Every soccer player worth their salt dreams of representing their country one day. Listening to the national anthem before a game sends tingles down their spine and inspires them to soar higher than ever before. Some players tend to crumble under pressure and fail to play their best game in their country’s colors, while others deliver memorable performances and become national heroes.
Below we will look at a few national idols who have redefined the art of goalscoring in international soccer this century. According to Transfermarkt, here are the top five players with the most international goals scored since 2000:
#5 Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) – 79 Goals
With 79 goals in 112 games, Romelu Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time leading goalscorer. Lukaku made his international debut in March 2010 at only 16 years and 10 months old under coach Dick Advocaat.
A Serie A champion with Inter Milan in the 2020-21 season, Lukaku has not yet won any major honors with his country, with a third-place finish at the 2018 FIFA World Cup marking their best-ever performance.
#4 Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – 81 Goals
Since making his debut for Poland in September 2020 at the age of 20 years and 10 months, Robert Lewandowski has made 144 international appearances, as per Transfermarkt. The Barcelona center-forward has scored an impressive 81 times and claimed 31 assists so far.
Such has been his dominance that he has won Poland’s Player Of The Year Award on a whopping 10 occasions. However, just like Lukaku, Lewandowski has also failed to take his country to silverware.
#3 Sunil Chhetri (India) – 93 Goals
The flagbearer of the soccer fandom in India, Sunil Chhetri is the third name on this list. The 39-year-old striker has played 143 matches since making his debut in June 2005, scoring an astonishing 93 times and emerging as the country’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Chhetri has won four South Asian Championships, two Intercontinental Cups, and an AFC Challenge Cup in the famous blue jersey. His exploits have allowed him to clinch the Player Of The Year Award a whopping seven times.
#2 Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 106 Goals
Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has scored the second-highest number of goals since 2000. The Inter Miami superstar has netted a whopping 106 times and provided 56 assists in 178 games since his debut under Jose Nestor Pekerman in August 2005.
The proud captain of La Albiceleste completed his trophy cabinet in December 2022, leading his team to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The 36-year-old led from the front from start to finish, scoring an incredible seven times and providing three assists. He won the FIFA Golden Ball for his exploits in the desert.
Messi, who won another Golden Ball at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, has also won the Copa America and the UEFA-CONMEBOL Cup Of Champions with Argentina.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – 127 Goals
At the summit sits the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo, having scored a staggering 127 goals in 203 matches for Portugal since 2000. The Real Madrid icon made his international debut under manager Luiz Felipe Scolari in August 2003.
Ronaldo, who became the first player in history to feature and score in five FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar last year, is yet to win the most-coveted trophy on earth. However, he played a crucial role in firing Os Navegadores to European Championship glory in 2016, marking their first-ever major silver. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was also integral to Portugal’s UEFA Nations League win in 2019.