The Primeira Liga’s top five goalscorers in history

While the Primeira Liga may not have the same reputation as the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga, many outstanding teams participate in the league and Portuguese football has a rich, proud and brilliant history.

Younger fans worldwide may know about the Primeira Liga more for the production line of exceptional talents who go on to shine in more prestigious leagues, or foreign players who arrive at Portugal’s top clubs from South America, with the likes of Benfica, Porto, and Sporting usually battling it out to be crowned champions.

But there is a great tradition of goalscoring in the Primeira Liga, with several world-class players lighting up the league for many years. Below is a rundown of the top five goalscorers in the history of the Portuguese Primeira Liga. 

1. Fernando Peyroteo

A one-club man who spent his entire career with Sporting CP in Lisbon, Fernando Peyroteo is one of the greatest goalscorers in the nation’s history, and indeed in football history full stop! He was the type of player who would definitely be at the top of online sports betting odds for scoring goals if he still played today. A remarkable career saw him score 332 goals in 197 games in the Primeria Liga – a strike rate of nearly two per game.

Even the best players in the world in the modern era, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, only managed to achieve records of scoring around one goal per game. While the Portuguese league was not the very best in the world when Peyroteo was in his prime in the 1940s, he was still coming up against some very good players.

2. Eusébio

A legend who symbolizes the successes and disappointments of Portuguese football better than anyone, Eusébio is still regarded as one of the best to ever play the sport. The lethal centre-forward, who passed away at the age of 71 back in 2014, spent most of his career with Benfica.

While Eusébio played for other teams and scored goals for them in the Primeira Liga, his contributions to Benfica put him in the club’s folklore for all eternity. He scored a remarkable 317 goals for Benfica in 301 league games, while his total stats for the Primeira include another three goals that he scored for Beira-Mar towards the end of his career.

In addition to scoring goals galore, Eusebio won 11 league titles with Benfica and lifted the European Cup with his team in the 1961/1962 season.

3. Fernando Gomes

A talented striker who peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s, Fernando Gomes spent most of his career with the illustrious FC Porto in Portugal. He also had a spell at Sporting CP, which was fairly productive, but he is most often associated with the white and blue of Porto.

His career in the Primeira Liga saw him score 125 goals in 158 games for Porto during his first stint at the club. He also netted 163 goals in 183 games after re-signing at the club following a two-year absence at Sporting Gijon in Spain.

Gomes then spent the last two years of his career at Sporting CP, scoring 31 goals in 63 league matches.

4. José Águas

Regarded as a poacher who had the ability to play in the very best of teams, José Águas helped Benfica to countless honours in the 1950s and early 1960s. While his career did have some overlap with Eusébio, he was often the main attacking threat for his team during the early part of his career.

Águas played for Benfica for almost his entire career, spending a total of 13 seasons with the club. He scored 291 goals in 281 league matches in that time, a remarkable record of more than one goal per game. At the very end of his career, he also had a brief and unsuccessful stint with Austria Vienna in the Austrian league, which resulted in two goals in seven matches.

José’s son, José Rui Águas, also became a footballer and enjoyed a highly successful career as a striker, scoring 123 goals in 326 matches, including a fruitful spell at the club where his father made his name, Benfica, scoring 35 goals with the Eagle on his chest.

5. Nené

A fine footballer who thrived at Benfica in the 1970s and early 1980s, Nené, whose actual name is Tamagnini Manuel Gomes Batista, was a complete attacker who could play across the front line. He eventually burst into the Benfica team from the youth setup and became one of the most feared forwards in Europe.

He was the Portuguese Footballer of the Year in 1971 and finished as runner-up the following year. During these years, Nené was still playing with Benfica’s great Eusébio, who was the team’s focal point.

He eventually went on to represent the club for his whole career, retiring in 1986, having scored 262 goals in 422 league matches for his boyhood team.

The future of the Primeira Liga

Many fans of the Portuguese Primeira Liga are right to have concerns about the league’s future. While teams like Porto and Benfica are still dominant domestically, as are Sporting CP, they have struggled to be a huge force in European competitions like in the past. The era of teams like Porto being able to win the Europa League or Champions League appears very far away.

Most of Portugal’s top clubs buy young players from abroad or nurture home-grown talent in their academies and then sell them to clubs in the Premier League, La Liga, or Serie A. As such, many of the best players may not remain in the league long enough to compete with the top five goal-scorers of all time and achieve the sort of incredible statistics shown above. It’s safe to say that the records set by the likes of Fernando Peyroteo, Eusébio and Fernando Gomes probably will not be broken for a long time to come, if ever.