JOSEF BICAN would have been as famous as Pele if he had played in a different era.
That is the view of a Fifa historian as Cristiano Ronaldo hunts down the former Czech striker’s formidable official goal tally.
Josef Bican is the highest official goalscorer of all timeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Cristiano Ronaldo is closing in on Bican’s 805 goal haulCredit: AFP or licensors
No one is certain of the exact number of goals he bagged as Bican’s career spanned from 1931 to 1955 when record keeping was not quite as efficient as it is in 2021.
But the most common tally credited to the former Slavia Prague ace is 805 goals – 779 for club and 26 international – according to Fifa.
As with Pele, the lines are somewhat blurry when it comes to official and unofficial goals scored.
The Brazil legend has even changed his Instagram bio to read ‘Highest goalscorer of all time (1,283)’ in a bid to cling onto his self-awarded title.
Pele is actually only credited with 757 official strikes – with his higher total generally understood to include goals scored in friendly and tour matches.
But even on unofficial goals, Fifa still give the crown to Bican with a staggering 1,468.
Fifa note on their website: “The Brazilian legend [Pele] includes in his tally goals scored in unofficial games.
Pele claims he holds the crown but his 1,283 unofficial tally includes goals scored in friendlies and tour matchesCredit: Instagram / @pele
“And if we were to do the same for Bican, his mark would be an estimated 1,468 – even if these figures are difficult to verify given their era.”
Bican was born born on September 25, 1913 in Vienna and died in Prague on December 12, 2001.
He is believed to have scored his stunning 805 goals in just 530 games – a goal rate which would surely see him worth at least £300million in today’s market.
Bican played for Austria at the 1934 World Cup in Italy before switching his allegiance to his adopted homeland of Czechoslovakia – now the Czech Republic.
He scored 14 goals in 19 games for the Austrians before making the switch – which was still permitted in the 30s.
Having played for Hertha Vienna – like his father had – Bican switched to Rapid Vienna in 1931 and started his professional career where he spent six years.
In 1937, Bican transferred to Slavia Prague where he fell in love with the club and the country.
Bican played for Slavia for 11 years and later became their manager.
During his time in Prague, he successfully applied for Czech citizenship and played for the country 14 times between 1939 and 1949 – scoring 12 times.
Bican did not represent his new nation at the 1938 World Cup in France because of an admin error. And the next two tournaments were cancelled because of World War II.
Highest goalscorers of all time
Lionel Messi, 33, is also on track to beat Bican’s haul if he plays on into his late 30sCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Czechoslovakia – along with several other Soviet countries – refused to participate in the 1950 World Cup.
And these World Cup absences are why Fifa historian Radovan Jelinek thinks the goal machine was not more well known.
He said: “Bican was incredibly unlucky at the height of his career. There was no World Cup in 1942 or 1946 because of the war.
“If the 1942 edition had taken place, for example, he would surely have become more widely known. Perhaps he might even have been as famous as Pele.”
Describing his goalscoring prowess on Czech TV in 1990, Bican said: “When I talk to young reporters, they always say, ‘Mr Bican, scoring was easier back in your day.’
“So I ask them, ‘How come? Look, are there opportunities today?’ And they tell me, ‘Of course there are, many of them’.
“And I say, ‘There you go. If there weren’t opportunities, it would be difficult. But if there are, scoring is the same as it was a hundred years ago, and it’ll be the same in a hundred years’ time too. It’ll always be the same.”
Reports suggest Bican could run 100m in 10.8 seconds – just half a second slower than the world record at the time.
Bican’s father Frantiesk fought in World War I and returned unscathed but ironically it was football that killed him.
The Hertha player picked up a serious kidney injury during a game and eventually died from the problem.