Ranking the 12 Top Scorers in Copa America History

Ranking the 12 Top Scorers in Copa America History

 

A custom image of Chile's Eduardo Vargas alongside Argentinian duo Lionel Messi and Gabriel Batistuta

The Copa America tournament has seen some incredible talent grace it since its establishment in 1916. Originally known as the South American Football Championship until 1975, this article takes a look at the all-time leading goalscorers in the historic South American competition.

A devilishly difficult tournament to win has taken on many different forms across its century of existence. Amid the various formats, which have varied between round-robin league systems and traditional knockout structures, some of the best players ever produced by the continent have struggled to excel. Neymar and Diego Maradona scored a combined nine Copa America goals between them. The legendary Pele only managed eight during his limited appearances in the competition.

Lionel Messi has surged past double digits for Argentina and could become the tournament’s all-time leading goalscorer at the 2024 Copa America as the world champions try to defend their continental crown. Here’s how Argentina’s talisman stacks up against the most prolific players ever to compete in the Copa America.

All-Time Copa America Goalscorers

Rank
Name
Country
Goals

1=
Norberto Mendez
Argentina
17

1=
Zizinho
Brazil
17

3=
Lolo Fernandez


Peru
15

3=
Severino Varela
Uruguay
15

5=
Eduardo Vargas
Chile
14

5=
Paolo Guerrero
Peru
14

5=
Lionel Messi
Argentina
14

8=
Ademir de Menezes
Brazil
13

8=
Gabriel Batistuta
Argentina
13

8=
Jair da Rosa Pinto
Brazil
13

8=
Jose Manuel Moreno
Argentina
13

8=
Hector Scarone
Uruguay
13

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12Hector Scarone (Uruguay)

Goals scored: 13


Hector Scarone won the Copa America an impressive four times, two shy of fellow Uruguay international record holder, Angel Romano. During the 1917 Copa America final against fierce international rivals Argentina, Scarone scored the winning goal to clinch the title. He was just 19 years old at the time. Along with Uruguay’s triumph in 1917, Scarone lifted the title in 1923, 1924 and 1926 as the relatively tiny nation consistently punched above its weight. Scarone had a fantastic goal-scoring record for his country, netting 31 times in 51 appearances for Uruguay. The striker’s goal tally places him fourth on Uruguay’s all-time leading goalscorer list.

Hector Scarone at Copa America

Country
Uruguay

Goals Scored
13

Copa America Titles
4

11Jose Manuel Moreno (Argentina)

Goals scored: 13


Jose Manuel Moreno, known as El Charro, which translates to cowboy, is regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time. He became the first player to win trophies in four different countries and paved the way for some of South America’s greatest players in the shape of Pele and his compatriot Diego Maradona. During his international career with Argentina, he scored 19 goals in 34 appearances. Moreno lifted the Copa America on two occasions, in 1941 and 1947. The prolific River Plate forward boasted an impressive overall goal-scoring record for his various clubs, racking up 224 strikes in 489 appearances.

Jose Manuel Moreno at Copa America

Country
Argentina

Goals Scored
13

Copa America Titles
2

10Jair da Rosa Pinto (Brazil)

Goals scored: 13


Jair da Rosa Pinto was one of the leading figures in Brazilian football during the 1940s and 1950s and is best remembered for his performances during the 1950 World Cup as part of a frightening attack with Zizinho and Ademir. Jair helped Brazil win the Copa America in 1949, finishing as top scorer in the tournament with nine goals.

Jair scored 22 times in 39 appearances for his national team and is held in high regard in his native Brazil for his stellar performances. His selflessness in supporting other Brazilian strikers before becoming the main forward is remembered fondly, but Jair is seen as a player who does not get the credit he deserves.

Jair da Rosa Pinto at Copa America

Country
Brazil

Goals Scored
13

Copa America Titles
1

9Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina)

Goals scored: 13

Gabriel Batistuta celebrating a goal for Argentina

Gabriel Batistuta is quite rightly regarded as one of the very best strikers in football history. Nicknamed Batigol as well as El Angel Gabriel, Batistuta scored with ease. He lifted the Copa America on two occasions, in 1991 and 1993, and plundered 56 goals in 78 appearances for his country. A goal tally that places him second behind Lionel Messi in Argentina’s all-time leading goalscorer list.

His club career was as impressive as his record with Argentina. Batistuta scored 248 times in 444 appearances across seven different teams, with over half of those appearances coming for Serie A side, Fiorentina.

Gabriel Batistuta at Copa America

Country
Argentina

Goals Scored
13

Copa America Titles
2

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8Ademir de Menezes (Brazil)

Goals scored: 13


Ademir de Menezes is seen as a Brazilian legend. His record for the national team was nothing short of incredible, scoring 32 times in only 39 appearances. He was a vital part of the Brazil side that lifted the 1949 Copa America and narrowly missed out on the 1950 World Cup, losing 2-1 to Uruguay in the final game of the tournament held on home soil. Ademir remained in South America for his entire playing career, appearing for the likes of Sport Recife, Vasco da Gama and Fluminese.

Ademir’s 32 goals for his country place him in the top 10 all-time goalscorers for Brazil, three behind legends in the form of Rivaldo and Jairzinho. Ademir was a natural-born finisher and influenced many prominent figures in Brazilian football.

Ademir de Menezes at Copa America

Country
Brazil

Goals Scored
13

Copa America Titles
1

7Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Goals scored: 14

Lionel Messi celebrates

Lionel Messi had a memorable few months for Argentina, finally lifting the Copa America trophy in 2021 and the World Cup in Qatar a year and a half later. The Argentina captain has made more appearances in the Copa America than any other player, surpassing the tally of 34 set by Chile’s Sergio Livingstone. It was only at his sixth tournament that Messi finally lifted the hulking trophy.

Argentina’s talisman finished the 2021 tournament as joint-top scorer with Colombia’s Luis Diaz, racking up four goals and was named the best player of the tournament alongside Brazil’s Neymar. Messi had to wait until the semi-finals of the 2024 Copa before adding to his swollen tally.

Lionel Messi at Copa America

Country
Argentina

Goals Scored
14

Copa America Titles
1

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6Paolo Guerrero (Peru)

Goals scored: 14

Paolo Guerrero for Peru

Paolo Guerrero’s wild career was too crazy not to be committed to camera. When a biopic of the legendary Peruvian forward was released in 2016, it boasted the biggest opening of any film in the country. Half a million of his adoring public squashed into their nearest theatre to soak up the forward’s best work on the first weekend of its debut alone.

The sequel will also undoubtedly be well attended. The outspoken forward enjoyed arguably the best tournament display of his career three years after the documentary was released. Netting three goals throughout the 2019 Copa, including an equaliser in the final against Brazil, Guerrero narrowly missed out on the continental title which has eluded Peru since 1975.

Paolo Guerrero at Copa America

Country
Peru

Goals Scored
14

Copa America Titles
0

5Eduardo Vargas (Chile)

Goals scored: 14

Eduardo Vargas celebrates

Eduardo Vargas won consecutive Copa America titles with Chile in 2015 and 2016. After 10 goals across the two competitions, the forward was instrumental in his nation’s unprecedented glut of success. In 2015, Vargas finished the tournament with a tally of four strikes, joining Peru’s Paolo Guerrero as the top scorer that year and his goals helped fire Chile to their first-ever Copa America title.

Twelve months later, Vargas was lifting the trophy again. The striker scored six goals, helping his nation reach the final, where they beat Argentina 4-2 on penalties. Four of Vargas’ eight goals came in the quarter-finals against Mexico, as Chile ran out 7-0 winners.

Eduardo Vargas at Copa America

Country
Chile

Goals Scored
14

Copa America Titles
2

4Severino Varela (Uruguay)

Goals scored: 15

The Uruguay flag spread across some seats at a football stadium

Severino Varela always stood out on the pitch. Beyond his reliable return of goals – scoring five times at three different editions of the Copa America for Uruguay – the efficient forward was defined by the white beret that he wore during matches. The signature item of clothing, which was supposedly the result of a lucrative advertising agreement, gave Varela an air of nonchalance, swaggering around the pitch with his headpiece fixed in place.

The River Plate icon lit up the national team between Uruguay’s two World Cup triumphs. Making his debut shortly after the shine of the golden generation from the 1920s and ’30s had faded, Varela hung up his beret before Uruguay’s global crown in 1950. His goals did, however, earn Uruguay success in the 1942 Copa America.

Severino Varela at Copa America

Country
Uruguay

Goals Scored
15

Copa America Titles
1

3Lolo Fernandez (Peru)

Goals scored: 15

Teodoro “Lolo” Fernandez won the Copa America in 1939, a tournament in which he finished as the best player and top goalscorer, racking up an impressive seven goals. During the early years of the competition, it was in a league format with each team playing each other once, and at that time, two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw. Peru finished on top of the table with eight points, winning all four of their games against Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Ecuador.

Fernandez sits third on Peru’s all-time goalscorer list with 21 goals in 26 appearances, behind Jefferson Farfan and Paolo Guerrero. He spent his entire club career at Peruvian First Division side, Universitario de Deportes, where he scored 156 goals in 180 appearances for the club.

Lolo Fernandez at Copa America

Country
Peru

Goals Scored
15

Copa America Titles
1

2Zizinho (Brazil)

Goals scored: 17


Zizinho of Brazil won the Copa America in 1949, which was their third title. The striker scored five goals during the tournament and, alongside Jair, who netted an impressive nine goals, formed a formidable partnership. In 53 appearances for Brazil, Zizinho found the back of the net 30 times. That tally puts him 12th on Brazil’s all-time leading goalscorer list, ahead of the likes of Kaka, Rivelino and Robinho.

Brazilian legend, Pele, often remarked that Zizinho was the best player he had ever seen play, which is quite a compliment, given Pele is one of the most decorated players to have played the game. Zizinho spent his entire club career in South America, playing for six clubs in total, and is considered to be the first idol of Flamengo, helping the club to win three consecutive state championships.

Zizinho at Copa America

Country
Brazil

Goals Scored
17

Copa America Titles
1

1Norberto Mendez (Argentina)

Goals scored: 17

Norberto Mendez, nicknamed Tucho, along with Zizinho, tops the list with 17 goals in the Copa America. The Argentina midfielder played just 33 times for his country, but it was an incredibly successful period, winning three Copa America titles. Throughout his limited international career, Mendez scored 19 times for Argentina.

Mendez won the 1945 Copa America Golden Boot, scoring six times during Argentina’s triumph. As well as the 1945 victory, Mendez lifted the Copa America in 1946 and 1947. His 19 goals for Argentina in his career earned him 13th place in their all-time goalscorer list, ahead of the likes of Juan Roman Riquelme and Carlos Tevez. Mendez spent the whole of his club career in the Americas with three different sides; Huracan, Racing Club and Tigre.

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