Analysis

Ranked! The 30 best strikers in Premier League history

Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole

With English football in a golden era of goal machines, FourFourTwo rates the greatest strikers of the Premier League era. Goalkeepers beware...

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30. Emmanuel Adebayor

STATS

  • Games: 242
  • Goals: 97
  • GPG: 0.40
  • Titles: 0

“I can’t wait for the game to finish. I’m hungry. Do you know a good restaurant in London?"

Adebayor’s hunger for actual football had diminished towards the end of his top-flight career – hence the mid-game food enquiry, as told by defender Brede Hangeland – but at his very best, he was devastating.

The Togo frontman netted 24 league goals for the Gunners in 2007/08, becoming the first player to bag hat-tricks home and away against the same team in the same campaign, versus Derby.

Then came the switch to Manchester City and that famous knee-slide in front of the Arsenal fans. Adebayor hit 14 goals in his first season at the Etihad, and 17 in his debut campaign for Spurs, but his form faded before a one-goal spell at Crystal Palace in 2015/16.

29. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

STATS

  • Games: 235 
  • Goals: 91 
  • GPG: 0.39
  • Titles: 6

“I got to Old Trafford and the tour guide thought I was going for a tour. He was talking away and then he asked me, ‘So what are you doing here?’”

Solskjaer informed the tour guide that, actually, he had arrived from Norway to sign for Manchester United. Eleven years later he had earned his rightful place in club folklore – not just for the winner in the 1999 Champions League Final, but also for playing a key role in six Premier League crowns.

The ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ became regarded as a super sub: a third of his league appearances were off the bench, meaning he found the net once every 150 minutes. Four strikes as a sub at Nottingham Forest in 1999 was perhaps his greatest Premier League performance.

28. Jermain Defoe

STATS

  • Games: 496
  • Goals: 163
  • GPG: 0.33
  • Titles: 0

A consistent goalscorer, Defoe has hit double figures in eight different Premier League seasons, and is the only player to have netted five goals in one half, in Tottenham’s 9-1 demolition of Wigan in 2009.

Back playing on the south coast with Bournemouth this season, having also represented Portsmouth, there remains debate about his overall contribution to team success – he’s suffered relegation at West Ham and Sunderland during his top-flight career.

But no one can doubt Defoe’s finishing ability: after making his Premier League bow for the Hammers at Middlesbrough 16 years ago, he’s now in seventh place in the all-time scoring list and holds the record for the most goals as a sub – 23 - including a screamer against Man City in 2013.

27. Jurgen Klinsmann

STATS

  • Games: 56
  • Goals: 29
  • GPGL: 0.52
  • Titles: 0

True, more than 200 players have scored more Premier League goals, though few have made quite the same impact as the ex-Germany international.

One of the first major foreign signings of the Premier League era when he left Monaco for the Lilywhites in 1994, Klinsi was disliked in England after Italia 90. 

But he turned opinion around when asking, “Are there any diving schools in London?” at his unveiling, before marking a debut header in a 4-3 win at Sheffield Wednesday by collapsing on the Owls’ turf in celebration.

He netted 21 goals and was crowned Football Writers’ Player of the Year but departed after just the one campaign. Chairman Alan Sugar swiftly declared he wouldn’t wash his car with Klinsmann's shirt, yet the German returned on loan three seasons later, helping Tottenham avoid relegation.

26. Les Ferdinand

STATS

  • Games: 351
  • Goals:149
  • GPG: 0.42
  • Titles: 0

“People don’t think Les Ferdinand, former England international, but Les Ferdinand, bloke who wrecked the Blue Peter garden.” 

He didn’t – despite rumours that began when he made an ill-judged joke about the 1983 incident – and no one can boast a higher Premier League goal tally without converting a single penalty.

Sir Les didn’t need any spot-kicks: he bagged 101 goals in the first five seasons of the Premier League, joining Newcastle from QPR in 1995.

Kevin Keegan’s ill-fated title tilt proved the closest that Ferdinand came to winning the league, but he continued to find the net at Spurs, West Ham and Leicester – where he scored 12 times in the season of his 37th birthday – before a stint with Bolton... commuting to Lancashire in his helicopter, naturally.

25. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

STATS

  • Games: 288
  • Goals: 127
  • GPG: 0.44
  • Titles: 0

“On the pitch he always looked annoyed with everyone,” his Chelsea team-mate Gianfranco Zola once said. But that was a rage which drove the Dutchman to goalscoring success.

Only three players have topped the Premier League scoring charts with more than one team – Robin van Persie, Alan Shearer and Hasselbaink.

Real name Jerrel, the powerful striker scored 18 times with Leeds, sharing the Golden Boot award with Michael Owen and Dwight Yorke in 1998/99. Following a season with Atletico Madrid (where he scored 24 goals in 34 games, finishing as La Liga's second-highest scorer despite Atleti's relegation), he netted 23 times in 35 appearances for Chelsea in 2000/01, including four in a 6–1 rout against Coventry.

With his rocket of a right foot, Hasselbaink helped a resurgent Blues finish second in 2003/04 before moves to Middlesbrough, Charlton and Cardiff.

24. Romelu Lukaku

STATS

  • Games: 232
  • Goals: 105
  • GPG: 0.45
  • Titles: 0

Since arriving in the Premier League, it’s felt like Lukaku has had a point to prove. In 2011, the Belgian frontman had a huge reputation, having scored 41 goals for Anderlecht aged only 18.

Despite Chelsea paying £17m, he started just the one league game before being loaned out – to West Brom, then Everton – with the suggestion that he must prove himself as a top-flight forward. That he did, scoring 17 goals for the Baggies and 15 in his year at Goodison Park.

Yet Chelsea – and Jose Mourinho – weren’t convinced, and sold him to Everton. In an inconsistent team, Lukaku scored 53 goals in three campaigns, improving his finishing and link-up play all the while. Suddenly Chelsea were keen again, but he opted for Manchester United – and, ironically, Mourinho.

Lukaku still struggles to shrug off the doubters who have never been far away, but he netted 16 goals in 34 Premier League games in his debut season at Old Trafford and continues to perform at a high level for his country – as he demontsrated during Belgium's run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. 

23. Carlos Tevez

STATS

  • Games: 202
  • Goals: 84
  • GPG: 0.42  
  • Titles: 3 

The Argentine frontman’s controversial move to England looked like a disaster. He hadnt't found the net by March in his first season, with West Ham nine points shy of safety.

But then the real Carlitos turned up: seven goals to save the Hammers, followed by a transfer to Manchester United and back-to-back titles. Things were going well, but it wouldn’t be Tevez without more controversy  so he opted to join Manchester City, where he was greeted at Eastlands by the famous ‘Welcome to Manchester’ poster.

Forty-three goals in just two years followed before grumpy Tevez returned, falling out with manager Roberto Mancini and playing only a bit-part in the club’s 2011/12 title triumph. An absurdly talented frontman, but very high maintenance.

22. Diego Costa

STATS

  • Games: 89
  • Goals: 52
  • GPG: 0.58
  • Titles: 2 

Rivalling Tevez in the high-maintenance stakes, it’s Costa: possibly the only player on this list to be dumped by text.

The Spain international hit the ground running in the Premier League after his 2014 move from Atletico Madrid, netting seven goals in his first four matches for Chelsea – a new record.

World football’s oldest-looking 26-year-old registered 20 goals to spearhead the west Londoners’ run to the title, but an infamous banner labelled the Brazil-born frontman – plus Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard – a ‘rat’ after poor form in his second campaign contributed to Jose Mourinho’s sacking.

The controversial goal-getter hit back in 2016/17, though, scoring 20 once more as the Blues regained the title under Antonio Conte, author of: “Hi Diego – you are not in my plan.” Unsurprisingly, he left to rejoin Atleti in summer 2018 with the parting shot: "I was wrong going to Chelsea."

21. Nicolas Anelka

STATS

  • Games: 364
  • Goals: 125
  • GPG: 0.34
  • Titles: 2

“People often say my time with Arsenal was my best period. But it wasn’t. I was a much better player for Bolton.”

Anelka left the Premier League three times, but he just kept on coming back. A title winner at Highbury when he was 19, the following campaign brought 17 goals and an ill-fated switch to Real Madrid. But Le Sulk moved back to England with Liverpool (on loan) and Manchester City before departing again for Fenerbahce.

Sam Allardyce revived Anelka’s career at Bolton, and the French striker became the Premier League’s top scorer with 19 for Chelsea in 2008/09, winning another title a year later. He and Tevez are the only two players on this list to earn a winner’s medal with more than one team.

After transferring to China, Anelka’s final Premier League stint came at West Brom, where he was sacked for gross misconduct after using the quenelle gesture celebrating one of his two goals for the Baggies.