Ok, so we’ve seen in Part I how we came to have the amazing record of 109 international goals we have now. And while it’s preposterous to think that some present day player might break it, I do want to mention some recent amazing goalscorers and to single out the few that may climb high enough to see Ali Daei’s back.
So, without Freddy Adu, let’s go:
The first amazing goalscorer chronologically is John Stern. Wait, who?! Michael, you made this one up, didn’t you?
Well, no. John Stern is an actual footballer, and I first heard of him before the 2006 World Cup. I like to read those special sports issues that come with the newspapers here before the World Cup. They usually contain various statistics about the various teams that take part in it – appearances and goals on all the players, etc. Before the internet they were the real deal. Anyway, as I read about the various teams taking part in that tournament, I reached Trinidad & Tobago. Now, obviously their most famous player was the great Dwight Yorke. BTW, isn’t it amazing that Yorke and Andy Cole were the most feared (and justly so) attacking duo in Europe in 1999? Can you imagine a similar situation today? My point exactly. However, as it turned out, Yorke’s stats for the national team paled in comparison to one, John Stern. Now, who the fuck is John Stern?! Luckily, Wikipedia was already invented back then, and I could dig up some more information about him.
As it turns out, John Stern is a Trinidadian striker who by the time he retired from T&T’s national team in 2012 has accumulated 115 and scored an amazing amount of 70 goals. Damn! Saying that his club career wasn’t as successful is the mother of all understatements. That number is still very far from Daei’s total, but we agreed not to mention Daei’s unapproachable total, right? What, we didn’t agree on that? Well, now we do.
Chronologically, our next player is Miroslav Klose. The great German striker is still playing, albeit at club level only, having retired from the national team after the Germans’ glorious World Cup campaign (I haven’t seen ze Germans so strong since 1941), in which Klose himself became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the World Cup, and only because of Joachim Low’s stupidity didn’t break Lothar Matthaus’s all-time World Cup appearances record. Klose had a lengthy career in the national team, a career that spanned 13 years and 137 caps. Hey, fun fact: among his first goals for Germany were the three he scored against Israel in 2001, during a match we lost 7-1 despite leading 1-0 at half-time… damn, you go Israel! We mentioned Gerd Muller in Part I of this post, and Klose just managed to break Gerd’s awesome record of 68 goals before he retired – he ended his international career with 71 goals to his credit. An amazing haul, but still good enough only for 7th place all-time.
Another modern-day player who had a very prolific international career is Didier Drogba, one of my (and in fact any Chelsea fan’s) all-time favorite Chelsea players. Drogba was a late bloomer, and he gained his first cap for Ivory Coast already when he was 24. This is probably the reason that this great player, one of the candidates for the “Greatest African Player Of All Time” title, “only” made 104 caps and scored 65 goals. Had he started his career like our usual typical superstar, say at age 20, he might have had 80 international goals to his credit by now… Anyway, now he’s already retired from the national team, although I’m not sure this is a permanent retirement… I bet there’s a 20% chance we’ll see him playing for the national team sometime in the future…
And from Drogba we go to another candidate for the ” Greatest African Player Of All Time” title, and surely Didier’s only rival for the ” Greatest African Player Of The Last 20 Years” title – his brother from another mother, Samuel Eto’o. Samuel enjoyed recognition earlier than Didier, and despite being 3 years younger than Drogba he made his World Cup debut back in 1998, at the tender age of 17 (Hmmmm… when I was 17, my biggest excitement was over the fact that Harry managed to ask Cho Chang out). Now, you might have expected him to accumulate something like 160 appearances by now, but no – Eto’o had some run-ins with the national team, and he even retired from national play a couple of times, only to return some time later. As of now he has 118 international matches to his credit, and 56 goals. His ratio is a little less than 0.5 goal per game, which is decent, but from a world-class striker such as Eto’o those numbers are a little disappointing, especially when one compares them to Drogba’s.
Eto’o announced his (yet another) retirement from the international team in the summer of 2014, but I feel that there’s a 40% chance that we’ll see him play in the next World Cup if Cameroon qualifies. If he does, it will be his 5th, and he will equal the all-time record of Antonio Carbajal and Lothar Matthaus (Buffon also has 5 to his credit, but he didn’t play at all in 1998, so despite my eternal love for the Azzurri, I can’t count him as am equal to Lothar and Antonio). Eto’o’s achievement will be even more impressive, because his 5 World Cups would be spread over 20 years and not 16, since Cameroon missed the 2006 edition. Anyway, Eto’o is still really lame because he could have accumulated something like 70 goals by now if it weren’t for his antics.
You know who doesn’t have any antics? Robbie Keane, that’s who! The awesome Irish international, who made his debut for the national team 17 years ago (!!). Can you fucking believe it?! 17 years ago! And it’s not like he’s 40 or something, he’s still only 34 years old. Almost 13 years ago, Keane had a great World Cup, scoring 3 goals in Japan/South Korea 2002, and until several years ago he enjoyed a great career in the Premier League, with his only mistake (in my opinion) being the temporary transfer to Liverpool in 2008. But Keane has been a lock for the Irish national team for the past 17 years, and he is Ireland’s all-time
leader in both caps (138) and goals (65). The ratio? Very good, almost half a goal per game. And that’s with a team like Ireland, which almost never qualifies for big tournaments. 65 goals are a really huge number, and in fact Robbie is the internationally active player with the highest amount of international goals to his credit. That total puts him in 13th place all-time, which he shares with Drogba (who, as we mentioned earlier, is not playing international football anymore).
Robbie’s form is still excellent, as he has continually displayed these past few years in the MLS, and it is a real possibility that he will score 70+ goals by the time he hangs up his boots. In fact, I reckon there’s a decent chance that he will finish his career with 75 goals, which will put him in the all-time top 6. You go, Robbie!
From Keane we move over to a slightly more famous footballer – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Oh, Zlatan, Zlatan… This truly unique footballer is already 33 years old, but somehow it seems that his career peak only started when he was 30. And it is true both for club-level and for international play. Until 2012, Zlatan scored 28 goals in 77 games for Sweden. 2012 and onwards? 26 goals in 26 games!!! What. The. Fuck. So overall Zlatan now has 54 international goals. Which is a very decent number, but judging by the fact that he is already 33 years old… I think it will be very nice of him to finish with 65 goals, but I think that any number higher than that is not so probable. In addition, Zlatan is the kind of player who can suddenly say “fuck off” and retire from the international team. He doesn’t strike me as the Beckham type of player. I can definitely see him retire from international play in the next year or so. However, perhaps the prospect of playing in one last World Cup, at the age of 36, will make him want to continue? Let us hope so, it is always a real treat to see this grand player in action.
Next on the list – Cristiano Ronaldo. It seems that there’s something in common for all those great players of the last generation, because Cristiano – like Zlatan and like another great player who will be mentioned soon (no, sadly it’s not Lord Bendtner) found his greatest success in the national team in recent years. Although Cristiano started playing internationally at the age of 18, in his first 79 matches he managed to score only 25 goals – very much like Zlatan. But since 2011? 27 goals in 40 games. Very good. Not Zlatan-like good, but still – very impressive. Cristiano became Portugal’s all-time top scorer in recent years, and as of now he has accumulated 52 international goals to his credit. I already wrote previously about me expecting him to accumulate 160 appearances, and maybe even 170. Taking these numbers into account, I reckon he can finish his career with 70+ goals, probably around 75, because we see that he fails to import his goalscoring prowess from Real Madrid to the national team. Still – that will be extremely impressive.
You obviously guessed by now who our next player will be, but I must disappoint you. Our next stop is Wayne Rooney. It’s hard to believe Rooney is already 29 years old, we (well, at least I) still remember him shining as an 18 year-old in Euro 2004. But yes, sadly, Rooney is getting old just like the rest of us, and he already has 103 caps and 47 goals to his credit. And, believe it or not, he also has a somewhat similar story to Zlatan and Cristiano: 28 goals in his first 73 games. It’s amazing how their numbers are so much alike. But since then? 19 goals in 30 matches. However, Rooney is not the amazing scorer Zlatan and Cristiano are. I think he might make it to 65 goals by the time he retires, but no more than that. And by the time he does that, it probably won’t be enough to even make it to the top 20 all-time. So why is he even mentioned here? I really don’t know. Who put him here?! Who’s in charge of this thing?! I wanna talk to the manager!
The jewel in the crown – Messi, is our the safest bet here. As of now, this otherworldly player amassed 45 goals in 97 appearances. He’s still not even the top scorer of the Argentinean national team, but come on – we all know it’s only a matter of a year or two before he surpasses Batistuta. And like our previously mentioned superstars, Messi has been in a truly remarkable form in the past few years. Until 2012, he had 19 goals in 67 matches – a very poor tally for a player of historical caliber he already was back then. However, Messi heard the criticisms, and decided to respond in the best way possible – 26 goals in his next 30 matches! Damn, Leo! You got game! Despite the fact that his goals total is less than that of the previously mentioned
players, one must remember that Messi is also younger, and is still only 27 years old. In the post about the international appearances record I wrote that I expect Messi to reach 150 appearances. If he does, I believe that he might also reach something like 80 international goals. And that’s a reasonable estimate in my opinion. His numbers for the national team might never match those he displays for Barcelona, but 35 goals in the next 53 matches is definitely doable for Messi. 80 goals in international matches are an extraordinary number, and it will put Messi in 3rd place all-time, with Ali Daei and Puskas ahead of him. I really hope to see him accomplish that, and who knows – this is fucking Messi, he might even exceed my expectations…
Surprisingly enough, Messi is not our last player. There is one player whose international numbers might outshine even those of Leo himself. And incidentally, they share the same locker-room at club-level. No, it’s not Jeremy Mathieu, although that’s a really decent guess – take 5 points for that.
Neymar’s the name, goalscoring’s the game.
It’s hard to believe, but Neymar is still only 23 years old. Even harder to believe is his tally for the Brazil national team: 62 matches, 43 goals! Whaaaaaat?! Now you’re talking! Those are exactly the numbers expected from someone who is thinking about threatening Daei’s all-time record. Wow. And did I mention that the guy is only 23 years old? Twenty three! Now, Brazilian attacking players have a tendency to burn themselves by the time they are 30. Just think about examples from recent times: Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano, Rivaldo and the likes. None of them enjoyed success in the national team after they turned 30. Luckily, Neymar still has several
good great years before that horrific age (which I also dread). Neymar is in an excellent position to threaten Daei’s record because he plays for a national team that is known for playing many matches per year, and many of them being against not very strong opponents. This allows him to accumulate goals at a rapid pace.
I have absolutely no idea how Neymar’s career will turn out, but I think we can bet on him to reach 100 caps by the time he turns 27 and hits his supposed prime (although it seems that Brazilian player’s primes come earlier). How many goals will he have by then? Well, to quote those awesome “Old Spice” commercials – “Anything is possible”… He might have 60, he might have 70. I’m rooting for the latter, obviously (scoring 27 goals in his next 38 matches? difficult but possible). And of course he will then have several more years left in him. There is a certain possibility that he will reach 80 international goals in 6 years, and perhaps even more than that, but despite the fact that it is possible (I mean – he has 43 goals by age 23!), I’m really struggling to imagine that, because it’s such an unbelievable amount.
Could he possibly score more goals for Brazil than Pele (77)? There’s no doubt he won’t play for the national team when he’s 34 or something like that – unlike Ali Daei, and so he must accumulate them goals as fast as he can right now. So far he’s doing it beautifully. One must remember that Daei didn’t even earn his 1st cap for Iran until he was 24! And he reached his 43rd international goal when he was 29 already. His secret was to keep playing and scoring well into his thirties. I won’t put my money on Neymar breaking Daei’s record, because right now it truly seems impossible. But I think that he has the best chance of approaching it among the current superstars of football.
Aaaaaaand that’s it. I guess it will be fun to return to this post 5 years from now and see how far off I was and then have a laugh.