Harry Kane took another step toward England’s all-time goalscoring record with his strike in a 1-1 draw against Poland.
Incredibly, the Tottenham striker has now found the net in 15 consecutive World Cup and European Championship qualifiers for the Three Lions. Coupled with his 2018 World Cup Golden Boot and four goals during the knockout stages of Euro 2020, it’s safe to say Kane does it when it counts.
Kane’s latest strike takes him to 41 goals, one ahead of Michael Owen in sixth place. That the 28-year-old has achieved that number in just 64 caps is quite remarkable.
Only Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker, Sir Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney now stand between Kane and glory, but an important consideration in international goalscoring is just how many more games are played between nations now compared to a few decades ago.
With that in mind, how would England’s top-five goalscorers look based on strike rate, rather than outright goals?
5. Wayne Rooney
Goals per cap: 0.44
The top five is immediately flipped on its head with Wayne Rooney coming in at fifth with an international strike rate of 0.44 goals per cap — still by no means a bad return.
Important to remember is that Rooney played a number of games in midfield toward the end of his England career, hampering his ability to get into goalscoring positions. What’s more, the former Man Utd and Everton man played in some pretty disastrous international tournaments under the likes of Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello, with the entire Three Lions team flopping and Rooney taking the brunt of the blame.
Despite being England’s record goalscorer, there’s always likely to be an element of ‘what if?’ with Rooney, who both deserved and was capable of much more success at international level.
4. Bobby Charlton
Goals per cap: 0.46
Continuing the theme of turning the top five on its head, England’s second-highest goalscorer comes fourth in terms of goals per cap.
But the most remarkable thing about Charlton’s 49-goal return for the Three Lions is the fact he wasn’t even an out-and-out striker, instead playing off the forward line to link play and pull out the occasional worldie. Three of those goals were scored in England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, including a brace in the 2-1 win over Portugal in the semi-final.
3. Gary Lineker
Goals per cap: 0.6
The most famous images of Gary Lineker in an England shirt were arguably him signalling to the bench that Paul Gascoigne was struggling following his yellow card in the 1990 World Cup semi-final, and him scraping himself across the pitch against Ireland at the same tournament for obvious reasons.
But that’s incredibly unfair. Lineker netted 48 goals in just 80 caps for the Three Lions, at a stunning rate of 0.6 goals per cap. The former Leicester, Everton and Barcelona man scored in two World Cups — including four at Italia 90 — and was one of a handful of players never to receive a yellow or red card throughout his entire international career. 80 caps, 48 goals, no cards. He’s not just a TV presenter…
2. Harry Kane
Goals per cap: 0.64
Kane rising to fifth in the list of England’s all-time top goalscorer is impressive enough, but doing so in just 64 caps is just incredible. As is the fact he’s level with Gary Lineker as the Three Lions’ top scorer at major tournaments, netting six times to win the World Cup Golden Boot in 2018 and another four times at the Euros this summer.
Sure, being England’s primary penalty taker helps, especially with Gareth Southgate’s men being so good at drawing fouls in the box. But then, he’s only the penalty taker because he’s that good at striking a ball.
It’s not so bold to predict Kane being England’s all-time top scorer by the end of the Qatar World Cup in December 2022.
1. Jimmy Greaves
Goals per cap: 0.77
With 0.77 goals per cap and only Lineker, Charlton and Rooney outscoring him in the entire history of the England national team, Jimmy Greaves deserves much, much more credit than he gets.
Perhaps his omission from the 1966 World Cup final weighs heavily against him, with Greaves picking up an injury during the group stages and losing his place to Geoff Hurst who famously scored a hat-trick against Germany.
Still, 44 goals in just 57 caps is a remarkable achievement from Greaves, including strikes against Spain, Italy, Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands.