Top goal scorers in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo tops 2023 global football leaders, beating Kane and Mbappe

Cristiano Ronaldo may be turning 39 years old in just over a month, but he remains on top of the football world for yet another calendar year.

The Portuguese superstar has dominated the scoring charts in Saudi Arabia, helping Al Nassr to challenge for trophies domestically and abroad. He’s also pitched in feverishly for the Portugal national team in front of net, proving he can perform on the European stage despite moving his club career to the Asian confederation.

Between club and country, Ronaldo will almost surely finish 2023 as the global top goal scorer for the latest calendar year.

In his prolific campaign, Ronaldo is currently atop the Saudi Pro League goalscoring chart and finished Euro 2024 qualifying as the competition’s leading goal marksman. There seems little doubt he will lead his country’s challenge at the finals of Euro 2024 in Germany next year.

What a year it’s been for Ronaldo, just inching past Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe for the global mark.

MORE: All of Lionel Messi’s longest goalscoring streaks in his club and national-team career

Top goal scorers in the world: Most scored globally in 2023

Al Nassr star Cristiano Ronaldo leads all global scorers in 2023 with 53 goals for club and country, and with one match left to play for Al Nassr to pad his lead.

In a year in which he finished his career with Tottenham and made a sparkling start to his time with Bayern Munich, Harry Kane fell just short of the top spot, ending 2023 with 52 goals as the German league entered its winter break. Same for Kylian Mbappe, who bagged the same total before PSG’s schedule wrapped for the year.

Man City have a few more games to go, but Erling Haaland will not get the chance to challenge as a foot injury troubled him through December. He is not expected to play again until January.

Ferencvaros frontman Barnabas Varga is a lesser-known challenger, as his club form in the Hungarian top flight and Europa Conference League helped the 29-year-old earn a place on the Hungary national team where he bagged four goals in his first seven international appearances.

Over in the Americas, where their club seasons are played across a calendar-year schedule, LAFC forward Denis Bouanga won the MLS Golden Boot and set the league record for goals in a year across all competitions, beating his teammate Carlos Vela’s mark. Fluminense striker German Cano led his Brazilian club to its first-ever Copa Libertadores title and the final of the FIFA Club World Cup.

Pos. Player Goals Club Nation
1. Cristiano Ronaldo 53 Al Nassr Portugal
2. Harry Kane 52 Bayern Munich England
  Kylian Mbappe 52 PSG France
4. Erling Haaland 50 Man City Norway
5. Denis Bouanga 40 LAFC Gabon
  German Cano 40 Fluminense Argentina
7. Santiago Gimenez 39 Feyenoord Mexico
  Romelu Lukaku 39 AS Roma Belgium
  Barnabas Varga 39 Ferencvaros Hungary
10. Lautaro Martinez 37 Inter Milan Argentina

Top global goal scorers for past 10 years

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are well known for their goal scoring prowess, but the global leader in goals for a calendar year has actually been spread across a number of players, nations, clubs, and continents over the previous decade.

Ronaldo and Messi appear on the list a combined four times, but others show up as well. Robert Lewandowski‘s two-year run through the COVID seasons saw him famously robbed of a Ballon d’Or, while Harry Kane paced the field in 2017, fittingly replacing Lewandowski at Bayern this season.

Year Player Goals Club Nation
2023 Cristiano Ronaldo 53 Al Nassr Portugal
2022 Kylian Mbappe 56 PSG France
2021 Robert Lewandowski 69 Bayern Munich Poland
2020 Robert Lewandowski 47 Bayern Munich Poland
2019 Abderrazak Hamdallah 57 Al Nassr Morocco
2018 Baghdad Bounedjah 58 Al Sadd Algeria
2017 Harry Kane 56 Tottenham England
2016 Lionel Messi 58 Barcelona Argentina
2015 Cristiano Ronaldo 57 Real Madrid Portugal
2014 Cristiano Ronaldo 61 Real Madrid Portugal

Top goal scorers in a calendar year all-time record

The official FIFA record for most goals in a single calendar year is held by Lionel Messi whose legendary 2012 romp saw him bag 91 goals for club and country, helping lead Barcelona to the 2012/13 La Liga title and reaching the Champions League semifinals in both 2011/12 and 2012/13.

In that run, Messi also set the record for most consecutive games with a goal in a single competition, netting in a bonkers 21 straight La Liga matches.

Messi’s mark broke a 40-year record held by German superstar Gerd Muller who has seen his 85-goal tally in 1972 hold up across an astonishing four decades.

However, there’s one submission not officially recognised that some believe still holds the record. Godfrey Chitalu of Zambia, who played most of his club career for Kabwe Warriors, is claimed to have scored 116 goals in 1972, the same season Muller set his official record that would last for 40 years. Despite this, FIFA did not monitor the Zambian domestic competition so it was never officially confirmed.

Year Player Goals Club Nation
2012 Lionel Messi 91 Barcelona Argentina
1972 Gerd Muller 85 Bayern Munich Germany
1958 Pele 75 Santos Brazil
1965 Pele 72 Santos Brazil
1979 Zico 72 Flamengo Brazil
2000 Romario 72 Fluminense Brazil
2021 Robert Lewandowski 69 Bayern Munich Poland
2013 Cristiano Ronaldo 69 Real Madrid Portugal
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