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Josef Bican: The Forgotten Man in Football History - But the Greatest Goalscorer of All Time

90min Staff
Bican / Image by Jack Gallagher

Pub quiz time! Who is the highest scorer in official matches in football history? 



"Surely Cristiano Ronaldo?"

Wrong. Wrong and oh, so wrong again. 

The answer is, of course, prolific Austrian superstar Josef Bican. 

"Well if he's that good, how come I don't know anything about him?" 

Patience, readers. This is the story of football's forgotten legend. 

Josef Bican was a Vienna-born footballer, who plied his trade during the most difficult period in humanity's history. He is also the greatest player to have ever pulled on the Austrian international jersey. 

Now, this may seem a tad obvious for a man who officially notched over 805 goals in 530 matches, (although records suggest he actually scored well over 1,000!) but Bican was a pretty clinical striker. 

The goalscorer famously grew up in a very poor family, and as his parents could not afford to buy their son shoes, Bican had to play football barefoot, which ultimately served to help him become extremely talented with both feet. 

Not only was he ruthless in front of goal, but he was also absolutely rapid.

Legend has it that he could run 100m in 10.8 seconds, which is quicker than Usain Bolt could probably run it after a Big Mac or a family-sized pizza. Although legend also has it, that Bican's mum protected her son from a hefty challenge by running onto the pitch and attacking his opponent with an umbrella - so believe what you will. 

All you need to know is, the man was a footballing God. 

Bican had already bagged 71 goals in 43 games by the time he joined Rapid Vienna in 1931, and it was here, as a teenager, that he began to make a real name for himself in Europe.

Naturally, when you're one of the hottest properties in the sport, international recognition soon comes knocking. In November 1933, Bican made his debut for the senior Austria team, aged 20. It was a pretty special national team too. 

This particular Austria side had been nicknamed the Wunderteam, and they were ready to take on the entire planet. 

Das Team went into the 1934 World Cup with a strong belief in their squad of superstars, and they gave an excellent account of themselves, reaching the semi-finals of the tournament. Bican scored his only goal of the competition in extra-time of Austria's Round of 16 victory over France, solidifying his place among Europe's elite. 

Their World Cup dream was crushed by eventual winners Italy, and Austria also fell short in the third-place playoff, losing 3-2 to Germany. It was a high that the country would struggle to reach again in a major competition, and one which Bican himself would never be able to replicate.

Unfortunately for Austria, Bican applied for Czech citizenship upon joining Slavia Prague in 1937, and that's where his international career with Das Team ended. The Austrian forward played for Slavia for 11 years, but his career was severely affected by World War II, meaning he managed just the 395 goals in 217 games. 

In that time, Bican achieved: 

12 top-scorer awards in his division.

57 goals in 26 matches over only one season. 

Top scorer in Europe over five consecutive campaigns (1939/40 - 1943/44). 

Having left Slavia in 1948, he returned to his beloved team five years later, where he saw out the final years of his career. Bican retired in 1955, aged 42, and he bagged 22 goals in 29 matches during his final spell at the club - despite his advancing years. 

Mind-boggling statistics.

'But it was easier to score in the old days!'

'Football is much more difficult nowadays!'

Try telling that to Josef. 

“I have heard many times the theory that it was easier to score in my day. But the opportunities were the same even a hundred years ago and will be the same in a hundred years. 

"The situation is identical and everyone should agree that an opportunity should turn into a goal. If I had five chances I scored five, if I had seven I scored seven."

And he did. Biscan bagged seven goals in a single match three times over his career.


I won't argue with him.