MX23RW : Thursday, January 20 04:53:42| >> :120:19309:19309:

Remembering Gunnar Nordahl: AC Milan's greatest goalscorer of all time

On what would have been his 100th birthday, Sports Mole remembers Swedish striker Gunnar Nordahl - AC Milan's greatest ever goalscorer.

In the modern era we are fortunate enough to see the world's greatest players on a weekly basis, and anything we miss can be viewed on countless different platforms after the fact.

The 'greatest of all time' debate will rage on in perpetuity, and we will never get a definitive answer on such an opinionated topic, but there is no doubt that the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have the greatest volume of evidence behind them due to how many of their magical moments have been caught on camera.

That is, of course, down to the evolution of technology - more footage of Ronaldo Nazario and Zinedine Zidane exists than of Diego Maradona; more footage of Maradona exists than of Johan Cruyff; more footage of Cruyff exists than of Pele, and so on.

While those names are always in the mix when discussing great players, others from history have become less heralded - one of whom would be celebrating his 100th birthday today.

Swedish striker Gunnar Nordahl is a name which will be unfamiliar to many modern football fans outside of his home country and Italy, yet he deserves to be held in the same esteem as the greatest players of his era.

Nordahl's roll of honours is evidence enough for that argument; 65 years after leaving the club, he remains AC Milan's top goalscorer of all time, while his goals-per-game ratio in the Italian top flight is unrivalled.

Only Silvio Piola and Francesco Totti have ever scored more Serie A goals than Nordahl, who reached his tally of 225 in just 291 games. By contrast, Piola netted 274 in 537 games, while Totti hit 250 in 619 appearances.

The list of names Nordahl has outscored is arguably even more impressive, with the likes of Giuseppe Meazza, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro del Piero, Gabriel Batistuta, Luigi Riva and compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic among those looking up at him in the all-time Serie A scoring charts.

That ratio of a goal every 0.77 games is the most eye-catching figure of the lot, though; none of the other 86 players to have reached triple figures in the competition comes close to that, with only five of those 86 boasting a ratio of above 0.6.

A poacher extraordinaire, Nordahl finished at the top of the scoring charts on five separate occasions - a record which still stands to this day, with no other player doing so more than three times.

Indeed, the Swede was the capocannoniere three seasons in a row from 1952 to 1955, a feat only the great Michel Platini can match, while only Totti has scored more goals for a single club in Serie A.

The records do not stop there, though; Nordahl netted a joint-high 49 braces during his time in Serie A, and an unrivalled 17 hat-tricks - two clear of Meazza.

During his time in Serie A, Nordahl helped Milan to two titles, including the 1950-51 campaign when Milan ended a 43-year wait for the Scudetto. During that season he scored 38 times, something no other Milan player has matched before or since.

While the 6ft 1in powerhouse of a striker also played for Roma in Serie A, his best days undoubtedly came in Milan, and he still holds numerous records for the San Siro outfit.

In addition to being their leading scorer in all competitions with 221 - a full 46 clear of Andriy Shevchenko in second - Nordahl is also their leading league scorer with 210, a whopping 93 more than Shevchenko managed.

His international career is also hugely impressive, and many in Sweden still regard him above Zlatan Ibrahimovic when it comes to the nation's greatest ever player.

Nordahl netted an incredible 43 goals in just 33 appearances, leaving him third on the all-time list but unsurprisingly with the best goals-per-game ratio.

It is probable that he would have gone on to top the list too, but his transfer to Milan in 1949 forced him to retire from the national team due to the rules at the time.

Swedish fans will have been wondering what could have been in the following years, with one of Nordahl's last actions in a Sweden shirt being to help them to Olympic glory as top scorer in London.

A golden era for the nation saw fellow legends Gunnar Gren and Nils Liedholm establish Sweden as one of the most promising sides in world football, and had Nordahl been permitted to continue for his country then their defeat to Brazil in the 1958 World Cup final - a match which well and truly launched the career of a certain Pele - may have been different.

Instead, Nordahl paid for being the first Swedish player to move to a foreign league, swapping the amateur game for the professional ranks and seeing his international career ended as a result.

As it happened, Gren and Liedholm soon followed Nordahl to Italy and formed the famous Gre-No-Li attacking trident at San Siro, plundering 71 league goals between them in the first season together.

Unlike the pioneering Nordahl, Gren and Liedholm were allowed to continue playing for Sweden, whereas Nordahl was left to focus solely on club matters.

While his legacy is undoubtedly held most dear in Milan, the prolific penalty-box predator enjoyed huge success in his own country before moving to Italy too.

Nordahl lifted four Allsvenskan titles in succession with IFK Norrkoping from 1944 to 1948, finishing three of those campaigns as top scorer to add to the Golden Boot he won in 1944-45, when he netted 27 times in just 22 games.

'The Bison', as he was dubbed for his powerful physique, ended his time in his home country with 93 goals in just 95 games, including seven in one match once - a record which remains intact.

Nordahl's exploits are perhaps lesser known as his career began winding down just as football began gearing up.

The Swede's final season at Milan was 1955-56 - the year both the European Cup and the Ballon d'Or came into existence. It is safe to assume that, had the latter been around five years earlier, Nordahl would have been a front-runner to win it multiple times.

The World Cup also eluded Nordahl, whose international career spanned from 1942 to its premature end in 1948, a period which saw both scheduled World Cups cancelled due to World War II.

Even without those appearances on the biggest stage, there is no doubt that Nordahl deserves to be remembered among the greatest strikers in football history.

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