World Cup all-time top scorers: Messi and Mbappe join the top five

 Thanks to their stunning exploits in Qatar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe have added handsome returns to their World Cup goal records. But where do they stand on the list of the all-time leading World Cup scorers?

The PSG pair finished first and second in the golden boot race at the recently completed tournament. Mbappe led with eight goals, while Messi ended up just behind the Frenchman on seven. But the Argentine had the last laugh as his side beat France on penalties to lift the trophy.

Nevertheless, their prolific ability to find the net throughout their careers has put the two stars into the top five on the all-time World Cup goal scorers list. Who else joins them on there, though?

We are going to dive into the top five highest number of goals netted in the tournament’s history. Now, you may notice that this top five contains seven players; this is because players have tied at two different values.

So, let’s get into it.

#5: Kylian Mbappe and Pele – 12 goals

A pair of teenage superstars light up fifth place in the all-time World Cup scorers list.

Kylian Mbappe made history in the 2022 final, becoming only the second player to score a hat-trick in the showpiece game. This added to his strike in the 2018 Final, meaning the PSG forward has four total goals in World Cup finals alone.

With his goal in France’s 4-2 victory in 2018, he also became the first teenager to score in a World Cup Final since Pele.

Speaking of the Brazilian, he bagged a brace in his first of three World Cup Finals back in 1958. Following this, Pele also scored in the 1970 Final – his fourth goal of that tournament.

Many compare Mbappe to the Brazilian icon for the manner in which they announced themselves to the World at such a tender age. As it turns out, their similarities also continue to the stat sheet. However, Kylian Mbappe will likely have many chances to overtake one of the best of all time.

With 12 goals in just two World Cups, the Frenchman may have an eye on becoming the top scorer in World Cup history.

#4: Lionel Messi and Just Fontaine – 13 goals

Next on the list comes a pair of players who produced their goal tallies in vastly different manners. It took Leo Messi five World Cups to reach his mark of 13 goals, whereas Fontaine needed just one tournament.

Despite this, Messi really showed out in his victorious run to glory in Qatar. The Argentine became the first player to score in every knockout stage of the 32-team tournament format: this is especially impressive, considering that he had not scored past the group stage before the 2022 edition.

But Just Fontaine, the golden boot winner at the 1958 tournament, was the very definition of prolific. He bagged 13 goals in just six matches as his France team reached the semi-finals. Unsurprisingly, Fontaine also managed to score in every single game in which he played.

This insane collection of strikes included a hat-trick and a four-goal performance against Brazil in the third-place play-off.

Unbelievably, though, Fontaine played in only one World Cup. Despite this, his incredible tournament lands him joint-fourth all-time on this list.

#3: Gerd Muller – 14 goals

Moving into the top three now and we have our first stand-alone player on the list. Carrying the nickname “Der Bomber”, Gerd Muller had a reputation as an explosive striker. His World Cup goal record backs up his status, for sure.

At his first World Cup, in 1970, the German forward took home the golden boot. His ten goals, including two hat-tricks, helped West Germany finish third in Mexico.

After this, at his home World Cup in 1974, Muller grabbed four goals on his way to helping West Germany lift the trophy. This included a goal during his country’s 2-1 win over Johan Cruyff and the Netherlands in the Final.

For 32 years, Gerd Muller stood alone at the top of the all-time World Cup scorers ranking. But a certain Brazilian phenomenon overtook the legendary forward.

#2: Ronaldo – 15 goals

“R9” played in three World Cups during his career, as well as in two finals. He was also a member of Brazil’s victorious squad in 1994 but did not make an appearance.

However, the 1998 showpiece was one to forget through no fault of his own. A seizure ahead of the Final meant that Ronaldo was really not fit to play, but Brazil felt like they needed their talisman. He, unfortunately, could not make an impact as France defeated Selecao 3-0.

Following this, though, Ronaldo avenged the heartbreak from four years earlier at the 2002 World Cup. He took home the golden boot at the Korea/Japan tournament thanks to his eight goals. In addition, he vanquished his Final demons from 1998 by scoring twice to lead Brazil to the trophy.

At his last World Cup, Ronaldo surpassed Gerd Muller’s record of 14 World Cup goals with three strikes in 2006. A brace against Japan put him level with Der Bomber before he overtook Muller with a goal vs Ghana.

As a result, his two winners’ medals and 15 goals put Ronaldo as one of the greatest World Cup strikers of all time. But even O Fenomeno lost the top spot to a different World Cup winner.

#1: Miroslav Klose – 16 goals

Former Germany striker Miroslav Klose leads everyone with the most goals in World Cup history. The Die Mannschaft legend managed 16 strikes in 24 World Cup matches during his long international career.

Klose began his World Cup story with a hat-trick on his debut. His three goals came during Germany’s 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia in 2002 – their biggest-ever World Cup victory. The forward then added a goal in the other two group matches at the tournament.

At the following World Cup, held in Germany, Klose scored five goals as the hosts reached the semi-finals. This tally of strikes also earned him the golden boot at the 2006 tournament, too. In South Africa, Klose put himself within touching distance of R9’s record with four more goals. This included a brace during his side’s 4-0 quarterfinal win over Argentina.

However, his career peaked at the 2014 tournament in Brazil. In a moment seemingly written in the stars, Klose overtook Ronaldo as the top scorer in World Cup history when he scored in the iconic 7-1 semi-final. This was the second of his two goals at the tournament after he had netted in the group stage.

Of course, Brazil 2014 also saw Klose finally pick up a World Cup winners’ medal. Overall, you can say it was a pretty good tournament for the German.

For now, at least, Miroslav Klose leads the World Cup record books. But he must be wary of the potential for Kylian Mbappe – still only 23 – to overtake him at some point in the future.

Featured image credit: Getty