The 10 highest goal scoring defenders of all time

Defenders are primarily charged with keeping the opposition from scoring, acting as the first line of defense in front of the goalkeeper and while not as highly valued as their more attack-minded colleagues, they are nevertheless cornerstones to any team’s success.

Tackles, interceptions, clearances, these are terms usually associated with defenders and it is such a rarity to see defenders scoring, with their card counts usually higher than their goals tally.

However, the average central defender is usually dominant in the air and this makes them significant goal threats from set-pieces, while rare occasions have have seen defenders installed as first-choice set piece takers.

Throughout history, some defenders have gone against the norm and distinguished themselves with their displays in front of goal, sometimes outshining their attacking teammates in terms of goals tally and here at Sportszion, we shall be having a rundown of the top 10 highest scoring defenders in history.

#10 Franz Beckenbauer (109 goals) 1964-1983 

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Long before defenders like Virgil Van Dijk, Aymeric Laporte, and Gerard Pique made a name for themselves as ‘ball playing center-backs’, Franz Beckenbauer functioned as one over four decades earlier.

The former German international helped revolutionize the sweeper role and was one of the first center-backs to venture forward and aid with his team’s attacks.

He was fondly called Die Kaizer due to his leadership abilities on and off the field and he skippered both Bayern Munich and West Germany to the most successful periods in their respective histories during the 1970s.

Beckenbauer was named the Ballon d’Or winner on two occasions which is no mean feat, considering the fact that he played with and against some truly illustrious forwards and he ended his career with 109 goals in addition to numerous titles won both at club and international level.

#9 Roberto Carlos (113 goals) 1991-2012

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A case could be made for Roberto Carlos to be considered the player with the most powerful left foot in the history of football and few would dispute this, as the former Brazilian international was nothing short of exceptional throughout his career.

The Sao Paulo native was blessed with pace, strength, and frightening shot power and accuracy, while he also posed a threat with his accurate crossing.

Carlos was also adept in the art of freekick taking and he won almost everything winnable at club and international level including the World Cup and Champions League in addition to numerous other domestic crowns.

He ended his career with 113 goals, with 67 of those coming for Real Madrid, while he also scored 11 goals from 125 matches for the Samba Boys of Brazil.

#8 Paul Breitner (113 goals) 1970-1983

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Paul Breitner was also an integral member of the all-conquering German and Bayern Munich squads at the start of the 1970s, forming an effective defensive partnership with Franz Beckenbauer and Berti Vogts for the national team.

He represented Bayern Munich and Real Madrid with distinction, winning numerous laurels with the two clubs, while he also achieved notoriety off the field for his combustive personality and rebellious attitude.

Breitner was famous for his fluffy beards and hair, but was deadly from the penalty spot and was the designated spot kick taker for most of his sides.

In total, Breitner scored 113 goals and is one of only four players to have scored in two different World Cup finals, alongside Pele, Vava, and Zinedine Zidane.

#7 Steve Bruce (113 goals) 1979-1999

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Steve Bruce is a Manchester United legend who distinguished himself with his performances for the Red Devils for nine seasons between 1987 and 1996.

When he signed for Manchester United, the club were far from being the global powerhouse they are today, but Bruce’s arrival helped change that and his partnership with Gary Pallister at the heart of defense helped lay the foundation for the success that followed.

Despite never playing for his country, Bruce was a regular goalscorer for Manchester United and he ended his career with 113 goals in all competitions, with his best individual campaign coming in the 1990/1991 season when he scored 19 goals in all competitions.

Steve Bruce wrote his name into United folklore when he scored a late brace in a comeback victory over Sheffield United to give Sir Alex Ferguson his first of 13 Premier League titles.

#6 Sergio Ramos (114 goals) 2003- 

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Sergio Ramos is one of the most successful defenders in history, having played a key role in the golden period of Spain between 2008 and 2012, as well as the recent success enjoyed by Real Madrid in the last five years.

He began his career with Sevilla, was transferred to Spanish giants Real Madrid in the summer of 2005 and in the intervening years, he has become an integral part of the Los Blancos squad and has risen through the ranks to become club captain.

The 33-year-old has won numerous trophies with the capital club, including four Champions League titles, four LaLiga crowns, and two Copa del Reys, with majority of his triumphs at club level coming during his tenure as skipper of the side.

On the international scene, Ramos has also been instrumental and has been a regular with La Furia Roja in the last 14 years, winning the World Cup and two European Championships with Spain.

Having made his debut in 2005, the Camas native has gone on to make 169 appearances and counting for his country, breaking the previous record of 168 set by his former teammate Iker Casillas. It goes without saying that he is also the captain of his national team.

Having started out as a right-back, Sergio Ramos showed his attacking impetus from a young age, with his flair and pace down the flanks seeing him make positive contributions to his team’s attacking output.

A conversion to the heart of defense has not dampened his enthusiasm for getting among the goals and Ramos has scored a total of 114 goals and counting across his games for Sevilla, Real Madrid, and the Spanish national team and this tally would increase in the coming years, as he has inherited penalty taking duties at both club and international level.

Though his disciplinary record might be poor; holding the records for cards received in numerous competitions, there can be no denying that Sergio Ramos’ status as a bonafide legend of the game is already assured.

#5 Graham Alexander (130 goals) 1988-2012

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Graham Alexander spent the entirety of his 24-year career in the United Kingdom, representing clubs like Burnley, Scunthorpe United, and Luton Town among others.

He played primarily as a right-back and was on penalty duties for his his various clubs, with most of his goals coming from the spot, although he scored occasionally from open play.

In total, Alexander scored a total of 130 goals from 981 games in all competitions for his various clubs, but rather curiously, he never found the back of the net in 40 appearances for his country, Scotland.

#4 Laurent Blanc (153 goals) 1983-2003

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Laurent Blanc finds himself on this list primarily because he started his career as an attacking midfielder, but later on in his career, he was redeployed as a center-back.

He, however, did not lose his attacking instincts and ended up scoring 153 goals in a career that saw him represent some truly legendary sides like Manchester United, Barcelona, Inter Milan, and, Napoli Marseille and to date is still the record goalscorer for his first club Montpellier, with 80 goals from 263 games in all competitions.

On the international scene, Blanc was also successful and won the World Cup and European Championship, with his most famous goal in national colors coming in the second round of France’s round-of-16 World Cup clash with Paraguay when he scored a golden goal to set Les Bleus on their way to a maiden world title.

Upon retirement, he ventured into coaching and has achieved tremendous success in the Ligue 1.

#3 Fernando Hierro (163 goals) 1987-2005

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In many ways, Sergio Ramos is the direct replacement for Fernando Hierro, with both men sharing numerous traits and similarities.

For starters, they both captained the Real Madrid and Spanish national teams, while they were also regulars in the referees book, with Ramos replacing Hierro as the player with most cards for the Spanish national team and Real Madrid.

They also share a penchant for being high-scoring defenders, with Fernando Hierro ending his career with 163 goals across his spells with Real Valladolid, Real Madrid, Spain, Al Rayyan, and Bolton Wanderers and at the time of his retirement was Spain’s all-time record goalscorer with 29 goals.

#2 Daniel Passarella (175 goals) 1971-1989

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Despite standing at the relatively modest height of 5 ft 8 in, Daniel Passarella was a dominant figure in both boxes and was adept in the art of scoring with bullet headers due to his incredible jump power and nodding accuracy.

He captained Argentina to her first ever World Cup triumph on home soil in 1978, while he was also a member of the title-winning squad in Mexico eight years later.

Passarella represented clubs like Inter Milan, Fiorentina, and River Plate with distinction and he earned a reputation of being a tough-tackling no-holds-barred defender.

He was also adept in goalscoring and ended his career with 175 goals, which at the time of his retirement was the highest goals total for a defender.

He ventured into coaching and brought his combustive personality with him, making strange rules such as the banishing of earrings and long hair, which led to him clashing with a number of stars including Claudio Caniggia and Fernando Redondo.

#1 Ronald Koeman (253 goals) 1980-1997

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Ronald Koeman is the top-scoring defender in the history of football, having scored a staggering 253 goals in his career.

Even top-level strikers struggle to match such numbers in their careers, much less coming from a defender who played primarily as a right-back.

Throughout his career, Koeman was the designated penalty taker for his sides, while he was also precise in his free kick taking ability and for many years held the record for most penalties scored in LaLiga before he was overtaken by Lionel Messi.

Koeman enjoyed immense success at both club and international level, winning the European Championship with The Netherlands in 1988, while he also captained Barcelona to her first European Cup title in 1992, scoring the winning goal from a freekick in an extra-time victory over Sampdoria in the final.

Upon retirement, he ventured into coaching and has managed sides like AZ Alkmaar, Southampton, Everton, and The Netherlands, although he has made no secret of his desire to one day manage Barcelona.

Koeman is the only man in history to have both managed and played for the big three in Holland; PSV,  Ajax, and Feyenoord.

Ume Elvis

157 articles

Ardent football fan and one of the best footie writers you'll find anywhere on the net.


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