The highest-scoring XI of the 21st century (Part 1)

Arthur Vardanian
Since the turn of the century, there have been many prolific goalscoring players gracing the game. While the names of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez are the first ones that come to mind, there have also been players in other positions who have scored goals galore. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are two of the most prolific goalscoring midfielders of the 21st century. Playing further down the field, centre-back Sergio Ramos recently brought up a century of goals in the whites of Real Madrid. If outfield goalscorers were not enough, there have also been goalscoring goalkeepers this century. These are not custodians whose hopeful punts upfield elude everyone and pierce the net at the other end; but bonafide goalscorers who are entrusted with penalties and free-kicks. So without further ado, here’s a look at the most prolific scoring XI since the turn of the century. A 4-3-3 formation has been considered for the hypothetical XI.

Goalkeeper – Rogerio Ceni (120 goals)

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Rogerio Ceni is the most prolific goalscoring goalkeeper in the history of the game with an astounding tally of 131 strikes, comprising 69 penalties, 61 free-kicks and one goal open play.

It is a tally many decent strikers fail to amass during their playing careers, one which Ceni racked up while playing the furthest from the opposition goal. Since scoring his first-ever goal for Sau Paulo in 1997, Ceni scored 120 times this century before he retired in 2015.

For all his goalscoring exploits, Ceni drew a blank at the FIFA World Cup, failing to score one in his lone outing at the quadrennial tournament in 2006.

Right-back – James Tavernier (74 goals)

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James Tavernier is the most prolific goalscoring right-back in the 21st century. The 29-year-old Englishman has tallied an astonishing 74 strikes, with most of them (65) coming for his present club Rangers.

In his first season for Steven Gerrard’s men in 2015-16, Tavernier produced a career-best campaign, scoring 15 times and assisting on 19 occasions across competitions. Last season, he scored ten goals and provided 11 assists in Rangers’ victorious 2020-21 campaign in the Scottish top flight.

Most of Tavernier’s goals have come from free-kicks (12) and penalties (30), which shows his set-piece prowess. It’s a shame that despite his exploits, he is yet to win a senior cap for England.

Centre-back – Sergio Ramos (126 goals)

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Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos is one of the game’s most prominent goalscoring defenders.

Recently, Ramos brought up a century of goals for Real Madrid, whom he left this summer after a one-and-a-half-decade stint to join French giants PSG. Although he has a chequered disciplinary record, the centre-back has shown his aerial prowess at both ends of the field.

Formerly a right-back, Ramos took over penalty-taking duties for the club after the departure of record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2018. The 35-year-old, who has scored 23 times for Spain as well, has won all major trophies – La Liga, Champions League, European Championship and FIFA World Cup.

Centre-back – Rene Aufhauser (76 goals)

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Rene Aufhauser has been one of the most prolific goal-scoring defenders since the turn of the century.

During his illustrious two-decade-long professional career, the former Austrian centre-back appeared in over 100 games for three different clubs – Austria Salzburg, Grazer AK and Red Bull Salzburg.

However, the 45-year-old, who was also versatile enough to be deployed in defensive midfield, had his most prolific stint with Red Bull Salzburg, winning three Austrian league titles and scoring exactly 50 goals.

The FC Liefering coach has also scored 12 times for Austria in 58 appearances across competitions.

Left-back – John Arne Riise (67 goals)

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John Arne Riise is one of the most prolific goalscoring full-backs of the 21st century.

The former Liverpool player scored 31 times during a successful near decade-long stint at the club, announcing himself in the English top flight with a blistering free-kick against Manchester United in 2001. Riise had a powerful left-footed shot, and was also strong in the air.

The 40-year-old, who won the 2004-05 Champions League with the Reds, also scored 16 times for Norway in 110 appearances.

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