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Football: Romario one of the greatest

Brazilian Romario celebrated his 56th birthday on Saturday and there is no doubting he ranks as one of the greatest goalscorers of all time.

Representing the likes of Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and Flamengo during a distinguished 24-year club career, the charismatic forward also helped Brazil to World Cup glory in 1994.

That is just one of the many accolades Romario won during his playing days, but just how does he compare to the very best goalscorers in the history of the game.

Statistics point to one of the very best

We have statistics readily available for almost everything in football these days, but this was not the case during the first half of the 20th century, which makes it difficult to sometimes gauge how many goals some players legitimately scored during that era.

For example, legendary Austrian star Josef Bican was said to have netted close to 1,500 goals during his career, mainly with Slavia Prague, although official records state he reached less than half that tally.

On the official list of the highest goalscorers of all time, Romario ranks fourth, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (803), Pele (765) and Lionel Messi (758).

Romario's total of 753 goals was achieved from just short of 1000 appearances, with 55 of his strikes coming for Brazil, while his highest total for an individual club was the 256 he registered across four spells with Vasco da Gama.

Romario not Klose when it comes to World Cup goals

The World Cup is regarded as the pinnacle of football and Romario has certainly left his mark on the tournament, scoring five goals as Brazil went on to lift the trophy for the fourth time in 1994.

He was also named the best player at those finals, but he did not score at any other World Cup and is lagging when it comes to the leading scorers in the tournament's history.

Germany's Miroslav Klose holds the honour of being the record scorer at World Cups, netting 16 in 24 appearances across four finals.

Klose sits one ahead of Romario's compatriot Ronaldo on the all-time list, while greats such as Pele and Gerd Muller are also part of a select group that have reached double figures for World Cup goals.

However, it is France's Just Fontaine that holds the best goals-per-game record in World Cup history, as he netted 13 times in six appearances at the 1958 finals, averaging 2.17 per match.

Ronaldo leading the way on the international front

Only five of Romario's 55 international goals may have come at World Cups, but he still contributed at many a major tournament, netting a combined six goals when helping Brazil to their Copa America successes of 1989 and 1997, as well as producing seven strikes as the Selecao won the 1997 Confederations Cup, including a hat-trick in the final against Australia.

However, his overall international scoring tally is still some way short of the all-time record, with Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo currently leading the way with 115 goals for his country, six clear of nearest rival, former Iran star Ali Daei.

However, both those players have a lower goals-per-game scoring rate than Romario, who averaged 0.79 per match during his 18-year international career.

Out of all the players to have scored over 50 goals for their country, Romario has the ninth best goals-per-game ratio, with former Denmark star Poul Nielsen (1.37), Sandor Kocsis (1.1) of Hungary and the aforementioned Gerd Muller (1.1) the only players on the list to have averaged over a goal per match at international level.

Whichever way you look at it, Romario must be regarded as one of the greatest goalscorers of all time, and even as he turns 56, he can probably still find the back of the net better than most.

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