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Learn about the best finisher in football in history

Ending in football simply means scoring a goal or better yet, converting opportunities. That’s what fans love to see and it’s the ultimate goal on the field. It could be a long-range shot into the top corner, a delicate touch, a through ball, a volley, or a towering header; goals secure victory in a football match. While strikers are often the ones finishing, attacking players in various forward positions can be excellent finishers. Clinical finishers ensure that all the gameplay, ball-handling skills, tactics, and team efforts pay off. The best finishers in football history are those who maintain consistency over many years and tournaments, showcasing their abilities repeatedly with similar (or even better) efficiency. In this article, bestsoccertips examines the top 10 best finisher in football history.

Top 10 Best Finishers in World Football

1. Best finisher in football – Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo, hailed as one of the most formidable athletes in the history of the sport, boasts an impressive tally of more than 850 official goals throughout his illustrious career, representing both his club and national team. His remarkable feat solidifies his status as one of the most prolific goal-getters ever witnessed in the realm of football.

While not a natural striker, Ronaldo is a versatile attacking player, capable of playing on both wings as well as through the center. Despite being predominantly right-footed, he’s adept with both feet.

Best finisher in football: Cristiano Ronaldo
Best finisher in football: Cristiano Ronaldo

Strategically, he has experienced numerous transformations over the course of his career. While at Sporting and in his early years at Manchester United, he was often deployed as a traditional right-wing midfielder. Later, particularly at Real Madrid, CR7 transformed into what can accurately be described as a “goal-scoring machine.” He’s undoubtedly one of the most prolific finishers in football history.

2. Pelé

As a complete attacking player, Pelé’s 1,279 goals in 1,363 matches (including friendlies) are recognized by the Guinness World Records. The Brazilian athlete is universally recognized as one of the premier football talents in history. Maintaining an impressive goal-scoring rate of nearly one goal per match throughout his illustrious career, Pelé demonstrates exceptional proficiency in shooting with either foot and predicting opponent maneuvers on the pitch.

Best finishers in soccer: Pelé
Best finishers in soccer: Pelé

With an impressive tally of 77 goals in 92 matches for Brazil, he has maintained the record for the highest number of goals scored for a national team for more than five decades. Adding to his illustrious career, at the club level, he stands as Santos’ all-time leading goal-scorer, having netted an astounding 643 goals in 659 matches.

3. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is frequently acclaimed as the preeminent footballer in history, earning the title of the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in the sport. Although not a traditional striker, he is a versatile winger capable of playing in the attacking midfielder position or the “false 9”. Despite his small stature, Messi’s short, powerful legs enable him to excel in short bursts of acceleration, while his nimble feet allow him to maintain ball control at high speeds.

The Argentine legend is renowned for his finishing ability, positional awareness, quick reactions, and executing attacking moves to beat opposing defenses. He is often described as a wizard, a magician, creating goals and opportunities seemingly out of nothing. Furthermore, he is also proficient in taking accurate free kicks and penalties. As of September 2023, Messi ranks fifth all-time in direct free-kick goals with 65 goals, the most among active players. He also possesses a knack for scoring goals with delicate chip shots.

Best finishers in football history: Lionel Messi
Best finisher in football: Lionel Messi

However, besides being one of the finest goal scorers in the world, Lionel Messi also has a prolific assist record in a playmaking role. In fact, he is one of the footballers with the most assists in history. Additionally, Lionel Messi holds the records for most goals in La Liga (474), most hat-tricks in La Liga (36) and UEFA Champions League (eight), and most assists in La Liga (192) and Copa América (17). He is also the highest-scoring South American male international player (106 goals). Messi has scored over 800 goals in his career for club and country and is the all-time leading goal scorer for a club (672).

4. Gerd Müller

Considered one of the greatest goal scorers in football history, Gerd Müller is renowned for his exquisite finishing ability, especially inside and around the 6-yard box. He utilizes extreme acceleration and deceptive changes of pace to anticipate and bypass defenders. During his tenure with the West German national team at the international stage, he netted an impressive total of 68 goals in 62 matches. At the club level, during his 15-year tenure with Bayern Munich, he scored 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga matches, becoming – and remaining – the league’s all-time top scorer.

In 74 European club matches, he scored 65 goals. Averaging a goal per match with West Germany, Müller ranks 21st on the all-time international goal scorers list, despite playing fewer matches than any other player in the top 48. Among top goal scorers, he has the third-highest goals-per-match ratio. He also has the highest goals-per-match ratio at 0.97 goals in European Cups, scoring 34 goals in 35 matches. Dubbed “Der Bomber,” Müller was honored as the European Footballer of the Year in 1970.

Who is the best finisher in football: Gerd Müller
Who is the best finisher in football: Gerd Müller

After a successful season at Bayern Munich, he scored 10 goals at the 1970 FIFA World Cup for West Germany, where he received the Golden Boot as the top scorer, before winning the Ballon d’Or in 1970. In 1972, he won the UEFA European Championship and was the tournament’s top scorer, scoring two goals in the final. Two years later, he scored 4 goals at the 1974 World Cup, including the winning goal in the final. Gerd Müller held the all-time FIFA World Cup scoring record (with 14 goals) for 32 years.

5. Ferenc Puskás

Ferenc Puskás possessed excellent ball control, predominantly with his left foot, and had a superb first-touch technique, executing passes and crosses swiftly and accurately. He could also move and change positions rapidly on the field by shifting from the left to the center. He could deceive his opponents with fake dribbles and would leave his markers confused by feinting one way before going the other.

Best finisher in football: Ferenc Puskás
Best finisher in football: Ferenc Puskás

The Hungarian player had one of the strongest left-footed shots in history and often scored from distances ranging from 30 to 35 meters. Known as the “Galloping Major” in 1995, Puskás was recognized by IFFHS as the greatest goal-scoring player of the 20th century. He scored 806 goals in 793 official matches in his career and is considered one of the greatest number 9s in football.

He scored 84 remarkable goals in 85 international matches for Hungary! In October 2009, FIFA announced the introduction of the FIFA Puskás Award, given to the player who scored the “most beautiful goal” in the past year. This is one of the most prestigious awards in football.

6. Romario

A superb striker renowned for his exquisite finishing ability, Romario scored over 700 goals and is one of the few players to score at least 100 goals for three clubs. Considered a master of the restricted space inside the penalty area, his rapid speed over short distances (aided by a low center of gravity) enabled him to evade defenders, and he was famous for his trademark toe-poke finish.

Best finishers in soccer: Romario
Best finishers in soccer: Romario

With 55 goals in 70 appearances, he is the fourth-highest goal scorer for the Brazilian national team – behind Pelé, Neymar, and Ronaldo. He ranks third in the all-time top scorers list of the Brazilian league with 155 goals. Romario is the ninth-highest goal scorer in football history, with 784 goals in 1002 official matches.

He is considered one of the greatest players of all time. Romario played a leading role for Brazil in winning the 1994 FIFA World Cup, receiving the Golden Ball as the tournament’s outstanding player. He was honored as the FIFA World Player of the Year the same year.

7. Marco Van Basten

Considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, Marco Van Basten scored 300 goals at his peak but played his final match in 1993, at the age of 28, due to a career-ending ankle injury, which led him to announce his retirement two years later. His height and strength allowed him to excel in the air, while his technical ability and agility helped him execute spectacular strikes throughout his career, such as volleys and bicycle kicks.

Best finishers in football history: Marco Van Basten
Best finishers in football history: Marco Van Basten

As a nimble and opportunistic striker, with quick reactions and exceptional movement, he often capitalized on loose balls in the penalty area by anticipating defenders and having the ability to control fast and tricky balls with just a touch or even shooting directly at first touch. Possessing powerful, accurate shots and the ability to finish from various positions on the field, Van Basten could score with his feet from inside or outside the penalty area as well as with his head.

8. Eusébio

Nicknamed the “Black Panther,” “Black Pearl,” or “O Rei” (“The King”), Eusébio is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time and the greatest player in Benfica’s history to date. He was renowned for his speed, technique, physicality, and ferocious right-footed shot, making him a prolific goal scorer – tallying 733 goals in 745 matches. The Portuguese football legend is one of the most decorated players in history. Eusébio helped Portugal achieve third place at the 1966 FIFA World Cup, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with 9 goals.

Who is the best finisher in football: Eusébio
Best finisher in football: Eusébio

He is Benfica’s all-time leading goal scorer, with 473 goals in 440 appearances. He is the second-highest goal scorer (after Alfredo Di Stefano) in the pre-Champions League era of the European Cup with 48 goals. Eusébio was the top scorer of the European Cup in the seasons 1964/65, 1965/66, and 1967/68. Furthermore, Eusébio won the Bola de Prata for the top scorer of the Portuguese Primeira Liga a record seven times. He was the first player to win the European Golden Shoe in 1968, a feat he repeated in 1973.

9. Josef Bican

Josef Bican is one of the highest goal scorers of all time, with over 950 goals scored in 624 official matches. He scored 427 goals in 221 appearances for Slavia Praha during his 11-year stint at the club. Bican was a tall and powerful player, adept at playing with both feet and possessing significant speed.

Best finisher in football: Josef Bican
Best finisher in football: Josef Bican

During his athletic prime, he was said to be capable of running 100 meters in 10.8 seconds, not far behind the leading sprinters of his time. According to UEFA, he is the all-time top scorer in Europe’s top-tier competitions with 518 goals (447 goals in Czechoslovakia and 71 goals in Austria), slightly ahead of the legend Ferenc Puskás. Josef Bican was a member of the Austrian Wunderteam in the 1930s and represented the nation at the FIFA World Cup 1934, where they reached the semifinals.

10. Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan Ibrahimović is famous for his acrobatic and spectacular goals, technique, and ball control. He is considered one of the greatest strikers of all time and one of the most outstanding players in the world, having won 34 titles in his career. A precise header as well as foot shooter, his height, aerial prowess, and strength often give him an advantage in winning aerial challenges and also allow him to operate as a “target man”.

Best finishers in soccer: Zlatan Ibrahimović
Best finishers in soccer: Zlatan Ibrahimović

Despite his large stature, Ibrahimović is unusually agile for a player of his size, and his physicality as well as aerial ability have helped him score many goals from acrobatic and aerial efforts throughout his career – earning him the nickname “Ibracadabra” in Italian media.

He has scored over 570 goals in his career, including more than 500 club goals, and has scored in four different decades. He is Sweden’s all-time leading goal scorer with 62 goals. His bicycle kick goal from 35 yards for Sweden against England won the FIFA Puskás Award 2013 and is often considered one of the greatest goals of all time.


In the history of football, scoring goals is not just a technique, but also an art, an expression of talent and creativity. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s powerful shots into the top corner full of power to Lionel Messi’s delicate handling and cool finishing, every great player has their own way to conquer the opponent’s goal. The diversity in their styles and playing methods is an endless source of inspiration for future generations, affirming that the artistry in football is timeless.

See more: Top 10 football players with most hat tricks in history