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TOP 10 STRIKERS IN FOOTBALL RIGHT NOW

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13 mins read
Top 10 male strikers in world football right now

Europe’s top five leagues are blessed with some of the most prolific strikers in world football, but who are the top 10 strikers on the planet right now? In this article, I’ve tried to come up with the answer using advanced metrics sprinkled with a little opinion. 

Football is a game that has eleven players playing for the same team but each with a different set of instructions and each performing a different role from the other. While there is no doubt regarding the old adage that “goals win you matches, while great defences win you titles”, you’d still argue that one needs to win the match in hand first before they can start thinking about challenging for the title.

The transfer market would certainly agree. Often it is the strikers who command the biggest fees, since a consistent goalscorer can paper over a multitude of problems that would otherwise take centre stage.

Being a striker isn’t just about finishing anymore; you’d have to hold up the ball, link up play, press, run the channels, and bully defences. And these modern forwards certainly do possess most of these facets in their play and thus are part of this list.

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Choosing the best strikers in the world

First things first, I’ve tried to walk the divide between ‘strikers’ and ‘forwards’ very cautiously, since my first objective was to limit this list to genuine strikers. That means the likes of Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah and Kylian Mbappé don’t make this list.

I’ve used metrics like goals scored, assists, non-penalty expected goals (npxGoals), expected goal involvement (xGi), goals-penalty kicks (Goals-PK), shot-creating actions per ninety minutes (SCA/90’), goal creating actions per ninety minutes (GCA/90’), and pressures/90’ to quantify each player’s contributions, but that doesn’t mean whoever has the best stats is the outright winner. I’ve also considered the importance of each player to his team’s cause, overall contribution to his team’s game, and level of competition in the teams’ respective leagues.

xG is the probability that a shot will result in a goal based on the characteristics of the shot and the events leading up to it. Every shot is compared to thousands of shots with similar characteristics to determine the probability that this shot will result in a goal. That probability is the expected goal total. An xG of 0 is a certain miss, while an xG of 1 is a certain goal. An xG of 0.32 would indicate that if identical shots were attempted 100 times, 32 would be expected to result in a goal. Now, each penalty kick is worth 0.76 xG since all penalty kicks share the same characteristics. Thus, non-penalty expected goals (npxG) is total expected goals minus total penalty expected goals each player scores in any given period.

Expected Goal Involvement (xGi) is the cumulation of the expected goals and expected goals a player accumulates in that period. For instance, if Riyad Mahrez takes three shots in a match which sum up to 0.41 expected goals (xG), while his creativity and passing lead to 0.21 expected assists (xA), his overall xGi for that match would sum up to 0.68. The “Goals-Penalty Kicks” index allows us to gauge a player’s efficiency in front of the goal with respect to their npxG. The bigger the gap, the better their productivity.

Shot Creating Actions (SCA) and Goal Creating Actions (GCA) mean at least two offensive actions leading to a shot or goal. This includes live-ball passes, dead-ball passes, successful dribbles, shots which lead to another shot and fouls won. In simple terms, it means how involved a player is in their team’s overall offensive build-up play. And finally, pressures per 90’ gives us the exact number of high defensive pressures throughout a 90-minute game; these could vary from hurrying an opponent in possession or limiting passing channels.

Note: All stats come from FBref.com, Sofascore.com and Statsbomb, and are correct as of the publish date.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive into it and take a look at the top 10 male strikers in world football right now.

Best strikers in the worldHonourable Mentions

#20 Jonathan David

#19 João Félix

#18 Jamie Vardy

#17 Memphis Depay

#16 Patrick Schick

#15 Darwin Núñez

#14 Dušan Vlahović

#13 Romelu Lukaku

#12 Zlatan Ibrahimović

#11 Luis Suárez

Best strikers in the world – The Top 10

#10 Victor Osimhen

Age: 23 years (29-12-1998)
Country: Nigeria
Current Club: SSC Napoli

#10 Victor Osimhen

The 23-year-old Nigerian has slowly cemented his place among one of the best strikers in world football over the past 12-18 months. After making his professional senior debut for German club VfL Wolfsburg in 2017, Osimhen spent a couple of seasons with them before moving to Charleroi and then LOSC Lille where he exploded.

Following a stellar campaign with LOSC Lille, Osimhen was the subject of a club-record €70 million deal that saw Serie A club Napoli break the bank for him. And slowly but surely, the Nigerian has started to pay off large chunks of the sum paid for him with his authoritative and physical play up front. In 55 appearances for the club, Osimhen has scored 25 goals and assisted another three, maintaining a goal involvement rate of just a shade better than one goal involvement every two games.

COVID and injury concerns have kept Osimhen on the sidelines from time to time. However, in recent times, he has developed his game to become one of those modern but physical strikers who are direct but also very good with their hold-up and link-up play. The Nigerian also likes to run in behind and occupy half-spaces, while his back-to-the-goal play and first touch are mostly impeccable. Thus, come the 2022/23 summer transfer window, Osimhen will surely be on the wishlist of clubs like Arsenal and Barcelona who play a similar style of possession-based football and need someone like him to lead the line for the next five to seven years.

#9 Lautaro Martínez

Age: 24 years (22-08-1997)
Country: Argentina
Current Club: FC Inter Milan

#9 Lautaro Martínez

Romelu Lukaku’s partner in crime last season, Lautaro set the Serie A alight alongside the Belgian last season. Having said that, Martínez has adapted extremely well to losing such a partner, demonstrating his full repertoire and proving that he can be the complete package on his own.

A dynamic, quick, agile and technically-gifted player, Lautaro is also known for his elegant playing style, great dribbling skills and clinical finishing, while his aerial prowess and physical strength come as a surprise to some due to his diminutive stature. Possessing good link-up play, defensive contributions and an ability to drop deep or drag oppositions out of position, Lautaro is a tenacious creative forward with an eye for line-breaking passes.

In 88 appearances across all competitions since the start of last season, the Argentine forward has scored 35 goals and provided 9 assists. Apart from his 44 goal involvements, Martínez has been more than decent in creating chances for his team. The 24-year-old averages 2.93 Shots Creating Actions per 90’ (SCA/90’), while he creates 0.39 Goal Creating Actions per 90’ (GCA/90’), which is respectable and decent for any forward. Moreover, Martínez has also been applying 16.03 pressures/90’, which is great considering he has played under both Antonio Conte and Simone Inzaghi.

#8 Cristiano Ronaldo

Age: 37 years (05-02-1985)
Country: Portugal
Current Club: Manchester United FC

#8 Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has seen his powers wane in recent times with age catching up to him. In 2018, Ronaldo moved to Turin to play for Juventus in a deal reported to be €100 million, which is still the highest fee paid for a footballer over 30 years old. But things didn’t pan out the way he or Juve had hoped for.

At Juventus, Ronaldo continued demonstrating his goal-scoring prowess, scoring 101 goals in 134 appearances across all competitions. He scored 21, 31 and 29 goals in his three full seasons in the Serie A respectively, which is quite staggering. However, there was always this sense of unfulfilment because he was mainly brought in to win that long-coveted Champions League trophy, but the best Juve could ever manage with him was the quarter-finals. By 2019/20, Juventus went into rebuild mode, and it became evident that Ronaldo wanted none of it. Things didn’t take too long to turn sour in Andrea Pirlo’s first season as The Old Lady barely made it to the UEFA Champions League, though Ronaldo still finished the season with 29 goals and won the Capocannoniere award for highest scorer in the league and became the first footballer to finish as the top goalscorer in the English, Spanish and Italian top-flights.

Ronaldo announced his wish to leave Juve at the eleventh hour in the summer of 2021 and secured a move to England, returning to Manchester United. This season, while his own performances have been respectable, United as a team have failed miserably, and that has rubbed off on his numbers as well. The 37-year-old has scored just 12 goals and provided 1 assist in 24 league appearances for the Red Devils this season. Make no mistakes, his numbers are pretty decent for a forward of his age, but we are talking about Cristiano Ronaldo here, and for more than a decade we’ve known what he can do, even at this age.

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#7 Diogo Jota

Age: 25 years (04-12-1996)
Country: Portugal
Current Club: Liverpool FC

#7 Diogo Jota

Football fans around the world knew him as an energetic forward who mainly operated down the flanks. His performances for Wolverhampton Wanderers suggested he was expected to provide backup to the most fearsome front three in world football. But within a year’s time, Diogo Jota has gone on to break it up.

Jota was a menace when he played for Wolves, and upon signing for Liverpool on a £40 million deal, he was primarily seen as a rotation option for Sadio Mané and Mohammed Salah in particular. While many raised eyebrows for the price they paid, Liverpool and some of the better data analysts around the world saw and decoded data that others couldn’t comprehend, and the results are there for all to see.

In 73 league appearances for the Reds, the Portuguese forward has scored 33 goals and provided 4 assists playing down the middle. Jota is a sure starter for Jürgen Klopp now, offering more running on the ball than Roberto Firmino: retaining what made him great as a winger, but also getting at the end of the things and finding the back of the net consistently. His record shows that something has clicked with him upfront, and it’d take a gargantuan effort on Robert Firmino’s part to dislodge him as the starter.

#6 Christopher Nkunku

Age: 24 years (14-11-1997)
Country: France
Current Club: RB Leipzig

#6 Christopher Nkunku

While most starting XIs and team sheets would tell you that Christopher Nkunku is an attacking midfielder or a goalscoring No. 10, what they won’t tell you is the positions he takes up on the field. The 24-year-old has been deployed as either a lone centre-forward or as a second striker in the RB Leipzig system.

A player who has gradually developed every facet of his game, Nkunku is entering his peak years and producing performances that are turning the heads of some of Europe’s most elite clubs. He has an exceptional passing range, good dribbling skills, is adept at hold-up and link-up plays, takes long shots, and is very good at taking set-pieces. Besides, over the last season or so, Nkunku has turned himself into one of Europe’s most potent strike forces.

In 83 appearances for RB Leipzig, Nkunku has scored 36 goals and assisted another 22 to take his total goal involvement to 58, while his vision and team play mean he is also involved in 5.00 SCA/90’ and 0.77 GCA/90’, which is the best among the top 20 strikers. Furthermore, Nkunku also does the hard yards and assists his team with his defensive work. Since the start of the 2020/21 season, Nkunku has averaged 19.11 pressures/90’, which is only behind Liverpool’s Diogo Jota.

#5 Ciro Immobile

Age: 32 years (20-02-1990)
Country: Italy
Current Club: SS Lazio

#5 Ciro Immobile

Ciro Immobile has been a consistent performer in the Serie A for some time now but has failed to attract interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, especially after sub-par spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla. In 2020, he equalled the record for most goals scored in a season in the Serie A with 36 goals, winning his third Capocannoniere and the European Golden Shoe, which is given to the top striker in Europe, in the process.

Although primarily a main striker, Immobile is capable of playing anywhere along the front line. A pacy forward, Immobile is primarily known for his offensive movement off the ball as well as his ability to make attacking runs and exploit spaces. His main characteristic is his eye for goal and finishing ability with both feet, while he also has good technical ability and is accurate with his heading. The 32-year-old possesses good link-up play, enabling his teammates to run in behind him. Apart from his offensive capabilities, he is known for his willingness to chase down the ball and press opponents when not in possession, making him a complete striker.

In 76 appearances for Lazio since the start of the 2020/21 season, Ciro has netted the ball 51 times while also providing 10 assists in that time. He has scored 31 non-penalty goals and is outperforming his npxG (non-penalty expected goals) index by (+4.4) goals, highlighting his prolific nature in front of goal. Immobile also averages 0.57 GCA/90’, which is excellent considering the team he plays for, thus justifying his inclusion on the list.

#4 Erling Braut Haaland

Age: 21 years (21-07-2000)
Country: Norway
Current Club: Borussia Dortmund

#4 Erling Braut Haaland

17 goals in 16 league matches for RB Salzburg and 56 goals in 62 league matches for Borussia Dortmund. It is frightening to think about what he might become in a couple of years, let alone when he’s 25 or 30. Haaland is the only striker born in the 21st Century to feature on this list and is a potential future Ballon d’Or winner. He also won the Golden Boy award in 2020, which he followed up by ending his 2020/21 UEFA Champions League campaign as the top goalscorer. In short: he’s a generational talent.

The awkward blonde giant has become one of the most fearsome strikers in the modern game. He’s pacy, he’s physical, and he’s capable of finding the back of the net with his eyes closed, but most importantly, he delivers when it really matters. He’s a prolific goalscorer but also links-up play quite well whenever necessary. However, his defensive contribution can be questioned, but that could also be down to how Dortmund have been using his services in general.

As far as stats go, in 66 appearances across all competitions, Haaland has scored 63 goals and provided 16 assists for his teammates, taking his goal involvement to 79 in just 66 games. Simply put, that’s insane. Furthermore, his proficiency can also be measured when we look at his npxG (non-penalty Expected Goals) and npG (non-penalty Goals); he is outperforming his npxG by 7.6 goals and would have been much higher on this list if not for the other three, who are in a league of their own.

#3 Harry Kane

Age: 28 years (28-07-1993)
Country: England
Current Club: Tottenham Hotspur FC

#3 Harry Kane

In the first 15 Premier League fixtures this season, Harry Kane scored just one goal and provided one assist. That’s quite a fall considering the 23 goals and 14 assists he provided last season to end as both the league’s top goalscorer and the top assist-provider. However, Antonio Conte has managed to fine-tune his Spurs team to his talisman’s strengths. The 28-year-old has managed to score 11 goals and provide 6 assists over the next 16 fixtures.

For years, Harry Kane was considered more like an Alan Shearer-type striker who could hit the ball hard and score goals in general, but nothing else. However, he has managed to develop his game to become one of the most well-rounded strikers in world football. He can poach inside the 18-yard-box, he can use either foot, he can make disguised runs and head the ball in. He also has a passing range that’d make a deep-lying playmaker look worthless, while his off-ball movement has helped Spurs tear apart opposition defences on a consistent basis.

In 88 appearances for Spurs, the Englishman has scored 48 goals and provided 23 assists. He’s also responsible for 3.35 SCA/90’, while his 0.68 GCA/90’ is only second to Christopher Nkunku on this list.

For a side that is usually happy to let go of the ball and sit back, Kane’s numbers are elite in every sense of the word.

#2 Robert Lewandowski

Age: 33 years (21-08-1988)
Country: Poland
Current Club: FC Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has arguably been the best player in the world since football resumed following the first COVID lockdown. He has broken record after record and is showing no sign of slowing down either. Lewandowski is 33 now, which means he is supposed to be winding down, but as you can see, he’s made of a different gravy, and like fine wine, he only keeps getting better with time.

Lewandowski was instrumental in Bayern’s treble-winning campaign and, had he not been injured for that PSG tie last season, I feel he and Bayern themselves would have been aiming for their third Champions League title in a row this season; that’s how important Lewandowski is to Bayern Munich.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time, Lewandowski is an efficient and intelligent striker who can score with his head as well as both feet. He is one of the most technically-gifted strikers and can operate as a poacher inside the box due to his positional acumen, ability to shoot first-time, aerial prowess, dribbling ability, vision, physicality and back-to-the-goal game. Moreover, despite operating as a lone centre-forward, Lewandowski is known for his defensive contributions as well. He presses the opposition backline, drops deep to overload in build-up play, and makes devastating last-minute runs into the 18-yard box.

In 79 league appearances for Bayern Munich, the 33-year-old Pole has scored a jaw-dropping 92 goals and has 104 goal contributions in total. He is comfortably out-performing his npxG (+14.5), but his expected Assists (xA) tally shows he has underperformed on that front, but I guess when you have 104 goal contributions in one-and-a-half seasons, you don’t leave much room for complaints.

#1 Karim Benzema

Age: 34 years (19-12-1987)
Country: France
Current Club: Real Madrid CF

Top 10 male strikers in world football right now - #1 Karim Benzema

I know this will be a contentious call for many of you. I must say: based on just stats, Lewandowski is ahead of Benzema, but when you factor in some of the other unquantifiable parameters, Benzema just about beats Lewandowski in my opinion. The 34-year-old Frenchman has taken his game up to another level, producing performances and impacting games in a way one would never have imagined four years ago.

If the last decade’s Real Madrid were defined by and dependent on Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance, the current-era team resemble a similar story arc, with Benzema being the protagonist. Despite being 34, he is a quick, skilful, agile, and prolific forward who can play off the shoulders of the last defender while also being very good in the air. A strong and powerful centre-forward, he can shoot with either foot and can operate in several roles, including, but not limited to: False 9, poacher, deep-lying forward, and an out-and-out target man.

In 84 appearances for Los Blancos, Benzema has scored a staggering 68 goals and provided 19 assists to take his total goal contribution to 87 out of 84 appearances. The France international has missed just eight games since the start of the 2020/21 season through injuries or suspension (all against bottom-half teams, except Barcelona), of which Real Madrid went on to win just two, drew four, and lost the other two games, highlighting how important Benzema is to their cause. Over the last 12 months or so, he has certainly cemented his place as the best striker in the world, at least in my eyes.

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