Europe’s top five leagues are blessed with some of the most prolific strikers in world football, but who are the top ten 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’re now asked 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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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. These metrics are also important to keep in mind if you’re interested in online betting or fantasy gaming and allow you to make much smarter predictions on football betting sites (visit MyBettingSites India for recommendations).
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.
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 world – Honourable Mentions
#20 Timo Werner
#19 João Félix
#18 Gerard Moreno
#17 Cristiano Ronaldo
#16 Diogo Jota
#15 Darwin Núñez
#14 Jonathan David
#13 Romelu Lukaku
#12 Dušan Vlahović
#11 Memphis Depay
#10 Victor Osimhen
Age: 23 years (29-12-1998)
Current Club: SSC Napoli
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, which is 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. 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 37 appearances for the club since the start of the 2021/22 season, Osimhen has scored 20 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.
Age: 26 years (24-01-1996)
Country: The Czech Republic
Current Club: Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Best known on these shores for his 60-yard screamer over the head of Scotland’s David Marshall at the 2020 Euros, the Czech Republic international carried his form from the Euros into the 2021/22 season, during which he had hit his 20th goal by January.
Big, quick, and possessing an eye for the audacious, Patrick Schick is one of the best players in Germany right now. A counter-attacking threat due to his positional awareness, sharp movement and quick acceleration, the 26-year-old is also adept at linking-up play with layoffs and quick one-twos. Although he predominantly plays as a centre-forward for Bayer Leverkusen, his eye for goal, heading accuracy and striking ability with his left foot mean he’s capable of operating as a second striker or a right-winger as well. His physique helps him with his back to goal work, while his technical ability allows him to participate in the build-up and impact offensively.
Since the start of the 2021/22 season, Schick has played 37 times for the German club, scoring 26 goals and providing 3 assists. He is also outperforming his xGi (+6.3), and impacting the overall build-up play with 2.12 SCA/90 and 0.59 GCA/90.
With some of the biggest clubs in the market for an out-and-out striker next summer (namely, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Arsenal), Schick would be hoping to impress potential suitors with another productive campaign.
Age: 25 years (03-04-1997)
Current Club: Arsenal FC
Football fans around the world knew him as an energetic forward who mainly operated down the flanks or in and around the half spaces for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. His playing time with the Cityzens suggested he was expected to provide backup to the most playing XI in world football, even though City operated in a striker-less system.
But within three month’s time with Arsenal, Gabriel Jesus has gone on to exceed everybody’s expectations. He was a menace when he played for Man City, and upon signing for Arsenal as part of a £45m deal, he was primarily seen by Mikel Arteta as his go-to man for that central role in the Arsenal forward line. While many raised eyebrows for the price they paid, Arsenal and Mikel saw something very few of us ever noticed, and the results are there for all to see.
In 49 appearances since the start of the 2021/22 season across all competitions, the Brazilian forward has scored 17 goals and provided 15 assists, averaging a goal contribution every 100 minutes. Jesus is Mikel Arteta’s talisman, offering more running on the ball than either of Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, retaining what made him effective as a winger for Pep but also getting at the end of the things and finding the back of the net consistently.
With 7 goal contributions in 7 Premier League starts already, this season has the making of being the campaign in which Gabriel Jesus announces himself as one of the most complete forwards in world football.
Age: 25 years (22-08-1997)
Current Club: FC Inter Milan
Romelu Lukaku’s partner-in-crime during Inter’s title-winning campaign in 2020/21, Lautaro Martínez set the Serie A alight alongside the Belgian that year. Having said that, the Argentine had adapted extremely well to losing Lukaku when he went to Chelsea, 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 relatively 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 and creative forward with an eye for line-breaking passes.
In 54 appearances across all competitions since the start of last season, the Argentine forward has scored 28 goals and provided 9 assists. Apart from his 37 goal involvements, Martínez has been more than decent in creating chances for his team. The 24-year-old averages 3.0 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 14.97 pressures/90’, which is great considering he has played under both Antonio Conte and Simone Inzaghi.
With Romelu Lukaku having returned to Inter Milan this season on loan, expect another swashbuckling season from the Argentine forward.
Age: 32 years (20-02-1990)
Current Club: SS Lazio
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—given to the top striker in Europe—in the process.
Although primarily a main striker, Immobile is capable of playing anywhere across the front line. A pacy forward, he 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 also known for his willingness to chase down the ball and press opponents when not in possession, making him a complete striker.
In 45 appearances for Lazio since the start of the 2021/22 season, Immobile has netted the ball 34 times while also providing 4 assists in that time. He has scored 25 non-penalty goals and is outperforming his npxG (non-penalty expected goals) index by (+6.2) goals, highlighting his prolific nature in front of goal. He also averages 0.41 GCA/90’, which is excellent considering who he plays for, thus justifying his inclusion on the list.
Age: 24 years (14-11-1997)
Current Club: RB Leipzig
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. Over the last season or so, Nkunku has turned himself into one of Europe’s most potent strike forces.
In 59 appearances for RB Leipzig, Nkunku has scored 41 goals and assisted another 16 to take his total goal involvement to 57, while his vision and team play mean he is also involved in 5.47 SCA/90’ and 0.89 GCA/90’, which is the best among the top 20 strikers. Apart from that, Nkunku also does the hard yards and assists his team with his defensive work. Since the start of the 2021/22 season, Nkunku has averaged 22.26 pressures/90’, which is only behind Liverpool’s Diogo Jota among forwards in world football.
Age: 29 years (28-07-1993)
Current Club: Tottenham Hotspur FC
In his first 15 Premier League starts last season, Harry Kane had scored just one goal and provided one assist. That’s quite a fall considering the 23 goals and 14 assists he provided during the 2020/21 Premier League 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. Despite the kind of start he had last season, Kane managed to finish the season with 17 league goals and 9 assists as Spurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League.
For years, 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, use either foot, 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 55 appearances for Spurs, the Englishman has scored 30 goals and provided 10 assists. He’s also responsible for 3.35 SCA/90’, while his 0.51 GCA/90’ is only second to Christopher Nkunku on this list.
For a team who are usually happy to let go of the ball and sit back, Kane’s numbers are elite in every sense of the word.
Age: 34 years (21-08-1988)
Current Club: FC Bayern Munich
The Polish striker 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 34 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. He is now a Barcelona player, having sealed a €50m move in the summer.
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 50 appearances for Bayern and Barcelona since the start of the 2021/22 season, the Pole has scored a jaw-dropping 55 goals and made 61 goal contributions in total. He is comfortably out-performing his npxG (+15.4), but his expected Assists (xA) tally shows he has underperformed on that front, but I guess when you have 61 goal contributions in just over one season, you don’t leave much room for complaints.
Age: 34 years (19-12-1987)
Current Club: Real Madrid CF
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. Based on just stats, Lewandowski is ahead of Benzema, but when you factor in some of the other unquantifiable parameters, like the Frenchman’s role in Real Madrid winning LaLiga and the UEFA Champions League last season, Benzema just about beats Lewandowski in my opinion.
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 playing the protagonist this time. Despite being 34, he is a quick, skilful, agile, and a prolific forward who can play off the shoulder 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-nine, poacher, deep-lying forward, and an out-and-out target man.
In 51 appearances for Los Blancos, Benzema has scored a staggering 48 goals and provided 15 assists to take his total goal contribution to 63 out of 51 appearances. What tilts the balance in the Frenchman’s favour is his impeccable record in the Champions League last season, where he almost single-handedly won his side the title. In 12 UCL appearances, Benzema scored 15 goals from an xG of 8.6, more importantly, hitting crucial goals against Paris-Saint Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea en-route to lifting the cup against Liverpool and becoming a worthy recipient of the 2022 Men’s Ballon d’Or.
Age: 22 years (21-07-2000)
Current Club: Manchester City
When he scored 17 goals in 16 league matches for RB Salzburg and 56 goals in 62 league matches for Borussia Dortmund, people remained sceptical because of the perceived competency of the two leagues. When he scored 20 Champions League goals in 14 appearances, people called it a fluke. Now at Manchester City, where people said his true flaws would be exposed, Erling Haaland has scored 11 goals in just 7 Premier League games.
It is frightening to think what he might become in a couple of years, let alone when he’s 28 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, physical and almost 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. Although his defensive contribution can be questioned at times, it is also down to how Dortmund and now Manchester City have been using his services in general.
As far as stats go, in 40 appearances across all competitions since the start of the 2021/22 season, Haaland has scored 43 goals and provided 9 assists for his teammates, taking his goal involvement to 52 in just 40 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 7.7 goals and would have been much higher on this list if not for the other three, who are in a league of their own.
Thus, the Nordic monster has well and truly announced himself onto the biggest stage of all, and is making quite the splash.