Pele was Brazil’s record goalscorer for 61 years. His tally of 77 for the Selecao had looked unbeatable for decades as dozens of the nation’s greats came and went without coming too close to his total.
But that all changed in the early hours of Saturday morning as Brazil hammered Bolivia 5-1 in a World Cup qualifying match.
Neymar – the poster boy of Brazil for the last decade – netted a brace against Bolivia, surpassing Pele’s previously insurmountable tally in the process. The 31-year-old bagged his 78th and 79th goals in Brazil’s commanding victory, making him the most prolific men’s player to have ever donned the famous yellow jersey.
Undoubtedly an impressive tally, but how does Neymar’s ruthlessness in front of goal compare to some of international football’s other superstars?
Ronaldo, Romario and Zico had already been bettered by Neymar before Pele’s record tumbled as well. The Al Hilal forward has plenty of time to bolster his total too given he’s only 31 years old and still very much Brazil’s star man.
Neymar’s first goal for Brazil came in 2010 with the mercurial attacker having netted 28 minutes into his debut against the United States in an international friendly. Over a decade later, Neymar has added another 78 to his name, including eight at World Cups and five in Copas America.
Kylian Mbappe does have something that his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar doesn’t: a World Cup winner’s medal. The forward lifted the famous trophy at just 19 years old with France back in 2018 and could have had another after his hat-trick in the 2022 final against Argentina if it wasn’t for some wayward spot kicks from his teammates in the penalty shootout.
To have earned 71 international caps at just 24 years old is truly astonishing, and to have provided a combined 65 goals and assists in those appearances is even more awe-inspiring.
Mbappe managed his first goal for the Blues way back in 2017 when he was just 18 years old, scoring a late goal in a 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands in World Cup qualifying. In all honesty, there is nothing stopping Mbappe from breaking plenty of international records over the course of what promises to be a sensational career.
When Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup trophy in Qatar, there was a sense that the Argentine had officially completed football. The one trophy he had been longing for since making his international debut back in 2005 was finally in his grasp.
It has been an 18-year international journey filled with highs and lows. Messi’s suffered as well as celebrated. But it’s not over for the 36-year-old just yet.
Messi has already featured four times for Argentina since their World Cup triumph, netting six goals in said matches. His current tally of 104 is mightily impressive, but he is still some way off his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Neymar may have Brazil’s goalscoring record, but Cristiano Ronaldo has the world’s goalscoring record among male players. His total of 123 for Portugal makes him the most prolific goalscorer in international men’s football history, and the 38-year-old is still hungry for more.
The Al Nassr forward has managed eight World Cup goals, as well as a record 14 in European Championships – a tally he will be hopeful of adding to in Germany at Euro 2024.
The famous number seven has made over 200 appearances for Portugal too, with his debut coming against Kazakhstan back in 2003. He would have to wait another eight games before his first international goal, however, with the then-Manchester United forward netting in a Euro 2004 defeat to Greece.
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