The best strikers of all time
They say it’s the greatest feeling in football to score a goal. Here we look at the 10 best strikers of all time and it’s fair to say each one of them have hit the net a fair few times over the years.
Before we dive in to the top 10, let us stress that this is looking at strikers so won’t necessarily be a list of the most effective finishers. They are two different things after all.
So, who are the best strikers of all time?
Number 10. Roberto Baggio
Depending on your age, you might hear the name Roberto Baggio and think about that penalty miss in the World Cup finals at USA 1994. Don’t be fooled though, that was one bad moment from an incredible career. For starters, in that tournament alone, Italy wouldn’t have made the final without the five goals Baggio, who was reigning World Player of the Year, netted.
Outside of that tournament, Baggio’s skills and stats talk for themselves. He’s a former Ballon d’Or winner blessed with technical ability particularly where carrying the ball and set pieces were concerned. He could create, he could score and, at times, he carried his teams. When all is said and done, a career that saw him make the net bulge some 318 times can’t be treated with anything but respect.
Number 9. Didier Drogba
What do you see when you think of Didier Drogba? For most people, it will be a powerful and deadly workhorse spearheading a Chelsea side to triumph after triumph. He arrived in England after a goal filled season at Marseille (32 goals and seven assists in 55 appearances) and it was with the Blues where he became regarded as one of the best strikers of all time.
The Ivory Coast record scorer was a nightmare to defend against. Whether it was a match against an underdog or the Champions League final, you knew what to expect from him. Drogba was strong, powerful and quick. He led the line fantastically well. He could hold the ball up, he could run in behind and he knew where the net was too.
Number 8. Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry donned the colours of some of Europe’s top clubs over the years but it’s with Arsenal where he really left his mark in the shape of 228 goals. It means he’s their record scorer after comfortably beating the previous tally of 185 set by Ian Wright. When he first arrived in North London it looked like Arsene Wenger – his former gaffer – might have wasted £11m. It proved to just be Henry acclimatising to the English game.
After his transition from winger to striker was complete Henry established himself as one of the most feared attackers in the world. He was blessed with clinical finishing and blistering turn of pace. A trophy cabinet including Premier League, La Liga and Champions League titles in addition to a World Cup and European Championship is some haul. He deserved it all too.
Number 7. Giuseppe Meazza
Meazza might have played for AC Milan and Juventus – amongst others – but it’s his two spells with Inter for which he is truly remembered. You know he’s had an impact on the city when the stadium is officially named in his honour; being Inter’s all-time record scorer will do that.
On top of his acutely accurate finishing skills, he was also blessed with incredible pace and tricky feet meaning he’d often work his own scoring opportunities. Remarkably, had he not suffered injury at 29, Meazza would have undoubtedly gone on to score even more. His game clearly affected after his return.
Number 6. Hristo Stoichkov
Bulgarian forward Stoichkov might just be one of the hardest footballers of all time but he had the talent to hurt teams in other ways too. An extended spell in his homeland of Bulgaria saw him hit goal after goal with CSKA Sofia. That earned him a move to the true elite.
Johan Cruyff was the man who came calling. Stoichkov became a key figure in the Barcelona side that dominated Spain in the early nineties. A European Golden Shoe, a World Cup Golden Boot and the 1994 Ballon d’Or are honours that show exactly how good he was.
Number 5. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
A strike rate of one in two combined across spells with Inter and Swiss outfit Servette is a tidy return. It’s the fact that he averaged a similar output in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich that saw him rank as one of the best strikers of all time though. It also means he hit the net enough times to rank second on the clubs all-time scoring charts.
The rapid forward, who also had a killer instinct in front of goal, was only 18-years-old when he joined Udo Lattek’s juggernaut. He was a regular in the side before he turned 20 though. That’s how good Rummenigge was. The German international spent over a decade in Munich. During that time he won countless team honours with back to back Ballon d’Or awards a recognition of his individual performances.
Number 4. Eusebio
The heroes of the 1966 World Cup might have been England’s World Cup winning players but there was another man stealing a fair few headlines, Eusebio. The Mozambique born superstar was far from unheard of ahead of the tournament mind you. He had joined Benfica six years earlier where he’d already helped them to make some major waves. Most notably their European Cup win in 62; Eusebio bagged a brace in their 5-3 final win over Real Madrid.
The 66 tournament did show every ounce of the Portuguese’s quality though. He could run with the ball, he could create and he could score pretty much every type of goal. He scooped the Golden Boot at the World Cup with nine goals – the third best goal return at a WC finals – but it’s the other 724 he netted in his 745 match career that shows just how good he was.
Number 3. Alan Shearer
We don’t care what anyone says. We refuse to have a best strikers of all time list that doesn’t include the Premier League’s top scorer, Alan Shearer. Yes his scoring record of 260 goals will take some beating but there are another 23 in the pre-Premier League era too. Shearer was so much more than a goal getter though.
He was a physical presence, phenomenal in the air, decent on the deck and capable of scoring every type of goal imaginable. From the simple to the sublime, Shearer could do it all. He was a leader too. Had it not been for his loyalty to his boyhood club, Newcastle, he’d have a lot more silverware to show for his troubles.
Number 2. Ronaldo Nazario
When you talk about players bursting on the scene, none have ever done it quite like Ronaldo. At just 17-years-old Ronaldo, who was largely unknown in European circuits, was named in the Brazil World Cup squad. They would go on to lift the Jules Rimet trophy. By age 20, he had traded the Eredivisie for La Liga giants Barcelona as he became the most expensive player of all time. Then, in his first season in Catalonia he was crowned World Player of the Year.
After just one breath-taking season in Spain, Ronaldo was breaking the transfer record again. He joined Inter Milan for £25m. The boy could deliver in Serie A too. He was duly awarded the Ballon d’Or – at aged just 21, he became – and remains – the youngest winner. The silky and pacey genius that was Ronaldo was simply unplayable. Then injuries began to take their toll on his young body. Multiple cruciate tears robbed him of large chunks of his career.
Don’t get us wrong, his career was far from a disaster. He went on to notch over 100 goals for Real Madrid as well as having a spell with Milan’s other team, AC, before returning to his native Brazil. Throw in the fact he won a second Ballon d’Or after those early injuries alongside winning the Golden Boot at the 2002 World Cup on route to a second World Cup triumph and his career stacks up nicely. Just imagine what might have been though.
Number 1. Pele
We’ve just touched on Ronaldo. Only one man has scored more goals for Brazil. That man is Pele. He is 100% deserving to sit top of our list of the best strikers of all time. Current stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo push him close as the G.O.A.T but, for many, that title still belongs to the former Santos star. Given he scored 1,283 goals in his career – or 757 depending on how you cut the statistics around ‘unofficial’ matches – it’s pretty hard to argue with.
Despite possessing a smaller frame – Pele stood at just 5’8 – he was still exceptionally strong, quick, technically fantastic and could finish with both feet and his head (not past Gordon Banks mind). He finished his trophy laden career with the New York Cosmos; it meant he only represented two clubs across a 21 year period with most of his globally seen exploits limited to the World Cup, which is a tournament he won three times.
There you have it, the best strikers of all time.