Wide forwards have seriously come into fashion in the last 15 years, players who combine the best assets of a prolific striker and a tricky winger to produce a new kind of double-edged attacking weapon, capable of both scoring goals and creating them for others.
90min's ongoing 'Welcome to World Class' series seeks to find the world class left forwards playing today – all based on a scoring metric which you can read about in more detail by clicking here.
What you’ll see next is a shortlist of 10 of the world’s best, and why they’ve been included in the running to be told, ‘Welcome to World Class’.
Arsenal made Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang their highest paid player when he signed his new contract this year because it was just too important not to lose him.
Auba has carried Arsenal since he arrived for a club record fee in January 2018, never more so than last season when he scored 29 times in 44 games and lifted the FA Cup as captain. He has netted over 200 club goals since 2013 alone and the Gunners would be lost without him.
Something of a late bloomer, Papu Gomez is the captain and talisman of the rampantly popular Atalanta side that has taken Serie A and Europe by storm in recent seasons.
Gomez now scores fewer goals than he used to, but those numbers have been replaced by assists stats that are breaking new ground. His 16 assists in 2019/20 set a new Serie A single season record and he is proving to be even more effective as a creative player.
Club: Real Madrid
Real Madrid are yet to see the best of Eden Hazard since his €100m move in 2019 and it has badly hurt Los Blancos to be without him for large periods. That is because he is unplayable on his day.
Hazard showed that kind of form time and time again during seven years at Chelsea and was instrumental to the club winning six major trophies while he was there. His natural ability is frightening and is also a big reason why the Belgium national team has risen to the top of the world.
The electric Sadio Mane seems to have been getting better and better and better every year of his career, stretching back to his time at Red Bull Salzburg, then Southampton and now Liverpool.
Mane’s 2016 move to Liverpool initially raised eyebrows because of the hefty price tag, but he has become arguably the Reds’ most important attacking player, outshining his teammates, and has Premier League and Champions League trophies to show for himself.
Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Neymar has long divided opinion, but the reality is that he remains by far the best, and most accomplished, Brazilian player of his generation and has a bulging trophy case that few others can better. He is also the most expensive player in history.
He has scored close to a goal per game for Paris Saint-Germain since that €222m move and has a reputation that comes before him, while his very best may even still be yet to come.
Club: Manchester United
Marcus Rashford only turned 23 in 2020 and has consistently improved every year of his career to date. The 2019/20 campaign was the first time he scored more than 20 goals in a season and he is also now physically shaping up to be a superstar at the highest level.
Because of his age, Rashford will only keep getting better and Manchester United are pinning their hopes on the home-grown star continuing as a talisman on and off the pitch.
Even at the age of 35, Cristiano Ronaldo is unbelievable. He is irrepressible, remains in elite physical condition and continues to score goals at an incredible rate for club and country - he is already the first European man to score a century of senior international goals.
Most players might be thinking about retirement, but Ronaldo, even 12 years after he won his first Ballon d'Or, is never satisfied. That drive for success ensures that he is always motivated to do more.
Club: Bayern Munich
Country: Bayern Munich
Leroy Sane conquered the Premier League, winning two titles in stunning fashion with Manchester City and collecting a PFA Young Player of the Year award. Now, he’s ready to make his mark back home in Germany after securing his dream move to Bayern Munich.
Sane will turn 25 in 2021 and the peak of his career is still ahead of him, which means he should continue to get better and better and that Bayern basically landed him for a steal.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Country: South Korea
He is so humble that he would never say it himself, but Son Heung-min is already comfortably the best footballer that South Korea has ever produced, giving performances and an reaching a level of importance to a top European club that none of his fellow countrymen ever have.
Son has been a revelation for Tottenham since finding his feet in 2016 and has contributed remarkably consistently, yet he’s never been better than he is in 2020/21.
Club: Manchester City
Over the last four years, Raheem Sterling has successfully made the transition from talented young player with potential to devastatingly effective game-changer, serial winner and superstar.
His consistency and decision making have come on leaps and bounds, making him a key reason why Manchester City won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2018 and 2019, while he scored 30 goals in all competitions for the first time in 2019/20.