Football News

England’s top-scorers ranked by goals-per-game rates

By CJ Smith

Published: 18:15, 18 October 2023

Over the years England have been blessed with a number of great goalscorers.

In England’s recent 3-1 win over Italy, Harry Kane scored his 60th and 61st goals for the Three Lions, extending his lead as the all-time top goalscorer.

The Bayern Munich striker has found the net at all levels the Three Lions, winning the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot, hitting four goals during the knockout stages of Euro 2020 and then scoring another two at the 2022 World Cup.  It’s safe to say Kane does it when it counts. 

In helping England to qualify for Euro 2024, Kane has netted seven goals in six matches, only failing to find the net once. On its own, Kane’s 61 goals for England is a commendable feat, eight more than second-placed Wayne Rooney whom he overtook earlier this year.

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But when you consider Kane has scored 61 goals in just 87 caps, it’s quite remarkable. Kane now has immortality 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

Caps: 120
Goals per cap: 0.44

The top five is immediately flipped 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 second-highest 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

Caps: 106
Goals: 49
Goals per cap0.46

Continuing the theme of turning the top five on its head, England’s third-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

Caps: 80
Goals: 48
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

Caps: 81
Goals: 54
Goals per cap: 0.66

When Kane overtook Rooney to become England’s all-time top goalscorer, he did so with 54 goals in 81 caps. Since then, he has netted seven in his past six, bumping up his goalscoring average of 0.70 per game in an England shirt. Kane is also the Three Lions’ top scorer at major tournaments, overtaking Gary Lineker in Qatar with 12 goals across World Cups and European Championships.

Sure, being England’s primary penalty taker helps (Kane has scored 21 penalties for England), 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. Some will also point to the teams that Kane scores against, netting the most against San Marino (five). However, Kane has also scored four against Germany, and three against France and Italy.

1. Jimmy Greaves

Caps: 57
Goals: 44
Goals per cap: 0.77

With 0.77 goals per cap and only Lineker, Charlton, Rooney and Kane 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.