Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently had his 50 goals milestone (also a national record for Sweden) prior to with 100 appearance for the team. With 50 goals in 100 games he's averaging a goal in every second game which is as far as I can tell a great ratio, making him one of the most prominent strikers of modern football.

Which brings me to my question, who is the "best" striker in football history, judging by the goals/appearances ratio? In order to avoid outliers with only a few caps, I chose to focus on veteran strikers who have played at least 25/50/100 games for their national team.

  • Just to clarify, best goal/appearance ratio for National team games only, right?
    – Nick
    Sep 9, 2014 at 15:19
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    A cap limit is needed, but limiting to 100+ caps removes quite a few veterans from previous eras, like Pelé, Gerd Müller, Ferenc Puskás and Sándor Kocsis, who are more than statistical outliers. So good question, but don't expect a definitive answer to the "best" in history.
    – Fillet
    Sep 9, 2014 at 18:28
  • @Fillet agreed, I had to put a limit and went with 100 as it's relevant for Zlatan's accomplishment. It would be interesting to check that stat with 50 caps as well, I agree.
    – posdef
    Sep 10, 2014 at 9:58
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    @posdef Min. 25 games, Poul Nielsen 1.37; Min 50 games, Ferenc Puskás 0.99...
    – Nick
    Sep 10, 2014 at 12:33
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    What I have just realized about this Wiki, is that it is most goals for each country, not highest ratio! My answer will need to be revised because the question asks for best goal ratio, which this Wiki does not necessarily tell us. E.g., Klose has the most goals for Germany, but Gerd Muller actually has a better ratio...
    – Nick
    Sep 11, 2014 at 12:36

2 Answers 2


Since this answer will probably need occasional updates, I have made it community wiki.

The post is compiled from these sources:1

Below is the list of players having more goals than caps which have played at least 25/50 international games.

25+ caps

  1. Poul Nielsen (Denmark) 1.37 (52 goals in 38 games)
  2. Gunnar Nordahl (Sweden) 1.30 (43 goals in 33 games)
  3. Sven Rydell (Sweden) 1.14 (49 goals in 43 games)
  4. Ernest Wilimowski (Poland, West Germany) 1.13 (34 goals in 30 games)

50+ caps

  1. Sándor Kocsis (Hungary) 1.102 (75 goals in 68 games)
  2. Gerd Müller (Germany) 1.097 (68 goals in 62 games)

100+ caps

According to the sources I cited above, there are no players in this category with an average number of goals above 1. The best goals-per-game ratio of any player with 100+ caps is that of Ali Daei (Iran), at 0.74 (109 goals in 148 games).

The players with at least 100 caps and average at least 0.50 can be found in the Wikipedia article: List of men's footballers with 50 or more international goals.

Ferenc Puskás is close to 1 goal per match ratio with 84 goals in 85 matches if we only count his appearances for Hungary. After emigration he also played in 4 international matches for Spain.

Another near-miss is Kunishige Kamamoto (Japan) with 75 goals in 76 appearances.

Also Luis Artime (Argentina) was very close to make the above list, with 24 goals in 25 appearances.

1 See also the comments to Nicholas V.'s answer and the links mentioned there.

  • I am not sure about the reason, but Godfrey Chitalu is now missing from the list on Wikipedia. Here is a link to an older revision where he was still included.
    – Martin
    Dec 16, 2014 at 14:38

Information on record scorers by country is available on Wikipedia.

With the table sorted by Goal scoring ratio, the highest goals per international game meeting the minimum national caps is listed below:

Min. 100 Caps:

  • Godfrey Chitalu, with a ratio of 0.73 goals per international game played.

Min. 50 Caps:

  • Ferenc Puskás, with a ratio of 0.99 goals per international game played.

Min. 25 Caps:

  • Poul Nielsen, with a ratio of 1.37 goals per international game played.

Screenshot on Wikipedia table used in answering this question.

Assuming Wikipedia's data is accurate.

  • 1
    According to this table is it possible that a player from Iran has scored 108 gol with 108 caps (for example) with a ratio of 1. So I think this table do not reply correctly, mostly for >25 and >50 caps
    – Ale
    Sep 11, 2014 at 11:53
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    Agree with @Ale, except that is it not only possible: According to wikipedia, Gerd Müller has scored 68 goals in 62 appearances, so the above list (including only the top scorers by country in terms of total goals) is the wrong source to answer this question.
    – arne.b
    Sep 12, 2014 at 8:26
  • That's it! In fact for min 50 caps and min 25 caps the reply is more difficult
    – Ale
    Sep 12, 2014 at 9:09
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    For example, Sandor Kocsis has 1.10 average from 68 games, see here. I think that this link might help. (It was given in the Wikipedia article you mentioned in your answer.)
    – Martin
    Sep 12, 2014 at 15:10
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    As far as Puskás is concerned, it should be mentioned that the ratio 0.99 is calculated only from his games for Hungary. After his emigration, he also played 4 games for Spain, but did not score any goals.
    – Martin
    Sep 26, 2014 at 8:06

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