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The 10 World Cup Top Scorers Of All-Time

The 10 World Cup Top Scorers Of All-Time

The FIFA World Cup is the most famous and prestigious soccer tournament in the world. The very best players in football history have become legends on this stage, from Pele to Maradona, Ronaldo to Messi. A wide variety of world-class goalscorers have made their mark on the global tournament over the years, and in this article we'll be working our way through the most prolific of the lot.

We'll detail every player that has won the Golden Boot at a World Cup, before providing you with a comprehensive list of the World Cup all time top scorers, from the tournament's inauguration in 1930 to the present day.

A Brief History Of The World Cup

The World Cup was created by world football's governing body FIFA in 1930. Designed to bring together international teams from across the globe, the first edition of the tournament took place in Uruguay and was won by the host country. It was decided that the World Cup would take place every four years, with a different nation hosting the competition each time. This format has remained ever since, although the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 meant that between 1938 and 1950, the tournament did not take place.

Following the Second World War, the competition continued to grow in significance around the world, with the British football associations competing for the first time and Uruguay re-entering after a brief boycott. During this period, 16 teams would compete in each tournament, with a group stage followed by knockout rounds. In 1982 the number of teams was expanded to 24, and in 1998, a further expansion made the World Cup a 32-team competition, with more room for nations from Asia, Africa and North America. Despite this, European and South American nations have always dominated the competition, with no country outside these two continents ever winning the World Cup

The most recent edition of the tournament took place in November and December 2022 in Qatar; this was the first-ever winter edition of the tournament, played during this time because of the intense heat of Qatar during the summer. In 2026, the FIFA World Cup will return to a summer format with the United States of America, Canada, and Mexico splitting hosting rights between them in a North American edition of the tournament.

For more information about the dazzling prize that the World Cup winners get their hands on at the end of the tournament, check out our article on everything you need to know about the World Cup trophy.

World Cup Top Scorers: Every Single Golden Boot Winner

The World Cup only comes around every four years, so it's very rare to see even the best players feature in more than two or three tournaments. For attacking players, then, opportunities to win the World Cup Golden Boot are few and far between. Below is an exclusive list of all the players who have been top goalscorer at a FIFA World Cup.

Year Player Country Goals
1930 Guillermo Stabile Argentina 8
1934 Oldrich Nejedly Czechoslovakia 5
1938 Leonidas Brazil 7
1950 Ademir Brazil 9
1954 Sandor Kocsis Hungary 11
1958 Just Fontaine France 13
1962 Garrincha Brazil 4
  Vava Brazil 4
  Leonel Sanchez Chile 4
  Florian Albert Hungary 4
  Valentin Ivanov Soviet Union 4
  Drazan Jerkovic Yugoslavia 4
1966 Eusebio Portugal 9
1970 Gerd Muller West Germany 10
1974 Grzegorz Lato Poland 7
1978 Mario Kempes Argentina 6
1982 Paolo Rossi Italy 6
1986 Gary Lineker England 6
1990 Salvatore Schillaci Italy 6
1994 Hristo Stoichkov Bulgaria 6
  Oleg Salenko Russia 6
1998 Davor Suker Croatia 6
2002 Ronaldo Brazil 8
2006 Miroslav Klose Germany 5
2010 Thomas Muller Germany 5
  Wesley Sneijder Netherlands 5
  David Villa Spain 5
  Diego Forlan Uruguay 5
2014 James Rodriguez Colombia 6
2018 Harry Kane England 6
2022 Kylian Mbappe France 8
 

World Cup All-Time Top Scorers: The Top 10

There is a select group of players who have scored 10 or more goals in total at FIFA World Cups. Below are all the details you need to know about that illustrious list.

#10. Gabriel Batistuta, Teofilo Cubillas, Grzegorz Lato, Gary Lineker, Thomas Muller and Helmut hn (10 goals)

Widely regarded as one of the world's greatest-ever strikers, former Argentina international Gabriel Batitusta scored five goals at the 1994 USA World Cup, four goals at the 1998 France World Cup, and another two in South Korea and Japan in 2002. Argentina's previous all-time top goal scorer (a record since broken by Lionel Messi) registered 10 goals in total at World Cups, as did five other players. Cuba's Teofilo Cubillas, Poland's Grzegorz Lato, England's Gary Lineker, Germany's Thomas Muller and West Germany's Helmut Rahn all recorded a total of 10 goals in World Cup Finals.

#8. Sandor Kocsis (11 goals)

The 1954 Hungary team is considered one of the best sides to have never won the World Cup. A scintillating 'Golden Team' led by Ferenc Puskas was beaten against the odds by West Germany in the World Cup final, but that didn't stop their powerful forward Sandor Kocsis from lighting up the tournament with a remarkable 11 goals (the second-highest at a single competition). Kocsis scored a total of 75 goals in 68 appearances for his country.

#8.  Jurgen Klinsmann (11 goals)

A mainstay in the dominant West Germany/Germany teams of the 1990s — winning the World Cup at Italia 90 and the UEFA European Championship in 1996 — Jurgen Klinsmann is a well-known figure in the European football scene. Playing for illustrious clubs such as Internazionale, Bayern Munich, Stuttgart and Tottenham Hotspur, he was a clinical striker who was renowned at international level, scoring at each of the six tournaments he played in for his country to grab a total of 11 World Cup goals.

#6. Pele (12 goals)

Tied at sixth-place is Brazilian all-time great Pele, the only player in the history of the sport to win three World Cups. It's an outstanding record, and Pele backed it up with brilliant individual stats, registering 12 goals in 14 appearances at four World Cups (1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970). In total, he scored 77 goals in 92 games for his international team, making him Brazil's second-highest goalscorer of all time. 

#6.  Kylian Mbappe (12 goals)

At 25 years old, Kylian Mbappe is already one of France's greatest attackers in modern times. A blisteringly-fast forward with razor-sharp movement, red-hot finishing and incredible dribbling skills, he has reached two World Cup finals, winning one trophy and getting his hands on a Golden Boot at the other tournament.

Mbappe scored a dramatic hat-trick in the 2022 final and was unlucky not to win the competition after leading his team's unexpected comeback; however, France will enter the 2026 tournament as favourites once more, and their talented young forward will be setting his sights on the Golden Boot again. He's just five goals away from becoming the all-time World Cup top goalscorer, and it's highly likely he'll play at another two tournaments at least, so it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him top the leaderboard one day.

#4. Lionel Messi (13 goals)

Two players are tied for fourth-place in the World Cup all time top scorers list, and for modern readers Messi will be the more familiar name of the two. The Argentina captain registered seven goals and three assists at the 2022 World Cup, leading his nation to a historic trophy that for many people rubberstamped him as the greatest player in footballing history. Across four World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022) he has notched a total of 13 goals and 8 assists in 26 appearances. Now helping to grow the American game at Inter Miami, he still has an outside chance of continuing to play until the next World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico in 2026. Perhaps he'll be able to push his way further up this list…

#4. Just Fontaine (13 goals)

Just Fontaine holds a World Cup record that no one is ever likely to break; his 13 goals in six matches at the 1958 tournament is the highest number of goals ever recorded by a player at a single tournament. The Frenchman passed away last year, prompting tributes from across the world of football for a man who is seen as one of the greatest forwards ever. In 1958, as well as winning the World Cup Golden Boot (in his only ever WC Finals), he took home the European Cup top goalscorer award and the French league title. Across an eight-year international career, he notched 30 goals in 21 games for France.

#3. Gerd Muller (14 goals)

At the 1970 World Cup, German target man Gerd Muller scored an incredible 10 goals, a tally that has only been surpassed by two players, Hungary hero Sandor Kocsis (11 in 1954) and Just Fontaine (13 in 1958). The Bayern Munich legend scored 68 goals in 62 international appearances for West Germany, with 14 of those coming at World Cup tournaments. What makes that even more impressive is that Muller only appeared at two Finals, 1970 and 1974 — it's this record that helps mark him out as one of world football's greatest ever strikers.

#2. Ronaldo (15 goals)

The Brazilian Ronaldo (nicknamed 'The Phenomenon') was a revelation for club and country during the 1990s and early 2000s, inspiring young soccer fans all over the world with his tricky dribbling, audacious skills and wonderful finishing ability. He was an absolute sensation at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, scoring a remarkable eight goals to bring home the Golden Boot, with a double against Germany in the final helping him lift the trophy for the Selecao. The fact that Ronaldo scored 15 goals across just three World Cup tournaments is a testament to his prolific striking ability.

#1. Miroslav Klose (16 goals)

Germany are one of the most successful international teams in the history of world football, so it follows that one of their most legendary strikers is the leading all time World Cup goalscorer. Miroslav made 24 appearances at four World Cups: 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. He was most prolific at the first two, scoring five goals at each competition and going on to rack up a total of 16 WC goals in his career. It's a remarkable achievement, and one that will remain in the memory long after Klose's retirement.

If you'd like to find out more about the highest-scoring players in world football, check out our list of the top 10 La Liga scorers of all time.