Some would say that awarding Player of the Season awards to defenders is pointless. That the difficult thing in football is to score goals - and that makes the striker’s role the most important on the field.
Well, the transfer market would certainly agree. The biggest fees are often commanded by the most frequent goal botherers and a decent hitman can hide a multitude of sins for your team.
Of course, being a striker isn’t just about finishing anymore. You have to hold up, link play, press, run the channels and bully defences. These lads have certainly got the role sussed…
NOTE: this list consists of the players who play as a central striker, rather than wide forwards, which you can find here. So, sorry Mo Salah: you’ve played more games on the wing this season.
11. Cristiano Ronaldo
Heinous though it seems, we’ve made the unthinkable decision to omit Cristiano Ronaldo from the top 10, but he appears here as a phantom No.11. It’s difficult to justify the Portugal legend’s inclusion above others on this list, given that his form has been patchy for a poor Manchester United this term. The 37-year-old might not press very much, and has even been accused of being a burden on his Old Trafford team-mates, but if FFT’s very existence depended on a player converting a one-on-one chance, there’s nobody on Earth we’d rather count on. For that reason, he deserves an honourable mention.
10. Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen)
Best known on these shores for his 60-yard howitzer over the head of Scotland’s David Marshall at Euro 2020, Schick carried his tournament form into this season. The Czech hit his 20th Bundesliga goal in mid-January after banging four past Greuther Furth in December. Big, quick and possessing an eye for the audacious, the Leverkusen striker is one of the best players in Germany right now.
9. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Barcelona)
FFT can practically hear the Arsenal fan eye-rolls as it types this, but it’s impossible not to include Gabonese striker on this list after his electric start in Barcelona. The former Gunner managed just four goals in 14 matches this term before making the switch to Spain, but has banged them in at a sensational rate in La Liga ever since. Crazy what a bit of sunshine will do for you…
8. Diogo Jota (Liverpool)
You have to be good to usurp Bobby Firmino at Anfield, and that’s exactly what Jota’s been since signing from Wolves in the summer of 2020. Formerly a hard-pressing winger, the Portuguese has become a deadly frontman for Jurgen Klopp’s side. He’s currently third in the Premier League pecking order for goals this season but it’s his workrate and tenacity running the channels that sets him apart.
7. Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus)
Seventeen Serie A goals for Fiorentina before Christmas sent the rumour mill into overdrive and Vlahovic has lived up to the hype since switching to Juventus in January. The Serb took just 33 seconds to score his first Champions League goal and has been solid if unspectacular so far for the Old Lady. Still, the 22-year-old has a bright future ahead of him.
6. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)
At the other end of the age spectrum in Italy’s top-flight is Immobile. A decade older than Vlahovic, the Lazio man remains the finest finisher in Serie A, passing the 20-league goal mark for a third straight season by early March. Spells at Juventus and Borussia Dortmund earlier in his career never worked out, but the Euro 2020 winner seems a man content with his place in the world. At Lazio, he’s achieved god-like status.
5. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Injury issues have limited the Norwegian to just fewer Bundesliga appearances this season, but the fact he’s still the division’s fourth highest scorer speaks of his almost superhuman ability to stick leather in the onion bag. Haaland’s pace, strength and remarkable composure have made him a wanted man, and he’s surely off to pastures new this summer. The 21-year-old is virtually a shoo-in to bag a Ballon d’Or someday. There’s no telling just how good he could become.
4. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
After a sluggish start to the season, Kane is now back to his destructive best. No other striker on this list couples goal scoring and creativity like the England captain, who looks destined to surpass the 20+ goals and 10+ assists mark for a second season running. Kane may get his wish to leave Tottenham this summer. Whoever signs him may instantly become the favourite for the Premier League and Champions League next season.
3. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Another player who looks certain to leave his club this summer. Mbappe is the hottest property in world football, with more than 30 goals and 20 assists for the French giants already this campaign. At the age of 23, the World Cup winner has already scored over 125 goals in the French top-flight. Real Madrid seems the likeliest destination next season – they may well become unstoppable with him added to their attack.
2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
A few weeks ago, Lewandowski would have been No.1 on this list and it remains a close call. The Pole has smashed home over 45 goals already this season and surpassed the 30-goal mark for a third straight season by mid-March. He is a phenomenon and, at the age of 33, shows little sign of slowing down. Yet Bayern’s failure to advance beyond the quarterfinal stage – despite Lewandowski scoring in the second leg draw against Villarreal – has cost him a spot on this list. It’s not his fault alone, of course, but the player who tops this list has dragged his team through the past few rounds almost single-handedly.
1. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea have been crucial to Real Madrid’s assault on the Champions League this term. The Frenchman added a fourth against the Blues in the second leg, too, and has repeatedly stepped up when the occasion calls for an experienced head. There are few better players in the air, few more tenacious pressers and almost nobody as clinical when the chips are down. At 34, Benzema could be forgiven for taking his foot off the gas, but La Liga’s leading scorer only appears to be getting more deadly. Right now, he’s the best footballer on the planet.
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Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Key FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.
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