Well, today is the day, the ninth and final installment of our look at the 7 best footballers in each position in world football. We may well do another video on the 7 best managers, and we will certainly do one on our combined HITC Sevens World XI after that, but today is the turn of the centre-forwards.
Goals are often described as the currency of football, and it has long been a striker's job to score as many as possible of them. That has changed somewhat over the last few decades, as centre-forwards are expected to contribute to multiple phases of play whilst it’s not that uncommon for a teams midfielders or wide players to score as many if not more goals than their striker, take Liverpool as a prime example.
So centre-forwards come in all different shapes and sizes, from false nines to cold-blooded poachers, and for the first time in a while, I feel pretty confident that there’s nothing I’d change about my seven. Of course, this wouldn’t be YouTube if a whole host of you didn’t disagree though, so let’s get underway!
Here are our 7 best centre-forwards in world football:
7. Edinson Cavani
Kicking us off in seventh place is a man I have previously admitted I underrated during his time at Napoli. Now in the autumn of his career though, there can be no doubts about the Uruguyans class. His sheer goal scoring record at Napoli and PSG speaks volumes, having bagged 104 goals in 138 games in Naples, and 192 goals in 274 games in the French capital… and his record of 46 goals from 109 caps for Uruguay isn’t bad either.
Cavani isn’t the most creative of centre-forwards, but he has an incredible work rate, really intelligent movement and a deadly finish. His physicality and anticipation make him a nightmare to defend against, and the 32-year-old has become PSG’s all time record goal scorer after just six seasons at the club. He gets the ball rolling with this seven.
6. Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann of Club Atletico de Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Sevilla FC at Wanda Metropolitano on May 12, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.
As you can see, there’s no messing about with this seven, and our honourable mentions between first and second place will show the incredible talent that missed out. One man who can’t miss out is Atletico Madrid talisman Antoine Griezmann though. Aged 28, it has been seven seasons since Griezmann has failed to bag 20+ goals in a season, and that was back when he wasn’t even really playing as a centre-forward for Real Sociedad.
Griezmann can operate as either an attacking midfielder or as a left winger, and often does for France, but he is primarily a centre-forward at club level and that’s where we feature him in this series. Such a well-rounded forward, Griezmann has fantastic technique, slick movement and a clinical finish. He isn’t as prolific as Cavani, but he’s much more creative, he tends to take up slightly deeper positions and he’s playing in a stronger league in a less attack-minded setup. We think sixth place is just right.
5. Robert Lewandowski
I thought Robert Lewandowski just looked a tad off the pace of things and not quite his usual self at the 2018 World Cup. Whether he was carrying a knock I’m not quite sure, but any doubts about whether he was starting to wane now into his 30’s have been well and truly banished. The Polish frontman has scored 37 goals this season at the time of this recording, having scored 41 last season, 43 the season before and 42 in the season before that.
Overall, Lewandowski has scored 188 goals in 238 games for Bayern Munich, and you are unlikely to find many more consistent and reliable goal scorers on the planet. Following four impressive seasons in Poland as a youngster, it was in Lewandowski’s second season at Borussia Dortmund that he announced himself as one of the world’s finest strikers.
Graceful, tireless and two-footed, he has reached yet new heights at Bayern Munich, and this is the fourth time in six seasons that he has been the top scorer in the Bundesliga. Lewandowski is undoubtedly a top five striker in the world as far as I’m concerned.
4. Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez of Barcelona walks out with a mascot for the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Liverpool and FC Barcelona at Anfield on May 7, 2019 in Liverpool,...
The second player from the exceptional but tiny football-loving nation of Uruguay, Luis Suarez proved his class once again in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against his former club Liverpool, although I’m recording this video prior to the second leg. Suarez has obviously cut a controversial figure throughout his career, and I shouldn’t think he’ll be winning too many awards for sportsmanship any time soon, but we’re evaluating the chompy striker purely on his footballing talents.
In that respect, there have been few finer forwards over the last decade than Suarez. Nasty, aggressive, intelligent, creative, a menace with his movement and a scorer of both wonderful and scrappy goals. At Liverpool, we saw the genius of Suarez in a team built around him. At Barcelona, he - like anyone - has had to play second stage to Lionel Messi, but that has brought out a whole new side to the 32-year-old’s game.
He has become really unselfish, yet he still registers excellent numbers in front of goal. This could be a rare season in which Suarez fails to hit 30+ goals at the Camp Nou, having scored 177 in 246 games over the last five seasons, but his overall play has been outstanding once again. Suarez takes fourth place for me.
3. Harry Kane
I know a lot of people talk of Harry Kane as a sort of strong, single-minded goal scorer, but the story told and the truth often aren’t the same thing. Make no mistakes, Harry Kane is a brilliant footballer, not just a brilliant goal scorer. He is industrious, he has really good technique and he’s a fine crosser of a ball. Now, in addition to that, Kane’s finest attribute is of course his goal scoring, and he is arguably the best out-and-out centre-forward in the world.
In the art of shooting, there are few finer than Kane. From long range, close range, deft flicks over a goalkeepers head or powerful back post headers, he possesses incredible power and accuracy. The result has been 159 goals in 228 games since his breakthrough season at Tottenham in 2014-15, in addition to 22 goals from 37 caps for England.
I have seen people say that Tottenham are a better team without Harry Kane. Those people are silly people. Kane is a remarkable talisman, a brilliant footballer and an even better goal scorer. With two Premier League Golden Boots and one World Cup Golden Boot to his name at the age of 25, we’d say Kane is the third best striker in the world.
2. Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates becoming 2019 Champions after the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester City at American Express Community Stadium...
These kind of sevens can get a bit gushy since you tend to run out of superlatives when talking about such exceptional footballers. When Sergio Aguero is firing on all cylinders, he is not just one of the best strikers in the world right now, but one of the most devastating I’ve ever seen. Everything about Aguero is explosive, his acceleration, his movements across defenders and of course his finishing.
He’s got such brilliant balance that he can stand up to almost any physical challenge. Earlier in the season we saw giving Virgil van Dijk the runaround, and how many players have done that this season? Probably only him and Messi. Aguero has always been a fantastic goal scorer, but he has become so much more than that under Pep Guardiola.
His touch and technique are brilliant, he has become more creative, selfless and intelligent in his movement. In the last six seasons, Aguero’s worst goal scoring return was 28, and he scored those 28 goals in just 34 games. His minutes per goal ratio is extraordinary, and this season could possibly become the best of his career, on 31 in all competitions at the time of this record.
0. Honourable Mentions
As I’ve said in everyone of these videos, there are too many brilliant players for me to ever give them all the credit they deserve, and that is especially true today with strikers. I had a page-long shortlist before whittling down my top seven, so I’ll give a bit of time to the most honourable of the honourable mentions, and then just quickly rack off some of the names of those others.
The man who possibly came closest to making our seven was Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi, who has been brilliant for the last five seasons now, during which time he has scored 134 goals in 188 games. In the Premier League, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been very prolific for both Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund over the last few years, combining lightning pace with a sharp eye for goal.
As a totally different type of centre-forward, Roberto Firmino has done an equally important and often underappreciated job at Liverpool. His goal scoring record is overshadowed by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane’s, but Firmino’s work rate and creativity is an invaluable asset to Jurgen Klopp’s side. It would be wrong not to mention Karim Benzema, whose contribution to the last decade of success at Real Madrid is so often overlooked. Like Suarez at Barca, Benzema understood that he wasn’t the main man at Real, but he had numerous 20+ goal seasons and put in the hard yards and created openings for those around him. He’s scored 30 goals in 51 games this season.
If they are the few outstanding candidates, other players we have to mention include the likes of Serie A breakout superstar Krzysztof Piatek, Eintracht Frankfurt duo Luka Jovic and Sebastian Haller, RB Leipzig star Timo Werner, Sampdoria’s renaissance man Fabio Quagliarella who has just had the best season of his career aged 36, Roma target man Edin Dzeko, Napoli star Dries Mertens, Man City backup Gabriel Jesus, Manchester United’s £75 million frontman Romelu Lukaku, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal strike partner Alexandre Lacazette, Juventus and Argentina man Paulo Dybala if one classifies him as more of a centre-forward than as an attacking midfielder, and despite enduring the poorest spell of his career on-loan at Chelsea, we should probably give a quick nod to Gonzalo Higuain too.
Now, there’ll be people out there saying what about Ciro Immobile, Callum Wilson, Raul Jimenez, Paco Alcacer, Dario Benedetto, Falcao, etc, etc. I can only name a certain amount of players, it’ll never be enough and I’ll always miss people, but the seven itself I think is pretty solid. A quick word to those who are new to the series, if someone really outstanding like Lionel Messi has missed out, it’s safe to assume they were considered for another seven, the right wing one in Messi’s case. Anyhow, talking of the seven itself, here is your top spot…
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo during the Italian Serie A football match between A.S. Roma and Juventus at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, on may 12, 2019.
Only ever in doubt if you were new to the series and weren’t sure if Cristiano Ronaldo featured in our left wing seven. Well, he didn’t, so it’s safe to assume he tops our centre-forwards one. Simply put, one of the greatest footballers of all time, Ronaldo has gone from a slim, tricky flair player when he first arrived at Manchester United, to a powerful all-action superstar when he left. By the time he left Real Madrid and now at Juventus, Ronaldo’s game had transitioned once more, this time into a dead-eyed pure goal scoring striker.
In terms of his attacking movement and sheer anticipation at this stage of his career, Ronaldo might be the best goal scorer in my lifetime. He is an absolute force of nature in the air, and so composed and precise in the finish. Ronaldo has always been renowned for his incredible drive, determination and work ethic, and he’s reaping the rewards once again since he continues to be one of the best players in the world at the age of 34.
Ronaldo averaged better than a goal a game whilst playing as a centre-forward for Real Madrid, and he’s scored 27 goals in 40 games since signing for Juventus. If he wasn’t playing in the same era as Messi, he would be completely out on his own in a fantasy realm with those kind of numbers. A gem of a footballer and a man capable of turning any game on its head, Cristiano Ronaldo will of course make our combined world XI.
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