When Cristiano Ronaldo notched his 109th international goal for Portugal against the Republic of Ireland back in 2021, he was proclaimed as the leading goalscorer in international football history.
It’s true that CR7 passed the previous record set by Ali Daei, while his continued goalscoring exploits have ensured that he has kept his friendly nemesis, Lionel Messi, at arm’s length in the standings.
But Ronaldo isn’t the leading scorer in international football full stop, because in the women’s game there’s a handful of stars who have more goals to their name than the former Manchester United and Real Madrid legend.
The best in the business is – or was, at least – Christine Sinclair. The Canadian has announced that she is bringing the curtain down on her international career; a run which has brought her a scarcely-believable 190 goals in 322 appearances.
So here’s a better look at the players that have scored the most international goals, with the top spots dominated by those from the women’s game.
*Maysa Jbarah is still an active player so could add to her goal tally
Christine Sinclair (190 goals)
It’s incredible that a footballer has the longevity to even win 322 caps for their country, let along enjoy a 0.59 goal-per-game ratio within that timeframe.
Sinclair made her Canada debut when she was 17 and hung up her boots, internationally speaking, in 2923 at the age of 40 – an extraordinary span for an outfield player.
In that time, Sinclair has witnessed women’s football change beyond all recognition, but one thing that has remained constant throughout is her natural ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
Those abilities saw Sinclair nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year on eight different occasions, with the Olympic Games providing her with the crowning moments of her international career.
She scored a famous hat-trick in the semi-finals of the 2012 Games against Canada’s old rivals the United States, winning the Golden Boot at the tournament, before Sinclair and her Canadian teammates would finally have a gold medal placed around their necks in 2021, where they defeated Sweden in the final.
Abby Wambach (184 goals)
It’s a very select band of footballers that can win the FIFA World Player of the Year award and appear on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people on the planet.
But that’s the company that Abby Wambach keeps, thanks to a career that transcended football but one that put up some serious numbers out on the pitch too – 184 international goals in 256 appearances, at a ratio of 0.72 (better than Ronaldo and Messi), perhaps being the pick of the lot.
A World Cup winner, Olympic gold medallist and the writer of a memoir that became a New York Times best seller, Wambach is one of these footballers that transcended the beautiful game, and you wonder how many youngsters were inspired to try ‘soccer’ for the first time thanks to her brilliance on the pitch and her eloquence off it.
Mia Hamm (158 goals)
A trailblazer for those outstanding players that would follow, you do wonder how many more records Mia Hamm would have broken had she played in the modern era.
In truth, women’s football was in a much different place in the 1980s and 90s, which was a time when the game simply hadn’t embraced professionalism on a global scale – as such, the standard perhaps wasn’t as good as it is today.
But that should not detract from the performances of Hamm, a two-time World Cup winner and dual Olympic gold medallist who became one of the first true superstars of the women’s game.
She played in four World Cups, which in itself is some achievement, won 276 caps and scored 158 goals – numbers that require no further explanation or promotion.
Carli Lloyd (134 goals)
The accolades kept on tumbling for Carli Lloyd throughout her illustrious career.
In fact, they tended to come in twos: she won two World Cups with the United States, two Olympic gold medals and was named FIFA World Player of the Year twice as well.
Twice Lloyd scored the goals that won the U.S. those Olympic gold medals, and the 316 caps she won for the Stars & Stripes puts her second on the all-time list of appearance-makers.
In 2015, Lloyd was named as the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year having received over 35% of the voting points.
The highest-paid women’s footballer in history, Lloyd took the baton from Hamm and Wambach and ran with it.
Maysa Jbarah (133 goals and counting)
At the age of 34 (at the time of writing), it’s not impossible that Maysa Jbarah will go on to score many more international goals for Jordan.
But even if she doesn’t, Jbarah can look back on a phenomenal career that has yielded 133 goals in just 129 caps – the only footballer to score 100 or more international goals at a ratio of better than one per game.
💯 Maysa Jbarah opens the scoring for hosts 🇯🇴 at the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup 🎉
— AFC (@theafcdotcom) August 16, 2020
The Jordanian has opted to play much of her club football in the Middle East, which perhaps explains why her exploits have gone under the radar, and while Jordan may never make the World Cup – depriving Jbarah of the stage she deserves – her place in football’s hall of fame is secure nonetheless.