Who's most fearsome of them all?
Literally hundreds of strikers have plied their trade in the Premier League since its inception in 1992/93. But which ones have been the best of the best?
Weighing up such factors as goals, titles and all-round quality, we’ve picked out the top 30 centre-forwards to grace England's top flight ever since...
30. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Games: 235 Goals: 91 Titles: 6
Solskjaer earned his place in Manchester United folklore over 11 years at the club – not just for his winner in the 1999 Champions League Final, but also for playing a key role in six Premier League title triumphs.
Nicknamed the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’, he was also regarded as a super sub: a third of the Norwegian’s league appearances were off the bench, meaning he impressively found the net once in every 150 minutes.
29. Jermain Defoe
Games: 496 Goals: 162 Titles: 0
A consistent goalscorer, Defoe 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.
There remains debate about Defoe's overall contribution to team success – he suffered relegation at West Ham and Sunderland during his top-flight career. But no one can doubt his finishing ability: he sits eighth in the all-time Premier League scoring list, just one behind Robbie Fowler.
28. Jurgen Klinsmann
Games: 56 Goals: 29 Titles: 0
Although more than 200 players have scored more Premier League goals than Klinsmann, few have made quite the same impact. One of the first major foreign signings of the Premier League era when he left Monaco for Spurs in 1994, the German was disliked in England following Italia 90.
He promptly netted 21 goals that season and was crowned Football Writers’ Player of the Year, but departed after just 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.
27. Romelu Lukaku
Games: 252 Goals: 113 Titles: 0
The Belgian frontman had a huge reputation when he arrived in 2011, having scored 41 goals for Anderlecht at only 18 years of age. Despite Chelsea paying £17m, he started just one league game before being loaned out – to West Brom, then Everton – with the suggestion 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 to earn a move to Manchester United, for whom he bagged 42 times before joining Inter this summer.
26. Carlos Tevez
Games: 202 Goals: 84 Titles: 3
The Argentine’s controversial move to England looked like a disaster. He didn’t find the net until March of his first season, with West Ham nine points shy of safety.
Then the real Carlitos turned up: seven goals to save the club followed by a transfer to Manchester United and back-to-back titles. Things were going quite well, but it wouldn’t be Tevez without some more controversy: he opted to join Manchester City and was greeted at Eastlands by the famous ‘Welcome to Manchester’ poster.
Next came 43 strikes in just two years before mardy Tevez returned, falling out with gaffer Roberto Mancini and playing only a bit-part in the club’s title triumph.
25. Les Ferdinand
Games: 351 Goals: 149 Titles: 0
Sir Les bagged 101 goals in the first five seasons of the Premier League, and joined Newcastle from Queens Park Rangers in 1995.
Kevin Keegan’s ill-fated title tilt proved the closest 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. There followed a stint with Bolton, for whom a 90th-minute strike against Manchester United turned out to be his 149th and final top-flight goal.
24. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Games: 288 Goals: 127 Titles: 0
Only three players have topped the Premier League scoring charts with more than one team – Robin van Persie, Alan Shearer and Hasselbaink.
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), Hasselbaink netted 23 times in 35 appearances for Chelsea in 2000/01, including four in a 6–1 rout of Coventry.
With a rocket of a right foot, Jimmy helped a resurgent Blues to finish second in 2004, before spells with Middlesbrough and Charlton.
23. Jamie Vardy
Games: 276 Goals: 116 Titles: 1
Vardy has as strong a claim as anyone to be Leicester's greatest player of all time. His winding journey from factory worker to the top tier of English football is well known by now, but the speedy striker's position on this list has nothing to do with novelty factor and everything to do with his achievements since the Foxes' promotion in 2014.
Vardy only scored five times in a debut Premier League campaign where he was frequently fielded out wide, but he exploded into life in 2015/16 – 24 goals helped fire Leicester to the unlikeliest title triumph in English football history. He's now passed 100 goals, and his propensity to deliver against the Premier League's biggest and best only burnishes his credentials.
22. Diego Costa
Games: 89 Goals: 52 Titles: 2
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’ title success.
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 Chelsea regained the title under Antonio Conte.
21. Nicolas Anelka
Games: 364 Goals: 125 Titles: 2
Anelka left the Premier League three times, but he just kept on coming back. A title-winner at Arsenal 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 and Manchester City, before departing again for Fenerbahce.
Sam Allardyce revived Anelka’s career at Bolton and the Frenchman became the Premier League’s top scorer with 19 for Chelsea in 2008/09, winning another title a year later. After moving to China, Anelka’s final Premier League stint came at West Brom.
20. Dimitar Berbatov
Games: 229 Goals: 94 Titles: 2
It didn’t take Berbatov long to secure cult status after joining Tottenham in 2006, with his nonchalant-yet-clinical playing style making the Lilywhites one of England’s must-watch outfits.
Manchester United soon wrestled him away from N17 for £30m and, after a slow start, Berbatov once again came good, particularly during 2010/11 when he notched 20 goals in winning the title. The Bulgarian had lost another yard of pace by the time of his two-season spell with Fulham, but if anything that just made his effortless waltzing around the pitch seem even more cool.
19. Fernando Torres
Games: 212 Goals: 85 Titles: 0
A deadline-day switch has rarely drawn so stark a line through a career. Before his move to Chelsea in 2011, Torres was a rapid, clinical, prolific marksman. After it, he was largely a bumbling, stumbling comic punchline of a striker. But in his three-and-a-half years with Liverpool he was a phenomenon.
From his Anfield bow, the Spaniard showed the physicality and technique to net at will. He did that 24 times in his first league campaign and 39 in 70 over the next two despite a succession of injuries to ankle, hamstring and knee. That wear and tear was probably a big factor in his decline at Stamford Bridge.
18. Gianfranco Zola
Games: 229 Goals: 59 Titles: 0
Not every forward is all about the sheer weight of goals – and Chelsea’s Italian icon falls into that category. The pint-sized Sardinian helped to transform not only the Blues but also English football, with his dazzling array of flicks and tricks fooling centre-backs and wowing supporters across the land.
Zola was crowned the Football Writers’ Player of the Year in 1997 following his first campaign at Stamford Bridge, and his seven years in London featured two FA Cups, the League Cup and the winner in a Cup Winners’ Cup final. The greatest shame? He exited as Roman Abramovich arrived and missed out on league titles with the Blues.
17. Harry Kane
Games: 201 Goals: 136 Titles: 0
“That match at Villa Park was definitely a turning point,” Kane told FourFourTwo in 2015, discussing a 2-1 win the previous November. “Before that, I’d shown what I could do in Europa League and League Cup matches, but then coming on in the Premier League and scoring the winner in injury time was a real statement that I was ready.”
From there, he hasn’t looked back – it was the first of 21 Premier League goals that season, with 101 more (plus two Golden Boots) following in the four full seasons that followed. Leading Tottenham to a title would push him much higher up this list, and he has Alan Shearer's record of 260 Premier League goals in his sights – of those players who have scored at least 100 times in the division, only Sergio Aguero has a better goals-per-game rate.
16, 15. Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole
Games: 375/414 Goals: 123/187 Titles: 3/5
Eyebrows had been raised when Alex Ferguson paid Aston Villa £12.6m for Yorke – after all, the Scot already had Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham at his disposal at Old Trafford.
Ferguson rotated his frontmen during the early weeks of the 1998/99 season, but by October he’d stumbled across a blossoming double act. Yorke and Cole started five games together during that month and netted nine goals between them as the Red Devils scored 19. There was now little doubt that they were top dogs as United swept aside all-comers, clinching the Treble.
They paired up again at Blackburn, firing Rovers into the UEFA Cup thanks to a sixth-place finish, but they went their separate ways in 2004 after falling out with gaffer Graeme Souness.
14. Robbie Fowler
Games: 379 Goals: 163 Titles: 0
Fans love a local lad rattling in the goals, hence why Liverpool’s faithful nicknamed Toxteth-born Fowler ‘God’. Having burst to attention by scoring on his debut in the League Cup against Fulham – and bagging five in the return leg – he took just five Premier League appearances to score his maiden league hat-trick.
In the age of Shearer, Klinsmann and Wright, Fowler was the most clinical of all Premier League strikers. Then a knee ligament injury in 1996-97 stopped the poacher in his tracks; Fowler eventually made his comeback, first with the Reds and later with Leeds and Manchester City, but by then he’d lost the explosiveness that once made him so feared by Premier League defences.
13. Michael Owen
Games: 326 Goals: 150 Titles: 1
Owen was just 18 and still in his first full season as a regular with Liverpool when he shared the Golden Boot in 1997/98. Not content with that, he repeated the feat a year later, after becoming a hero for England at the World Cup thanks to that goal against Argentina.
The speedster would go on to seal the Ballon d’Or in 2001 and posted double figures in each of his seven full seasons in the Liverpool first team. But moves to Real Madrid and Newcastle didn’t work out as planned, and injury woes meant he was a bit-part player when he finally won a league title at Manchester United in 2011, before retiring at Stoke.
12. Robin van Persie
Games: 280 Goals: 144 Titles: 1
Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge of Manchester United delivered the league crown, largely down to Van Persie’s move from rivals Arsenal. The Dutchman hadn’t won the league in eight campaigns in north London – he joined the club a couple of days after the end of the Invincibles season in 2004 – and injuries occasionally prevented him showing his full potential as he switched from a wideman to a striker.
But the left-footer reached his peak at the age of 28: winning the Golden Boot with 30 goals in his final season at the Emirates, before netting 26 in his debut term at Old Trafford to help Fergie bid farewell with a 13th league title.
11. Teddy Sheringham
Games: 418 Goals: 146 Titles: 3
Sheringham hadn’t won a major title prior to 1999, but he helped Manchester United to three league titles in four seasons at Old Trafford, earning him the Footballer of the Year award at 34.
Top scorer in the first Premier League campaign, he’d moved from Nottingham Forest to Spurs in 1992 and adapted into a clever second striker, contributing goals and 76 top-flight assists. Sheringham later played for Portsmouth and West Ham, becoming the oldest scorer in the Premier League at 40.
10. Ian Wright
Games: 213 Goals: 113 Titles: 1
“179, just done it,” read the t-shirt as Ian Wright celebrated. The excitement had got the better of him: actually, he’d just bagged his 178th goal for Arsenal, and wasn’t supposed to show off the jersey unless he netted twice. As it turned out, No.179 followed five minutes later and Cliff Bastin’s club record was broken. Out came the t-shirt again.
Wright became a legend at Arsenal in the early Premier League years and his last act as a Gunner was to win the title, aged 34, before moving across London to West Ham.
9. Ruud van Nistelrooy
Games: 150 Goals: 95 Titles: 1
Few players enjoy their best years after a cruciate knee ligament injury, but Van Nistelrooy was one of them. “The injury gave me a mental strength that I didn’t have before,” he told FourFourTwo. The injury delayed the Dutch forward’s arrival at Manchester United from PSV.
Yet he was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year after his first campaign at Old Trafford and bagged the Premier League Golden Boot a year later, hitting 25 goals in the league. His goals-per-game ratio was mightily impressive but eventually Fergie decided the single-minded penalty-box predator hampered his side's all-round game: during the Dutchman's five seasons at Old Trafford the Red Devils only won one league title.
8. Didier Drogba
Games: 254 Goals: 104 Titles: 4
A £24m signing from Marseille in 2004, Drogba’s first few months in the Premier League weren’t perfect – he struggled for goals and was lambasted for diving.
But the Ivory Coast international managed turned things around, becoming the powerhouse as Jose Mourinho’s men won back-to-back titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06. He then won the Golden Boot a year later, before repeating the feat with 29 goals in 2009/10.
After spells in China and Turkey, he returned to Chelsea to claim a fourth title in 2015 and is the only African to hit 100 Premier League goals.
7. Luis Suarez
Games: 110 Goals: 69 Titles: 0
Suarez arrived at Liverpool with baggage. Not only was he an international villain after his handball denied Ghana a goal at the 2010 World Cup, he’d also served a ban for biting an opponent during his time with Ajax.
Suarez didn’t hit the goal trail straight away – in 2011/12, he found the net just 11 times, though he struck the woodwork on eight occasions. There was more controversy too: he was banned for racially abusing Patrice Evra (and later for another bite, on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic).
But the Uruguayan reached top form a year later: scoring 31 times in 33 league matches as Liverpool nearly clinched the league crown under Brendan Rodgers.
6. Dennis Bergkamp
Games: 315 Goals: 87 Titles: 3
Bergkamp was always one step ahead of the rest. Recruited by Bruce Rioch, he combined intelligence with elegance to produce 87 goals and 94 assists, linking up with Ian Wright to seal the league title for Arsenal in 1998, then Thierry Henry to win it in 2002 and in the Invincibles year of 2004.
The Dutchman was PFA Players’ Player of the Year when he struck 16 goals in 28 games in 1997-98. His incredible treble at Leicester was hailed by Martin O’Neill as “the best hat-trick I have ever seen”, and a bedazzling turn and finish against Newcastle in 2002 was named the best ever goal in the Premier League.
5. Wayne Rooney
Games: 482 Goals: 208 Titles: 5
“Remember the name, Wayne Rooney,” commentator Clive Tyldesley bellowed. It’s a little-known fact that he did this with every young player back then, with Clive turning up at youth internationals shouting, “Remember the name, Stacy Long!” and, “You’ll be hearing a lot more about this kid, Sean Doherty!”
He was spot on about Rooney, though. That stunner for Everton against Arsenal in October 2002, aged 16, was the first of what would prove to be 208 Premier League goals and counting, on the way to five titles with Manchester United and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year prize in 2010.
4. Eric Cantona
Games: 156 Goals: 70 Titles: 4
If Cantona will be partly remembered for going all kung fu at Selhurst Park in 1995, no one at Manchester United will ever forget the way the French forward transformed a club who hadn’t secured a league title for 26 years into the force of the Premier League era.
Collar up, chest out, Eric commanded a pitch and bagged almost a goal every other game – superb statistics for someone who was often deployed as a withdrawn striker. He also scored the first Premier League hat-trick, for Leeds in a 5-0 rout of Tottenham, in 1992.
3. Sergio Aguero
Games: 261 Goals: 180 Titles: 4
“Defenders look at me, see a short little kid, try to tackle me and then I’m off – see you later.”
If trying to tackle the Argentine is hard enough, stopping him from finding the net is near-impossible - no player to have scored more than 100 times in the division has a better goals-per-game ratio.
Dennis Bergkamp may have scored the best goal of the Premier League era, as voted by supporters, but Aguero netted the most memorable. His late, late strike against QPR that sealed City the title in 2012 was one of English football’s most dramatic moments, and he's since added three more league winner's medals to his collection.
2. Alan Shearer
Games: 441 Goals: 260 Titles: 1
December 29, 1993. Ewood Park. 8.09pm. Tim Sherwood crosses in from the right, Shearer finds a yard of space in the box and sweeps the ball beyond Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall.
It was a trademark Shearer goal – the sort he scored so regularly for Blackburn, and later Newcastle. But this one was significant, even if he didn’t know it at the time. It put him out on his own as the all-time leading scorer in the Premier League. He’s held the record ever since. In 24 years, no one's even come close to it.
The Premier League’s never witnessed a goal-scoring machine quite like him – although that celebration could still do with a bit of work.
1. Thierry Henry
Games: 258 Goals: 175 Titles: 2
Henry may not have scored as many Premier League goals as Shearer, but he didn’t play in as many matches – 258 to Shearer’s 441. And the ex-Arsenal man’s goals-per-game ratio is actually greater.
The France international achieved this with a panache that made him both an Arsenal and Premier League icon. ‘Va va voom’ wasn’t just about searing pace; it was about delivering the beautiful and the seemingly impossible.
No other player has ever hit more than 20 goals in five consecutive campaigns. On four of those occasions he was the division’s top scorer, collecting the PFA’s Player of the Year prize in 2003 and ’04 and the Football Writers’ award in 2003, 2004 and 2006 – not to mention two league titles.
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