With 801 goals, is Ronaldo the top scorer in football history?

Thanks to his successful brace on Thursday in Manchester United’s victory against Arsenal (3-2), Cristiano Ronaldo has surpassed the 800 career goal mark. But the Portuguese does not yet hold the absolute record.

Possession, duels won, number of passes, kilometers covered, shooting accuracy or even expected goals. Data is now everywhere in the football world. It is impossible to miss these statistics as their production has exploded. This was not the case a few years ago. Even less in the last century. Which poses a slight concern when answering an existential question: who is the top scorer in football history? Some would be tempted to respond instinctively to Cristiano Ronaldo. Used to breaking records every week or so, he made history a little more by surpassing a mythical bar on Thursday. Author of a new double against Arsenal (3-2) in the Premier League, number 7 Manchester United now has 801 career goals, clubs and selection combined. In detail, that represents 5 goals with Sporting, 450 with Real Madrid, 101 with Juve, 130 with the Red Devils and 115 with Portugal.

Simply dizzying. And proof that he still has beautiful leftovers for almost 37 years (he will celebrate them on February 5). But as a connoisseur of his sport, Ronaldo must know that he does not hold the absolute record in terms of goals scored. This one is held, a priori not for a long time, by a certain Josef “Pepi” Bican. This Austro-Czechoslovakian striker, who died in 2001, mainly martyred the defenses between 1937 and 1948 under the colors of Slavia Prague. With in total, according to Fifa figures, 805 goals scored during his career in 530 games played, an incredible average of 1.52 goals per game. Just that. For sports historian Radovan Jelinek, interviewed by Fifa, Bican “had the immense misfortune that at the height of his career, there was no World Cup, in 1942 and in 1946, because of the war.” And to add: “If that of 1942, for example, had taken place, he would surely have become much more popular. Maybe he could have become as famous as Pelé.” Let us deal with the case of the Brazilian. The legend, which he himself was responsible for maintaining, says that he would have scored more than 1,000 goals between 1956, when he made his debut at Santos, and 1977, his last year at the New York Cosmos.

Pelé, Bican or Helmchen?

His Instagram bio even indicates that he is “the top scorer of all time” with exactly 1,283 goals on the clock. Rather paradoxical when we remember Pelé’s congratulations for Ronaldo after the 770th goal scored by the five-time Golden Ball at the start of the year. “What a great career you have. I admire you a lot, it’s no secret. Congratulations on having broken my record for goals in an official match,” reacted the three-time World Cup winner, a handsome player. “I am filled with joy and pride. Beating Pelé’s record is something I could never have dreamed of when I was a child in Madeira,” Ronaldo replied. The debate could end there. Except that another former Brazilian striker, Romario, claims for his part 1,000 goals. By raking very, very, very broad since it counts those registered in its youth, in friendly and even during exhibition matches. And it’s not over.

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Because if Fifa does not keep any particular count of the best scorers in history in official matches, which seriously complicates the task when answering our initial question, an organization has embarked on this vast undertaking: la Rec Sport Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF). Responsible for collecting the most reliable data on football, she believes that the top scorer in history is neither Pelé, nor Bican, nor Ronaldo, let alone Romario. The king of this sport would be the German Erwin Helmchen, a terror of surfaces who worked in the 1930s with Cottbus and especially the Chemnitzer PSV. With at least 982 goals to his credit. In this classification proposed by the RSSSF, the podium is completed by Bican (948 goals) and the Englishman Ronnie Rooke (886 goals). You are lost ? Attention, last element proposed by the Czech Federation, which recently came to add its little grain of salt. By affirming, supporting documents, that the record is actually held by… Bican with 821 goals. And while passing this advice to Ronaldo: “He is not yet the top scorer in history, he must work more to beat this record.”

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