Cristiano Ronaldo’s career has been built on achieving the seemingly impossible with an ever-present ruthless efficiency in front of goal.
The 37-year-old has sent goalscoring records tumbling throughout his trophy-laden career, being the top marksman in the history of both Real Madrid and the Portugal national team, wonderful achievements indeed.
However, his hat trick in Manchester United’s dramatic 3-2 Premier League win over Tottenham on March 12, 2022 set a new benchmark of personal excellence for Ronaldo.
A first hat trick since returning to United in the summer of 2021 lifted Ronaldo up to 807 career goals with numerous outlets crowning him as the highest-ever goal scorer in the history of men’s football, as recognized by FIFA.
He went on to score six more goals in the 2021/22 Premier League season and two more UEFA Nations League goals with Portugal in June 2022. He has three more goals in the 2022/23 season: two against FC Sheriff in the Europa League and one against Everton in the Premier League to reach the 818-goal mark. That became 819 at Portugal’s first match of the World Cup, in which he scored a penalty against Ghana.
His strike against Everton also took his tally at club level to a remarkable 700.
Sporting News reached out to FIFA to confirm the list, but the world governing body said it does not keep an official list of the statistics of the goals scored by individual players. That hasn’t stopped other outlets, including Goal.com, from listing the following top 10 “FIFA-recognized goals” totals:
Stats correct as of Jan 19, 2023
MORE: Updated list of Premier League top scorers
Ronaldo breaks FIFA goals record
Ronaldo’s goal-scoring exploits have reignited United fans adoration for their hero and their view of him being the ultimate ‘GOAT’.
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) March 12, 2022
However, the record itself is open to interpretation, with some football historians claiming it is impossible to know for certain due to the lack of accurate recording keeping in pre-20th century football.
The record Ronaldo has broken relates to FIFA’s estimated number of games and goals recorded during their existence as an organization, with the previous record holder Josef Bican scoring an incredible 805 goals between 1931 and 1955. Ronaldo is in the 20th year of his career.
But there is still plenty of dispute over Bican’s actual numbers, with Brazilian icon Pele also claiming to have scored over 1,000 career goals — though that has not been confirmed.
MORE: Top Champions League goal scorers
No consensus on goals world record for men
In terms of accepted recognition, Ronaldo has now established himself as the ‘top goal scorer in recognized FIFA games’, but the argument will rage on.
The Czech FA have regularly disputed Bican’s figure of 805 with claims that he actually scored 821 when the final tallies were recorded.
The best goalscorer in football history? 🤔
The History and Statistics committee of the Czech FA counted all the goals scored by the legendary Josef Bican and we can declare he scored 821 goals in official matches.
Jaroslav Kolář, the Head of the committee shares more details. pic.twitter.com/eYqTcGJf1p
— Czech Football National Team (@ceskarepre_eng) January 21, 2021
However, Ronaldo has record keepers on his side in this one, with his own figures indisputable and not connected with amateur football, as some of Pele’s goals are.
Bican’s numbers illustrate the information gap between national federations and world-governing body FIFA, with his domestic supporters claiming the higher number is accurate, with FIFA stating they could both be wrong with a possible total of 823, as per reports from ESPN.
Pele’s one-man crusade to keep himself at the top of the pile has taken on a personal angle for the Brazilian legend, with his ‘official number’ placed at 757, but the man himself claiming to have netted a whopping 1,283 despite a distinct lack of proof.
I have scored 1283 goals in my life,
— Pelé (@Pele) September 25, 2015
FIFA and South American body CONMEBOL have previously registered Pele with 1,281 goals in 1,363 games, but these include youth, friendly and non-official games, which Ronaldo’s figure does not include.
According to the authoritative and widely cited RSSSF organization (Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation), their totals and rankings are also different.
The situation is made even more complicated by the Guinness Book of World Records, who add their confirmation of Pele as the record holder, but with 1,279 goals, as exhibition goals are prohibited by their count.
— Guinness World Records (@GWR) August 30, 2016
One way to interpret this jumble of information: Ronaldo is the new leader as far as ‘goals in official games’ with Pele’s disputed numbers giving him an edge in ‘overall games’.
Where has Ronaldo scored his 819 goals?
Ronaldo has scored more than half of his goals at Real Madrid with 450.
He’s bagged 145 at Manchester United, as well as 118 with the Portugal national team, 101 with Juventus and five with first club Sporting CP.
|Portugal national team||118|
There may be more goals coming to add to that grand total given Ronaldo is showing he can still score with the best of them.
His 18 Premier League goals in 2021/22 were good for third in England’s top division behind only Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min (23 goals). The previous year he finished as top scorer at Euro 2021 and in the Italian Serie A season with Juventus (29 goals).
A reminder of his longevity came with that record-setting hat trick against Tottenham. He got another Premier League hat trick just a few weeks later against Norwich City (April 16):
14 – Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second Premier League hat-trick and first since January 2008 against Newcastle. His two trebles were separated by 14 years & 59 days, the longest gap between hat-tricks for a player in Premier League history. Longevity. pic.twitter.com/UaOf7CU3yU
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 12, 2022