We’re down to the top 10 now on Just Football as we conclude our countdown of the 35 best strikers in the world in 2013. Follow the links for Part I, ranking numbers 35-21 and Part II, ranking 20-11. Now for the final 10…
10. Mario Balotelli
The main man in Milan makes the top 10 best strikers in the world, sneaking in ahead of compatriot Antonio Di Natale by just a handful of votes. As discussed in our world’s best strikers comparative analysis Part I, Balotelli’s goals stats in 2012-13 were as follows (NB – all stats are for league games only and via Whoscored):
As discussed previously Balotelli’s stats are boosted by a high number of penalties, but they still have to be scored and the Italian striker’s immaculate record from the spot is if anything another string to his bow. His passing stats were as follows:
He’ll need to work on that assist tally next season (there’s definitely a selfish streak to Balo’s game that can be improved upon) but with Juventus signing both Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez, Balotelli is going to have to be on point from day one if Milan are to have any chance of the Scudetto. He is their talisman and, you sense, with a growing maturity slowly developing, he could be on the brink of realising his immense talent.
9. Wayne Rooney
The Swiss Army knife of footballers, Wayne Rooney has been on the scene for so long, and is so versatile, that no-one really even knows what to make of him anymore. Is he one of England’s best ever players, as his goal tally suggests (5th on the all-time list and still only 27)? Is he one of Manchester United’s greatest ever players (again, 4th on the all-time list of the club’s top scorers)? Or a distracting nuisance they’d be better off selling?
Even regarding his best position, no-one quite knows quite what to make of Rooney anymore. Last season, with Robin Van Persie the leader in attack Rooney had to settle for a role in the supporting cast, deployed in all manner of positions right, left – even in central midfield on two occasions.
Still the United striker delivered, as the numbers show:
His all-round game was also excellent, with more assists than any striker in the top 10:
And for this reason you’ve voted the Liverpudlian into the top 10. It remains to be seen where his future lies next season but you’d think it will take some transfer fee to prise him away…
8. Mario Mandzukic
The Croatian striker makes it into the top ten after a fine first season at Bayern Munich as part of a history-making team. Mandzukic was very impressive at Euro 2012 before Bayern snapped him up as cover for Mario Gomez, but the 27-year-old soon made the striker’s berth his own thanks largely to his immense work rate in forward areas and intelligent off-the-ball movement.
Mandzukic averaged a goal every 115 minutes at Bayern last season, with his goal and passing stats as follows:
Bayern’s consistent interest in Robert Lewandowski is interesting. Does it hint at a lack of faith in Mandzukic long-term? Either way, the man who scored the opening goal in the Champions League final had a season to remember.
7. Sergio Aguero
A relatively disappointing season for Sergio Aguero following on from his extraordinary, title-winning first season at Manchester City, but the Argentinian is clearly still extremely highly-rated. The 25-year-old hit a goal every 162 minutes on average in the Premier League last season, 12 in total from 30 appearances – a good number but still a far cry from his 23 league goals in 2011/12.
Likewise, his all-round stats failed to match up to last season’s with only 2 assists compared to a quite brilliant 10 last season:
Seeing how Aguero is utilised by Manuel Pellegrini next season will be fascinating; ‘El Kun’ is just the kind of player Pellegrini is good at getting the best from, and in the Chilean’s favoured 4-2-2-2 system Aguero could be given a whole new lease of life.
6. Luis Suarez
The Uruguayan striker is a controversial player who certainly splits opinions, but one thing that is never in dispute is his undoubted quality. Luis Suarez enters the list ranked the 6th best striker in the world after a season in which there existed the strange duality of him single-handedly carrying Liverpool without them ever seeming to do too badly without him (as the Reds’ end of season form showed when Suarez was suspended for biting).
Suarez scored 30 goals for Liverpool last season in all competitions, 23 league goals at a rate of one every 128 minutes. We compared him to the world’s other top strikers here but let’s look at his stats in isolation:
And passing numbers:
Suarez has been making noises about wanting to leave Anfield over the last few weeks, apparently due to feeling hounded by the British press. Liverpool want about £50million for him and while his shot conversion % doesn’t warrant such a figure, Liverpool will argue his all-round game more than makes up for it, with an astounding number of key passes and successful dribbles per game.
5. Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski has been firing in goals for Borussia Dortmund for some time now, but the Polish international striker really announced himself on the world stage this season, with 10 goals in the Champions League helping fire BVB all the way to a Wembley final.
The standout performance came against Real Madrid, where he became the first player to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final with an absolutely outstanding display, the complete forward’s performance. In total Lewandowski hit 24 league goals for Dortmund last season – a goal ever 108 minutes – and 36 goals in all competitions, an exceptional figure:
Lewandowski is out of contract next summer and seems determined to leave Dortmund, with Bayern Munich his number one choice. Manchester City are also hovering, and at 24-years-old, with luck on his side Lewandowski is only going to improve – a frightening thought.
4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Sitting just outside the top 3 is Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 4th place. The Swedish striker scored more league goals than any player on the list with a staggering 30 in 38 games, the first player to hit 30 goals in Ligue 1 since Jean-Pierre Papin in 1990. In his first season in France. Like it was nothing.
Ibra’s calibre is well-established. Wherever he goes league titles follow, and this was the case again as Paris Saint-Germain won their first championship for 18 years. Naturally Ibrahimovic was a huge part of that. Zlatan hit a goal ever 99 minutes in Ligue 1, an astounding ratio, and 35 goals in all competitions.
However Ibrahimovic is not simply a goalscorer. The man is a pure entertainer. Ibra’s audacious streak is what makes him so brilliant to watch. The Marseille v PSG derby was a fine demonstration of this, Ibrahimovic scoring a backheel from a corner and then slapping in a free kick from 30-35 yards out within minutes of each other. His four goals against England were another great example of the showman that is Zlatan.
3. Edinson Cavani
In at number 3 is ‘El Matador’ Edinson Cavani. Cavani has scored 20 goals minimum in Serie A for the last three years straight now, but 2012/13 was his best goal haul as the Uruguayan hit 29 goals, 8 of which came from the penalty spot. In Serie A his goal rate was one every 103 minutes, while overall he managed 38 goals in all competitions, a fantastic amount.
His all-round play was also good, with 4 assists and a 78% pass completion rate:
Cavani has a £54million buy-out clause, but with an average of 25+ goals per season over 3 years in a major European league would anyone say he’s not worth it?
2. Robin Van Persie
Robin Van Persie left Arsenal citing a desire to win trophies, and at Manchester United he achieved that inside 12 months. The Dutch maestro helped his new team win the Premier League title and his 26 league goals, at a rate of one goal every 120 minutes, was a major contributory factor.
After 133 goals in 278 games at Arsenal, United splashed £24million for a player who had just turned 29. It was seen as a gamble by many (‘good business by Arsenal’ as many on Twitter boldly proclaimed), but proved a wise one by Sir Alex Ferguson. “We wanted him badly, so we were prepared to go the extra mile,” he put it at the time.
If Arsene Wenger was reluctant to let his star player leave, he knew exactly what United were getting. “Robin’s great quality is that in a fraction of a second he understands where to go. His speed of analysing the little pockets around the box is absolutely exceptional.”
Not only is Van Persie’s technique and appreciation of space exceptional, but he is also a very generous player too, as his stats last season showed:
For these reason’s he has been voted the second best striker in world football today. Behind only one man…
1. Radamel Falcao
Voted number one by a staggering 44% of those who participated, Radamel Falcao wins the title for Just Football Readers’ Choice as the best striker in the world in 2013.
Once an undergraduate studying journalism at university, the man nicknamed ‘El Tigre’ has steadily developed over the course of his career, rising from River Plate to Porto and Atletico Madrid, scoring goals at a prolific rate wherever the Colombian has called home.
Falcao won the Europa League two years in a row with two different clubs in 2011 and 2012, scoring in the final both times, and his performance in the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea at the start of last season was one of the most thrilling displays of forward play you’re likely to see. Falcao destroyed Chelsea in that game, hitting a first-half hat-trick in a game of pace, precision, penetration and unbelievable aggression and hunger for goals. What’s more is he does this regularly.
That hat-trick would form part of a season in which the 27-year-old hit 28 league goals in 34 games, with a goal every 103 minutes:
His passing stats are as follows:
Falcao’s relentless drive, determination and passion for his craft stand the Colombian out, prompting AS Monaco to pay €60million for his services. With him and Zlatan Ibrahimovic around Ligue 1 promises to be a lot of fun next season. Your number one striker in the world today is Radamel Falcao.
To see who Just Football writers voted for hit the link. Comments welcome below. Thanks to all those who particpated in #StrikersWeek!