Who Are the Best Strikers?
The position of "striker" (or centre-forward) has not changed much over the Premier League's 30-year history. Early greats such as Alan Shearer would still be effective in the modern era, and there are many kinds of striker that may fulfill a team's needs.
For example, there are "target men" (or women) who are strong and good in the air (e.g., Didier Drogba). They may have pace to run behind the opposing defense, or they may keep possession and allow others to join the attack.
There are also smaller strikers who use their trickery and movement to outwit defenders (e.g., Sergio Agüero), and deep-lying forwards who use their technical ability in a more creative role (e.g., Dennis Bergkamp).
Ultimately, many strikers combine these traits (e.g., Harry Kane) because there are many ways to score goals and many ways for teams to be deficient in other areas (e.g., by lacking a creative midfielder).
The following list includes strikers who translated their natural ability in these domains into great success in the Premier League. It does not include "wing forwards" (e.g., Mohamed Salah). Statistics and videos are used to justify their inclusion.
10. Luis Suárez
- Premier League clubs: Liverpool (2011-2014)
- Appearances: 110
- Goals: 69 (0.63)
- Assists: 23 (0.21)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.84
As one of the most hated players in football, Luis Suárez brought his controversial antics to the Premier League in 2011 and departed less than four years later. If he had stayed longer, his goal creation rate (on par with Agüero) may have earned him a greater legacy and a higher place on this list.
Suárez only won a League Cup with Liverpool, but he would go on to win more than a dozen trophies with Barcelona. Individually, he was the Premier League's Player of the Season in 2014, he won the Golden Boot in the same year (31 goals), and he was twice named in the PFA team of the year. He also has more than 130 caps for Uruguay and won the 2011 Copa América.
Suárez is known for being a skillful but physical striker. His quick feet, dribbling, close control, and movement allow him to bypass defenders on route to goal, where he can finish with either foot. He is also an accurate passer with the vision and work-rate to contribute substantially to team play.
9. Wayne Rooney
- Premier League clubs: Everton (2002-2004, 2017-2018), Manchester United (2004-2017)
- Appearances: 491
- Goals: 208 (0.42)
- Assists: 103 (0.21)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.63
With the third most assists in Premier League history (after Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fàbregas), Wayne Rooney's creative contribution should not be understated. He also has the second most goals (after Alan Shearer), and his overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011 was truly stunning (see 5:21 in the video).
Rooney developed early and broke numerous scoring records at youth level. He was spotted by Everton and became their youngest ever first-team scorer (aged 16). At Manchester United, Rooney won five Premier League titles, an FA Cup, three League Cups, the 2008 Champions League, and the 2017 Europa League.
Individually, Rooney was Player of the Season in 2010 and was in the PFA team of the year three times. He also has 120 caps and is the record goalscorer for both England and Manchester United, although he sometimes dropped into midfield to build attacks rather than finish them.
Rooney combined physical strength, stamina, and a powerful shot with a high level of technical skill, creativity, and long-range passing. Since retiring, Rooney has become a football manager.
8. Ruud van Nistelrooy
- Premier League clubs: Manchester United (2001-2006)
- Appearances: 150
- Goals: 95 (0.63)
- Assists: 14 (0.09)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.73
Ruud van Nistelrooy had been scoring regularly for PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league, but his arrival at Manchester United was delayed for a year when he suffered a last-minute knee injury.
At Old Trafford, van Nistelrooy won a Premier League title, an FA Cup, and a League Cup in five seasons (Arsenal and Chelsea peaked during this time) before leaving for Real Madrid. He was particularly prolific in the Champions League and amassed 150 goals in 219 games in all competitions for United (0.68).
Individually, van Nistelrooy was Player of the Season in 2003, won the Golden Boot in the same year (25 goals), and was in the PFA team of the year twice. He also played 70 times for Netherlands.
Van Nistelrooy was known as a prolific and opportunistic "poacher" who operated primarily in the penalty area, where he used his strength, movement, anticipation, and aerial ability to great effect. After retiring in 2012, he has become a football coach and manager.
7. Eric Cantona
- Premier League clubs: Leeds United (–1992), Manchester United (1992-1997)
- Appearances: 156
- Goals: 70 (0.45)
- Assists: 56 (0.36)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.81
Eric Cantona spent nine years playing in France before he joined Leeds in 1992. He quickly fell out with manager, Howard Wilkinson, and was transferred to Manchester United, where his aggression and sometimes unsporting behavior continued. However, he also scored some remarkable goals (e.g., 10:06 in the video).
"King Eric" won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups in his five seasons at United. He also won a league title with Leeds (before the Premier League began). He was in the PFA team of the year once, had the most assists in a Premier League season twice, and amassed 45 caps for France.
Cantona's technique, elegant ball control, quick thinking, and vision meant that he was utilized as a deep-lying forward, although his physical strength and finishing also served him well as a striker. After his surprising retirement from football, aged 30, Cantona took up a career in acting.
6. Dennis Bergkamp
- Premier League clubs: Arsenal (1995-2006)
- Appearances: 315
- Goals: 87 (0.28)
- Assists: 94 (0.30)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.57
Much like Cantona, Dennis Bergkamp was a deep-lying forward who scored one of the Premier League's greatest ever goals (8:01 in the video), although he was never utilized as a main striker.
Before Arsenal, Bergkamp had enjoyed success with Ajax (winning two European trophies) but also two disappointing years with Inter Milan. Arsène Wenger helped Bergkamp to rebuild his career at Arsenal, where he won three Premier League titles (including the "Invincibles" unbeaten season of 2003-2004) and four FA Cups.
Individually, Bergkamp was in the PFA team of the year once, had the most assists in the Premier League once, and was runner up in the 1993 Ballon d'Or. He also played 79 times for the Netherlands.
Bergkamp is the most technically-gifted and deepest-lying striker on this list. Indeed, he was known for his creativity, ball control, link-up play, passing, and vision, which he utilized to great effect as a playmaker. After retiring, Bergkamp has worked as a coach.
5. Didier Drogba
- Premier League clubs: Chelsea (2004-2012, 2014-2015)
- Appearances: 254
- Goals: 104 (0.41)
- Assists: 55 (0.22)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.63
Didier Drogba almost never made it as a professional footballer in France. He was 21 before he was fit enough to train regularly, and 24 before he became a regular goalscorer. Once he fulfilled his potential, a transfer to Marseille was followed by a move to Chelsea.
At Chelsea, Drogba won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, and the 2012 Champions League. Although he was inconsistent, Drogba had an ability to deliver when it mattered, with nine goals in nine cup finals (winning eight), and many in league matches against title challengers.
Individually, Drogba won the Golden Boot in 2007 (20 goals) and 2010 (29 goals), had the most assists in 2006, and was in the PFA team of the year twice. He made 105 appearance for Ivory Coast.
Drogba was known for his strength, stature, athleticism, aerial ability, powerful shots and free-kicks, and his ability to "hold-up" the ball and bring teammates into play. Since retiring from football in 2018 (aged 40), Drogba has contributed to several charitable causes.
4. Harry Kane
- Premier League clubs: Tottenham (2012–)
- Appearances: 294
- Goals: 193 (0.66)
- Assists: 44 (0.15)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.81
Harry Kane joined Tottenham in 2004 (aged 11), reached the first team in 2009, made his Premier League debut in 2012 (after several loan spells), and scored his first goal in 2014.
From the 2014-2015 season, Kane has been a regular scorer, netting 17 or more in eight successive league campaigns. He has the most goals for a single club in Premier League history and is the third highest goalscorer of all time (after Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney).
Kane has not won anything with Tottenham, although he did win the Golden Boot in 2016 (25 goals), 2017 (29 goals), and 2021 (23 goals), and has been in the PFA team of the year five times. He has over 70 caps for England.
Kane also had the most assists in 2021 (14) and is known for his link-up play, vision, and range of passing. Although he is a target man, Kane often drops into midfield to deliver long passes to quicker players. He is also known for his aerial ability, work-rate, and his powerful and accurate shots.
3. Sergio Agüero
- Premier League clubs: Manchester City (2011-2021)
- Appearances: 275
- Goals: 184 (0.67)
- Assists: 47 (0.17)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.84
Sergio Agüero was barely 15 years-old when he made his debut in Argentina. By the time he was 17, he was scoring regularly and earned a transfer to Atlético Madrid, where he won the 2010 Europa League. A year later, he joined Manchester City, aged 23.
In his ten seasons at City, Agüero won five Premier League titles, an FA Cup, and six League Cups. Individually, he won the Golden Boot in 2015 (26 goals) and was in the PFA team of the year twice. He has the fifth most goals in Premier League history and the most hat-tricks (12). He also won the 2021 Copa América with Argentina and has 101 caps.
Agüero was a skillful player with quick feet, a low center of gravity, and an ability to score with either foot. His acceleration and dribbling helped him to beat defenders with ease, but his movement and positioning often meant that he didn't have to. He retired at the end of 2021 due to ill-health.
2. Alan Shearer
- Premier League clubs: Blackburn (1992-1996), Newcastle (1996-2006)
- Appearances: 441
- Goals: 260 (0.59)
- Assists: 64 (0.15)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.73
Alan Shearer joined Southampton's youth team in 1986 (aged 16) and scored a hat-trick on his full debut two years later. However, he found it difficult to score for the next three seasons. When that changed, he earned a transfer to Blackburn Rovers for the inaugural season of the Premier League.
With Blackburn, Shearer won his only major trophy: the Premier League in 1995. After Shearer joined his hometown club, Newcastle, he reached two FA Cup finals, but lost to Arsenal and Manchester United. He also played 63 times for England.
Individually, Shearer won the Golden Boot three years in a row from 1995 to 1997 (34, 31, and 25 goals), was Player of the Season in 1995, and was named in the PFA team of the year six times (in the Premier League era). He has the most goals in Premier League history and the most in a single match (5).
Much like Drogba, Shearer was a strong target man with exceptional aerial ability, ball retention, and a powerful and accurate shot. Since retiring in 2006, Shearer has become a successful TV pundit.
1. Thierry Henry
- Premier League clubs: Arsenal (1999-2007, 2012)
- Appearances: 258
- Goals: 175 (0.68)
- Assists: 74 (0.29)
- Total goal creation rate: 0.97
Thierry Henry began his career in France as a 17 year-old at Arsène Wenger's Monaco. He played on the wing, although Wenger knew he would become a striker. After winning the French league, Henry moved to Italy and had an unsuccessful eight months with Juventus before Wenger signed him for Arsenal.
Henry played as a striker for Arsenal and won two Premier League titles (including the "Invincibles" season) and two FA Cups before departing for Barcelona (winning a "sextuple" of trophies there in 2009). He also played 123 times for France, winning the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
For five consecutive seasons, Henry scored 24 or more goals in the Premier League, winning the Golden Boot a record four times. He also had the most assists in 2003 (20, a shared record), was Player of the Season in 2004 and 2006, was in the PFA team of the year six times (in a row), and was a Ballon d'Or runner-up in 2003.
Henry was known for his pace and composure when running behind defenses to score with precise low strikes. His technical ability allowed him to score from distance, from free-kicks, or after dribbling past defenders. He also accumulated many assists by drifting onto the left-wing. After his retirement in 2014, Henry has become a football coach and manager.
Honorable Mentions and Future Additions
Many great strikers did not make it onto this list. Honorable mentions go to the following players.
- Michael Owen
- Andrew Cole
- Robin van Persie
- Ian Wright
- Gianfranco Zola
- Teddy Sheringham
- Robbie Fowler
- Fernando Torres
- Carlos Tevez
Some current strikers are making a case to be included on this list.
- Jamie Vardy
- Romelu Lukaku
- Erling Haaland
- Gabriel Jesus
- Darwin Núñez
Thank you for reading and watching this compilation of the best strikers in Premier League history.
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© 2022 Thomas Swan