It’s an age old debate whether or not a striker’s role is simply to put the ball in the back of the net, and thus what makes the greatest striker.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Some thrive on being penalty box assassins, others have built a reputation for their more complete game. Whittling it down is never easy, but we’ve given it a crack.
90min lists the top 30 strikers to ever grace the game…in ranked order.
Once the world’s most expensive player, Hernan Crespo creeps in for his powerful yet accurate finishing abilities that ripped European football apart throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
The Argentine bagged over 300 career goals and did so while looking ridiculously handsome. Life isn’t fair to us all.
Looking beyond the ponytail and the strange obsession with lions and the third person, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an entirely different beast.
Ibrahimovic has scored and won everywhere he’s been. And when other players begin to lose their powers in their thirties, the Swede has just kept scoring, even returning to Europe following a stint in the MLS. Insane.
A Ballon d’Or winner, the leading scorer in the Milan derby and the man who put three past Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 1997, Andriy Shevchenko’s exploits are often overlooked.
The Ukranian was a mighty force in front of goal and, despite failing to truly nail it with Chelsea, remains Milan’s third top scorer and has a shed load of other goals and honours.
Eto’o is arguably the greatest African footballer ever and was definitely, at one point, the most lethal striker in the world.
Having broken through in Spain, Eto’o bagged for fun with Barcelona and won back-to-back continental trebles following a move to Inter in 2009. Doesn’t get more clutch than that.
Is Karim Benzema the most underappreciated player of the 2010s? Quite possibly.
Benzema has been a consistent goal scorer and creator for the best part of a decade for Real Madrid, but his success has often been within the shadow of football’s elite. Since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real, Benzema has been the glue holding the club together.
Back in them old days of moustaches and very short football shorts, Ian Rush was unplayable as Liverpool’s front man.
Rush bagged an unworldly 346 goals from 660 games for the Reds that sees him sit as the club’s top scorer. His IQ on the pitch was off the charts, positioning himself perfectly between defenders and being able to finish from just about any angle.
You hate him and so does your dad, but that’s exactly what makes Luis Suarez so undeniably good.
31 goals in 33 Premier League games still wasn’t enough to win Liverpool a Premier League in 2014, so he went and dominated La Liga with Barcelona. Oh, and his goals have most recently helped Atletico Madrid to a first league title in seven years.
Banging goals in for his local club and doing so with an iconic celebration, it’s actually a little hard to believe just how good Alan Shearer was in his peak.
Match of the Day rumblings and the failure to win anything following a move to Newcastle has made people forget that Shearer was supremely talented. Back to goal, on the shoulder, marked up – good luck, he’d still find an angle and put the ball away.
Much older entries are always a bit strange. Some sources claim that Josef Bican scored well over 1000 career goals, while FIFA have it around 800.
Either way, the figures thrown about suggest that the Austrian was half decent. He remains Slavia Prague’s leading scorer and represented both Austria and the Czech Republic at international level. Could he do it on a wet night in Stoke? Probably.
Emilio Butragueno was banging them in for Real Madrid before it was endlessly cool to do so.
Scoring two on his debut in 1984, Butragueno led the infamous ‘Quinta del Buitre’, a group of homegrown players that helped Madrid dominate Spanish football throughout the 1980s. A tricky and agile forward, Butragueno danced his way to 123 La Liga goals for Los Blancos.
Paolo Rossi’s six goals were key to securing the 1982 World Cup for Italy as well as the golden boot for himself at the tournament.
Once the most expensive player ever, Rossi was a gunman at club level and topped the Serie B and Serie A scoring charts in back-to-back seasons for Vicenza.
A strappingly handsome chap with incredible hair and even better footballing ability, Batistuta could’ve kicked through a brick wall with his shot power in his prime.
Batigol bagged 54 goals from 77 caps for Argentina and holds icon status in Florence for his scoring exploits with Fiorentina. Injuries eventually got the better of him in his later years, but that didn’t stop him from blessing fans and becoming a true footballing hero.
Injury famously robbed Jimmy Greaves of a place in the 1966 World Cup final side, but his goals leading up to that and around the tournament are testament to just how good he was in his day.
Greaves – a keen dribbler and assured finisher – is Tottenham‘s record scorer and has an obscene six hat-tricks for England, more than anyone else. Six international hat-tricks, Jimmy? That’s insane.
A Real Madrid lifer, Raul spent 16 years with Los Blancos and fought his way up to become the club’s record appearance holder and second highest scorer.
It was fitting that the Spaniard famously donned the number seven; he was much more than just a finisher, with his high work ethic and ability to create chances for teammates and bounce off them.
Another difficult one to rank with very few being able to say they’ve watched John Charles. But if the history books are anything to go by, he was alright.
Charles was said to be exceptionally versatile which is testament to his abilities and enjoyed an electric five seasons with Juventus in the late 1950s and early 1960s and bagged 108 goals from a trophy-laden 155 games.
Baggy long sleeved shirt, black gloves and the socks over the knees. Three quirks that haunted the Premier League for years.
Thierry Henry combined ruthless ability in front of goal with endless technical grace, which makes for one of football’s most complete strikers and hours of watching compilations feel like nothing.
Everyone’s favourite President of Liberia was actually once a ridiculously prolific striker that ripped defences apart for fun.
Arsene Wenger snagged Weah when in charge of Monaco, which was the catalyst for his European career boom. The Liberian helped take Monaco to new heights and found silverware with Paris Saint-Germain, before moving to Milan. More than just a scorer, Weah’s engine and IQ made him the ideal, complete forward.
Swedish forward Nordahl remains Milan’s all-time top scorer and is arguably considered the best Swede to play the game.
Plying his trade in the mid-20th century, Nordahl spent seven years with the Rossoneri and racked up an obscene five Serie A top scorer awards for his exploits. It’s a record nobody has since matched and speaks volumes about his abilities.
Seven international hat-tricks and 11 goals at the 1954 World Cup, Sandor Kocsis embodied the golden era for Hungary.
After a career played predominantly in his native Hungary, Kocsis moved to Barcelona in 1958 and became a key player in the side, becoming a two-time Spanish champion.
Before becoming the good guy of elite football hierarchies, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge won the lot as a player with Bayern Munich.
Rummenigge had exceptional range to his game and was able to find the net from a variety of angles and distances, while his technical excellence allowed him to thrive anywhere along the front line, before injuries crept up on him.
Perhaps the greatest player Italy has ever birthed, Giuseppe Meazza was football’s rock and roll throughout the 1930s and 40s.
When not effortlessly slicing through defences with runs and firing a ball home for Inter or Italy, he was setting up a teammate and looking good doing it. Meazza transcended the football world and became an icon away from Italy, enjoying life’s finer fruits away from the pitch while still playing out of his skin.
Something about him playing in a league with a poor defence in an exceptional team, yadda yadda yadda. Absolute rubbish.
Robert Lewandowski could come to your house for tea and still find the back of the net in a football match in another country. His scoring rates have transcended ridiculous and he now embodies the ‘scoring for fun’ phrase. 41 Bundesliga goals in a single season has seen him snatch the record from Gerd Muller. Forty one.
The pinnacle of penalty box merchants, Romario made a career of being ruthless from close range.
The Brazilian made the toe poke finish look exquisite which tells you all you need to know, and starred on domestic and national fronts, notably with fellow Brazilian Ronaldo. Go and read his stats if you must, but just know he’s the sixth highest scorer of all time and now your favourite Brazilian socialist.
Injuries poisoned one of the greatest forwards of all time just as he was entering what is said to be a player’s peak years, but that’s what makes Marco van Basten even better.
The Dutchman didn’t need those peak years to convince the world of his greatness. By age 28, Van Basten retired with over 300 goals, three Ballons d’Or and trophies at domestic and international level. Sometimes, things are better left short and sweet.
Alfredo di Stefano’s excellence with Los Blancos throughout the mid-20th century has been key in setting a modern day precedent that forever sees Real Madrid held in immeasurably high regard.
216 goals from 282 games in the league alone with Real Madrid doesn’t even account for his heroics in European competition. The Argentine was a wizard on the field and his abilities in inspiring Real to new heights remains a key component of the club’s success in the modern day.
Another iconic name from Hungary’s golden era, Ferenc Puskas has also shaped modern football.
The man who has inspired the Puskas Award, the Hungarian possessed the perfect balance of flair, power and passion. Puskas excelled on all fronts and official records have him down as the games third highest scorer with a mesmerising 808 official goals.
Eusebio possessed an unimaginably powerful, rocket shot before it was ever cool to do so.
The Portugal international is considered one of the best ever and ripped it apart for Benfica throughout the 1960s and 70s and finished top scorer for Portugal at the 1966 World Cup. Eusebio is considered by many greats from a similar era as the greatest to play the game.
There are fewer nicknames in football as cool as Der Bomber which signifies just how electric Gerd Muller was.
The German loved a goal and possessed a magical IQ which allowed him to thrive in close range finishing. His mind blowing 1971/72 season saw him bag 40 league goals in one campaign, and has only been bettered once in the time since. 68 goals from 62 international caps and a winner at the 1974 World Cup, too – good effort.
The man who can make perhaps the worst haircut of all time become an iconic look in pop culture.
While Romario was dominating the penalty box for Brazil, Ronaldo was dominating just about everywhere else. R9 turned heads wherever he showed up to play and struck fear into opponents, fans and stadiums across the globe. O Fenômeno is truly an icon.
Go on, moan about how he’s a fraud. Boring.
Face it, Pele’s records are obscene and there are enough clips floating about to prove that he was absolutely scintillating. Yes, those friendly records are a tad ropey, but what isn’t ropey is how – aged 17 – put the world on watch as he danced his side to the 1958 World Cup. Pele is the blueprint. The greatest of all time.