The list includes some of the continent’s finest players who shone at its most prestigious tournament.
The Copa America is the oldest international football competition in history and has seen the rise of many iconic South American countries over the decades. While majorly dominated by giants like Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, the competition has also been closely contested over the years and lived up to the reputation of producing countless memorable games.
Keeping up with the tradition of South American football, the Copa America has also produced an incredible number of goals and assists in its history. Similarly, there have been a variety of goalscorers – some just more decorated than others. Players like Neymar (7) and Luis Suarez (6) have been the biggest names in Copa America in recent years. But surprisingly none of the famed three are yet among the top 10 goalscorers in the tournament’s history. So, let’s look at the all-time top 10 goalscorers in Copa America:
6. Lionel Messi – 13 goals – Argentina
Messi finally landed his maiden international trophy with Argentina after beating Brazil in the final by a 1-0 scoreline. Messi scored four goals and assisted five times in this year’s tournament to lead Argentina to their first major title in 28 years. His five goals in Copa America 2021 also took Messi’s Copa tally to 13 goals. The Argentine magician also holds the record of most assists (17) in the history of the Copa America.
6. Hector Scarone – 13 goals – Uruguay
Hector Scarone played for Uruguay during a period when formations and tactics were still a relatively unknown commodity in football – meaning only brute force or natural talent could help footballers steer over each other. Scarone played in an Inside right position – something resembling that of a right wing forward.
However, he was as skillful a winger as he was a clinical striker and that fusion helped him soar. Scarone won four Copa America titles with Uruguay and played his part with 13 goals over the course of his career in the competition. That included five in a game against Bolivia in the 1926 edition – a record which still holds up to this day.
6. Jose Manuel Moreno – 13 goals – Argentina
Named among the top five South American players of the 20th century, Jose Manuel Moreno was one of the pioneers of Argentinian football when it was still gaining its reputation in the early 1900s. He played for a number of different clubs and also enjoyed a lot of success with his national team, winning two Copa America titles.
Moreno definitely enjoyed playing in the competition as well, scoring 13 goals over a number of editions. His most prolific one was 1942, in which he led from the front to help Argentina win the championship and also won the Golden Boot with seven goals!
6. Jair – 13 goals – Brazil
Before there was Pele or Garrincha, there was Jair da Rosa Pinto – better known just as Jair – who ruled the roost in Brazilian football. The attacking midfielder perfected the role of being the free-roaming midfielder in the 20th century and was hugely successful in it. He scored over 450 goals in his club career and enjoyed a lot of success on the international scene too.
While Jair only won one Copa America trophy (in 1949) with Brazil, his individual work was excellent. He scored 13 goals in its entirety – including an incredible nine in the 1949 edition. He holds the record for most goals in a single Copa America tournament thanks to his brilliance – making him one of the best players in the competition’s history.
6. Gabriel Batistuta – 13 goals – Argentina
Widely recognized as one of the best strikers in Argentina’s history, Gabriel ‘Batigol’ Batistuta also enjoyed a lot of success in the Copa America with his country. He was the Golden Boot winner in two editions, 1991 and 1995.
In 1991 he scored six goals followed by four in 1995, helping him topple some big names in both editions. Batistua won the competition twice with his country and ended up scoring 13 goals in the Copa America tournaments he played in – enabling him to become Argentina’s top goalscorer of all-time, before Lionel Messi surpassed him in 2016.
6. Ademir de Menezes – 13 goals – Brazil
Given the name ‘Queixada’ because of his prominent underbite, Ademir de Menezes definitely had a bite when it came to scoring goals for Brazil. Regarded as one of the best centre-forwards in Brazilian football history, Ademir enjoyed a lot of success on the international scene and was part of the 1949 Copa America winning squad.
He won the Best Player of the Tournament award for that edition, but his consistency when it came to scoring in different Copa America editions was admirable. In total, he scored 13 goals in the South American championship and is still regarded as one of the best Brazilian players to have graced the competition.
5. Paolo Guerrero – 14 goals – Peru
Paolo Guerrero is actually one of the top-scorers in Copa America history with the possibility of climbing the ladder, as he’s still playing football professionally. The 37-year-old has made more than 100 appearances for his country and enjoyed a lot of success in the Copa America, scoring 14 goals across multiple editions.
The former Bayern Munich star was the Copa America top scorer in three editions, including the most recent one in 2019, when he scored three goals and shared the award with Brazilian star Everton. Guerrero is in line to play for Peru in the 2021 edition in the summer, meaning he can actually become the highest scorer in Copa America history, if Lady Luck has that lined up!
5. Eduardo Vargas – 14 goals – Chile
With his two goals in the Copa America 2021 group stage, Vargas took his goal-scoring tally to 14 goals. Vargas scored his goals in Chile’s 1-1 draws against Argentina and Uruguay respectively. A member of Chile’s 2015 and 2016 Copa America winning squad, Vargas made his Copa debut in 2015 and scored his first goal against Ecuador. He has scored in each of the last four editions.
4. Severino Varela – 15 goals – Uruguay
The most decorated player in Copa America history for Uruguay, Severino Varela was one of the pioneers of Uruguay’s dominance in the early 20th century. He only won the 1942 edition of the competition, but was a bombastic individual when it came to scoring goals in the different editions he featured in.
Varela scored 15 goals in multiple editions of the South American championship with Uruguay and despite never winning a Golden Boot, he remains the top scorer for his country in the competition.
3. Lolo Fernandez – 15 goals – Peru
While Guerrero might have the chance to topple his record in the 2021 edition, Lolo Fernandez still remains the highest-scorer in Copa America history for Peru. The iconic centre-forward played during the early part of the 20th century for his country and was recognized as one of the most menacing forwards in South America.
Fernandez really made an impact for his country in the 1939 Copa America, guiding Peru to win the tournament and even snatching the Golden Boot and Best Player award for himself. He scored 15 goals in the Copa America editions he played.
2. Zizinho – 17 goals – Brazil
Zizinho managed to do something even iconic Brazilian footballers like Pele, Garrincha or Ronaldo couldn’t – score more than 15 goals in the Copa America. As a matter of fact, he scored 17 goals in the competition during his iconic career, in which he also won the Golden Ball in the 1950 FIFA World Cup.
However, in the competition more closer to home, he was unstoppable and scored goals at will. Zizinho is currently the highest scorer of Brazil in Copa America history and holds a record which not many Brazilian stars to come will find easy to beat.
1. Norberto Mendez – 17 goals – Argentina
Just like Zizinho has outperformed some big Brazilian icons with his heroics in the Copa America, Argentina legend Norberto Mendez has also outscored the likes of Batistua, Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona in the competition’s history. Mendez played for Argentina in the post World War 2 phase and enjoyed a lot of success playing for his nation for just over a decade.
He really loved playing in the Copa America and spearheaded their dominance in the post-WWII period, helping them win the competition for three consecutive years from 1945-47. He also scored in bulk in that period, eventually ending his career with an incredible 17 Copa America goals. With Zizinho, he remains the competition’s all-time top scorer and has set a record that is unlikely to be broken.
**The article was last updated on July 11, 12:50 PM IST