 2006, 2010, and 2014. In 12 matches, he scored 9 goals and has 0.75 goals per game ratio.
When he was only four years old, Villa suffered a fracture to the femur in his right leg, which he fully recovered from. However, while he was injured, his father helped him strengthen his left leg by continuously throwing the ball to him and have David kick it with his left leg. As a result, David Villa grew up into a prolific ambidextrous striker.
Villa retired recently after playing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe.
18. Paolo Rossi
Paolo Rossi was a part of the Italian national team at three different World Cups. He played in 1978, 1982, and, while he was a part of the squad at the 1986 World Cup, Rossi didn’t get to play a single match.
Rossi made 48 international appearances from 1977 to 1986 and scored 20 goals for Italy. When it comes to World Cups, he scored 9 goals in 14 matches, averaging 0.64 goals per game.
In 1982, he scored the most goals in a World Cup and won both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, as well the World Cup title, making him one out of three players to ever do so along Mario Kempes in 1978 and Garrincha in 1962.
Jairzinho played for Brazil in 1966, 1970, and 1974 World Cup. While he didn’t score a single goal in 1996, he scored a total of 9 World Cup goals for his country across 16 games, averaging 0.56 goals per game.
Jairzinho didn’t have much luck at the beginning of his international career, being forced to play as a left-wing while his idol and teammate, Garrincha, played in the right-wing position where Jairzinho was most efficient at. However, once Garrincha retired, Jairzinho seized the opportunity and became one of the World Cup top scorers.
Overall, he made 81 international appearances and scored 33 goals for his country.
Do you know that it was Jairzinho who first recognized Ronaldo’s talents and recommended him to Cruzeiro, which was the beginning of Ronaldo’s career?
20. Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio is one of the Italian World Cup goal leaders alongside Vieri and Rossi. Sadly, many fans will remember him for his historical penalty miss in the 1994 World Cup final which Italy lost to Brazil.
He managed to score 9 times in 16 games, averaging 0.56 goals per game, and he represented Italy in 1990, 1994, and 1998. Throughout his career, he played 4 U16 international games for his country, scoring 3 times and had 56 senior squad appearances and scored 27 goals.
Did you know that Baggio is the only Italian soccer player that scored in three different World Cups?
21. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Rummenigge scored 9 goals for West Germany in 19 matches. He played at three different World Cups in 1978, 1982, and 1986.
While Rummenigge doesn’t have the most World Cup goals, he was well-known for his excellent dribbling ability and his versatility, which allowed him to score all by himself or by working with another striker. He made 95 international appearances and scored 45 goals for his country.
While Rummenigge didn’t manage to win the World Cup with his country, he won the 1980 European Championship and was a valued member of the team that finished runners-up in 1982 and 1986.
22. Uwe Seeler
Last but not least on our list of World Cup top scorers is Uwe Seeler. He played 21 World Cup games for West Germany in 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970 World Cups. During that time, he scored 9 goals for his country, averaging 0.43 goals per game ratio.
Unfortunately for Seeler, West Germany’s first World Cup title came in 1954 and the second one in 1974, so he just missed out. He played 72 games for West Germany’s senior team and scored 43 times in total, and he also managed to score 15 times in 10 games for West Germany’s U-18 squad.
Seeler is considered a legend among his fellow Germans, and with 1980 minutes played, he is ranked third on the list of minutes played in World Cups right after Paolo Maldini and Lothar Matthäus.
Top World Cup Scorers
Did you know that there are only 21 players that have won the World Cup more than once? However, only one player has managed to win three World Cup titles so far — Pelé.
There have been 21 World Cup tournaments so far. Interestingly, only 8 countries have managed to win the WC title.
In addition to the list of players who scored the most World Cup goals across multiple tournaments, we have also prepared a list of players who scored the most goals in a single World Cup and won the Golden Boot.
- 1930 Uruguay – Guillermo Stábile (Argentina) — 8 goals
- 1934 Italy – Oldřich Nejedlý (Czechoslovakia) — 5 goals
- 1938 France – Leônidas (Brazil) — 7 goals
- 1950 Brazil – Ademir (Brazil) — 8 goals
- 1954 Switzerland – Sándor Kocsis (Hungary) — 11 goals
- 1958 Sweden – Just Fontaine (France) — 13 goals
- 1962 Chile – Garrincha (Brazil), Vavá (Brazil), Leonel Sánchez (Chile), Flórián Albert (Hungary), Dražan Jerković (Yugoslavia), Valentin Ivanov (Soviet Union) — 4 goals
- 1966 England – Eusébio (Portugal) — 9 goals
- 1970 Mexico – Gerd Müller (West Germany) — 10 goals
- 1974 West Germany – Grzegorz Lato (Poland) — 7 goals
- 1978 Argentina – Mario Kempes (Argentina) — 6 goals
- 1982 Spain – Paolo Rossi (Italy) — 6 goals
- 1986 Mexico – Gary Lineker (England) — 6 goals
- 1990 Italy – Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) — 6 goals
- 1994 USA – Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria), Oleg Salenko (Russia) — 6 goals
- 1998 France – Davor Šuker (Croatia) — 6 goals
- 2002 South Korea and Japan – Ronaldo (Brazil) — 8 goals
- 2006 Germany – Miroslav Klose (Germany) — 5 goals
- 2010 South Africa – Thomas Müller (Germany), Diego Forlán (Uruguay), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), David Villa (Spain) — 5 goals
- 2014 Brazil – James Rodríguez (Colombia) — 6 goals
- 2018 Russia – Harry Kane (England) — 6 goals
These are easily some of the best soccer goals ever. And with every moment, we are getting closer to the FIFA World Cup 2022 that is scheduled to take place in Qatar. Until then, we can reminisce about some of the most famous national squads that have ever played at the highest level.
How many of these legendary World Cup top scorers have you heard of, and how many have you seen playing? Do you have a favorite, and do you think that someone will be able to break Klose’s or Fontaine’s record in the upcoming cup? Let us know in the comments.
Top Scorers of All Time:
2. The Guardian
3. Football History
4. The Guardian
9. England Stats
10. FB Ref
13. Planet World Cup
14. Football History
15. FB Ref
20. Roberto Baggio
Top World Scorers List: