In the 1985-86 season of the Eredivisie (the highest rung of Dutch Professional Football), Ruud Gullit scored 24 goals in 34 league games for PSV Eindhoven. This is a stunning achievement because Gullit played in the sweeper position that season. This is probably the joint highest tally netted by a defensive player in a single season in one of the prominent football leagues in the world.
This aggregate is matched by the 24 goals Daniel Pasarella scored for River Plate in 35 matches( one more than Gullit) in the Argentine Primera Division in 1976. Other noted goal scoring achievements by defenders include Ronald Koeman’s 21 in 32 games for PSV in the 1987-88 season and Fernando Hierro’s 21 goals in 37 matches for Real Madrid in the 1991-92 Primera Liga season.
is is an example of goal scoring excess- such numbers are usually the exclusive domain of strikers and attacking midfielders.
Now to an example of the exact opposite nature – one of goal scoring abstinence.
In the 1993-94 Serie A season, AC Milan emerged champions, despite scoring a mere 36 goals in 34 league matches. This tally was only one more than the number scored by Atalanta and Udinese, who finished 16th and 17th in an eighteen team league. All the other sides in the top five scored more than fifty, with third place Sampdoria netting 64. Guiseppe Signori scored 23 goals on his own and ten different clubs had more prolific goal scorers than Milan’s leading poacher Daniele Massaro. Milan owed their success to an outstanding defence manned by Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini which conceded a mere 15 goals all season. Their per match goal scoring average is probably the lowest managed by a title winning side in one of the top football leagues. Milan’s didn’t lack for attacking prowess – they boasted the likes of Papin, Boban and Brian Laudrup.
Milan’s ultra-defensive tactics were responsible in some part for the Italian Federations decision to introduce three points for a win from the next season onwards.
Ex-Milan player and our star goal scoring defender Ruud Gullit made his presence felt in the 1993-94 Serie A season as well. Now playing as an attacker, he was the leading goal scorer in the attack-minded Sampdoria side. He finished sixth overall with 15 goals.
This information comes courtesy of Musa Okwonga’s interesting book, “A Cultured Left Foot”.