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Check out our map of each European nation’s highest international goal scorers. It shows that a player will most likely need to hit more than 50 goals for his country if he wants the crown.
This is certainly true for the traditional big countries like France, Spain, Portugal, England and Germany. Though it’s strange to see that Luigi Riva is still hanging onto top spot for Italy, with just 35.
Let’s run through the top five:
A compact and nimble striker, David Villa added a cutting edge to Spain’s collection of technical talents. There hasn’t been a more clinical one-on-one finisher in the last ten years.
And Villa’s intuitive ability to make off-the-ball runs got him into dangerous positions time and again.
Villa was also your man if you needed goals in the big competitions: an impressive 12 of his 59 goals came in major international tournaments.
At well over a goal every other game, Villa helped turn Spain from crowd-pleasing also-rans to a team that everyone feared.
Easily the best Swedish player of his generation, Ibra led his nation to a succession of international tournaments.
In his early days he was a wiry forward, able to dribble past defenders at will. Later he settled as a classic centre-forward, but with an eye for the spectacular and physical condition few possess.
What’s also interesting about his tally of 62 goals is that he went through a two-year competitive goal drought that extended across the entire Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.
To have still managed a one in two record for Sweden shows how deadly he can still be when he’s hot.
Still going at 35, Keane is another player whose tally has benefited from his longevity (67 goals).
For much of his career, the former Tottenham striker has been underestimated. Despite a brief spell at Inter Milan he never quite reached the highest level of club football.
But if you needed someone to conjure a moment of magic then Keane usually obliged.
In his best years he had a knack for sudden changes of direction in the box, and being able to get a shot away under pressure.
Without wanting to downplay his achievements, it should be noted that many of his goals have come in qualifiers against teams like the Faroe Islands, Malta, San Marino and Gibraltar.
Even though Klose’s illustrious career is only now ending, he seems like a striker from a different time. He’s a goal scorer and not much more. A prolific poacher who won’t get you off your seat, but will get the job done.
Any player that gets to 137 caps and plays top-tier football to the age of 38 has to be a true professional.
But what Klose also possessed was a ruthlessness that only the best strikers share.
In 2002 he made this clear on the biggest stage by scoring five headers in a single World Cup, including a hat-trick against Saudi Arabia.
His total tally? 71 goals.
Before the Ronaldo and Messi era people tried to devalue the immense goal-scoring exploits of the ‘Galloping Major’ as the product of a different time.
But now we know that it is possible for a player to score a goal a game in a competitive environment.
Puskás had everything except a right foot. He was deadly from distance and composed in the area. He could dribble, he was an organiser and he had great vision.
As his teammate Jeno Buzanszky put it: “If a good player has the ball, he should have the vision to spot three options. Puskás always saw at least five.”
With 84 goals scored for Hungary in international games, Puskás is number 1 on this list of top international scorers.
Goals don’t count for everything.
And even if they do, Puskás and Villa needed fewer matches to achieve their tallies than the other players on the list.
The lesson to learn is that if you want your name in football’s history books, it pays to have a long career.
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