Welcome to World Class: The Shortlist - Strikers

Tom Gott
Dec 23, 2020, 7:00 PM GMT
Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane, two shortlisted strikers to be told Welcome to World Class. | #W2WC
Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane, two shortlisted strikers to be told Welcome to World Class. | #W2WC / Matt Burt/90min
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In the eyes of many fans, no position is more important that the striker.

Scoring goals is the heart and soul of football, and plenty of players dedicate their careers to trying to perfect that art. There are a lot of great forwards, but only a handful make it into that 'elite' bracket, and finding out who makes the cut is what 90min's Welcome to World Class series is all about.

Let's take a look at who's in contention.

Sergio Aguero

Aguero has shatterred records
Aguero has shatterred records / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Club: Manchester City
Country: Argentina

The Premier League's highest-scoring import, Sergio Aguero will go down as one of the game's greatest when he decides to hang up his boots. However, if his form is anything to go by, we might be waiting a long time until then.

The Manchester City legend has netted 20+ goals in six of his nine full seasons in England, and he has never struck less than the 12 he managed in the injury-hit 2012/13 season.

Even with all of City's firepower, Aguero remains one of - if not, the - most important player at the club, and their fear of having to replace him speaks volumes of the kind of level he is at.

Karim Benzema

Benzema is relishing more responsibility
Benzema is relishing more responsibility / Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Club: Real Madrid
Country: France

Real Madrid fans spent years trying to convince themselves that Karim Benzema was washed up, but after Cristiano Ronaldo's departure thrust him into the spotlight, the Frenchman has been serving up slices of humble pie.

His work rate and creativity had been on show when he was the Robin to Ronaldo's Batman, but he's proven that his goalscoring ability never faded away during all those years as the secondary member of Real's attack.

Los Blancos may not be the dominant force there were a few years ago, but Benzema continues to try and drag them to glory.

Joao Felix

Atletico put a lot of faith in Felix
Atletico put a lot of faith in Felix / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Club: Atletico Madrid
Country: Portugal

There have been a few bumps in the road for Joao Felix, but he's never looked closer to the £113m player Atletico Madrid believe he is than he does right now.

With the kind of game that sees him drift all around the attacking third, Felix is a defender's nightmare. He is happy feeding off balls over the top but is most at home dropping deep in search of possession, which allows him to maximise his skills.

Felix thrives when running at defenders and has an eye for space that most players don't develop until far later in their careers. He's well ahead of his time.

Roberto Firmino

Firmino is a unique style of striker
Firmino is a unique style of striker / Pool/Getty Images

Club: Liverpool
Country: Brazil

The stats sheet is never particularly kind to Roberto Firmino, whose lack of goals have turned him into somewhat of a laughing stock in some areas of social media. He might not be the man who puts the ball in the net for Liverpool, but he's the reason the rest of his team-mates do so so regularly.

Happy to play third-fiddle to Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Firmino is in his element when he's dropping deep to create for his team-mates. He occupies pockets of space in which strikers never go, and that makes him almost unmarkable. Defenders can't follow him and midfielders can't track him.

Firmino drags teams out of shape and leaves them vulnerable to Liverpool ruthless forward line, who steal the headlines will all the goals. Rarely have the stats sheet and the naked eye told such drastically different stories.

Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann can be electric
Griezmann can be electric / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Club: Barcelona
Country: France

Since his big-money move to Barcelona, we haven't really seen the best of 'Antoine Griezmann the Striker', but every so often (and especially when he's playing for France), we see just what makes Griezmann so special.

Having spent most of his career as a winger, Griezmann is the kind of striker who wants to make things happen with the ball at his feet. He roams around in search of possession and knows how to play off his team-mates better than most.

When he gets going, there's not much any defender can do to contain him.

Erling Haaland

Haaland is scoring at record pace
Haaland is scoring at record pace / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Club: Borussia Dortmund
Country: Norway

When Erling Haalang was banging in the goals with Red Bull Salzburg, everyone was dying to see whether he could replicate that in one of Europe's top leagues.

Since moving to Borussia Dortmund in January, he's answered every question thrown his way, and then some.

The Norway international has been tearing it up in Germany, firing in the goals at record pace, and he looks like he could be in the 'World Class' conversation for the next decade at least.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic is improving with age
Ibrahimovic is improving with age / Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Club: Milan
Country: Sweden

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not supposed to be good anymore. When he moved to LA Galaxy in 2018, most of Europe gave up on the nomadic Swede, but that simply lit a fire beneath him.

His ludicrous form in Major League Soccer earned him a rare move back to Europe, and since re-joining Milan, Ibrahimovic has been pulling out some of the best performances we've ever seen from him.

The 39-year-old's imposing frame and unrivalled goalscoring instincts make him a force to be reckoned with, and he's loving every second of it.

Ciro Immobile

Immobile set the Serie A single-season record for goals
Immobile set the Serie A single-season record for goals / Silvia Lore/Getty Images

Club: Lazio
Country: Italy

Since moving to Lazio in 2016, Ciro Immobile has scored goals at the kind of rate which most legends haven't even managed to do.

His 36 goals in the 2019/20 campaign tied the Serie A record for most goals in a season, but that wasn't a one-off for the Italian, who managed 29 in 2017/18 in four fewer games.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be one of the greatest goalscorers of his generation, but Immobile has matched him every step of the way in the last few years, and he even came out on top last year.

Harry Kane

Kane has developed his game
Kane has developed his game / Alex Nicodim/MB Media/Getty Images

Club: Tottenham
Country: England

In 2019, Harry Kane would merit inclusion in a series like this one purely because of his goalscoring. The Tottenham Hotspur man has some of the most dangerous predatory instincts on the planet, and his goal record reflects that.

However, in 2020, we've seen Kane develop a different side to his game. Jose Mourinho has got him dropping deep and creating things for his team-mates, and yet he still manages to score goals at an electric rate.

Few strikers can score like Kane and even fewer can create like him, but he does both to a ridiculous level.

Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski is tearing it up with Bayern
Lewandowski is tearing it up with Bayern / Pool/Getty Images

Club: Bayern Munich
Country: Poland

The leading candidate for the 2020 Ballon d'Or before the award was cancelled, Robert Lewandowski has been scoring goals at the kind of rate that we usually only see in video games.

Bayern Munich boast the most terrifying attacking line in football right now, but Lewandowski stands out from the rest of his ludicrously talented team-mates. He has five Bundesliga Top Scorer awards to his name, and he's working hard to make it six this year.

What makes Lewandowski so scary is that you never know how he's going to beat you. All you know is that he's definitely going to find a way through somehow.

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku is finally living up to his potential
Lukaku is finally living up to his potential / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Club: Inter
Country: Belgium

We all knew this Romelu Lukaku was in there something. The kid who was starring on loan with West Brom was always destined to grow into a superstar, and despite a few bumps in the road, he's finally reached the top.

A change of scenery, coupled with a new diet, has helped Lukaku shine in Inter. He's scoring goals at an elite rate, and his big man/little man partnership with Lautaro Martinez is among the finest in Europe.

Lukaku is also Belgium's leading scorer of all time, and he's only 27 years old. He's got plenty of time to extend his lead at the top of the charts.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe is a young star
Mbappe is a young star / Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Country: France

Speaking of players with time on their side, you'd have to try hard to find somebody who doesn't think 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe is a future Ballon d'Or winner.

Living up to a €180m price tag is not an easy task, and yet Mbappe has done exactly that. He's on a level of his own in France, and there are only a few players in Europe who can hold a candle to the Frenchman.

The scariest thing about Mbappe is that, if history is to be believed, he's nowhere near his final form. He's still learning the game, but he's already become the teacher.

Luis Suarez

Suarez is a part of Barcelona history
Suarez is a part of Barcelona history / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Club: Atletico Madrid
Country: Uruguay

You only need to look at the surprise with which Luis Suarez's exit from Barcelona was met for evidence of his quality.

The 33-year-old was still scoring goals at an elite rate and had recently climbed up to third in the club's all-time scoring charts, so to see him unceremoniously handed over to Atletico Madrid came as a real shock.

Suarez has continued to score goals in Madrid, while Barcelona have been sorely lacking in that department.

Jamie Vardy

Vardy boasts some impressive numbers
Vardy boasts some impressive numbers / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Club: Leicester
Country: England

English football's greatest underdog story, Jamie Vardy continues to defy expectations with Leicester City.

Using his electric pace to run away from Father Time, Vardy has perfected his craft to become a defender's nightmare. He hounds opponents into making mistakes better than anybody on the planet and then knows how to get the job done with the ball at his feet.

With a scoring record better than some of the Premier League's biggest-ever names, it's time to show Vardy the respect he deserves.

Timo Werner

Werner is a versatile weapon
Werner is a versatile weapon / Clive Rose/Getty Images

Club: Chelsea
Country: Germany

Before his move to Chelsea, Timo Werner spent years flirting with the title of 'Germany's top marksman', and he did so by using a number of different styles.

His electric pace makes him one of the most dangerous strikers around, but instead of hanging around and waiting for the chance to get in behind defenders, Werner has recently started looking to make things happen himself.

Comfortable dropping deep or drifting out wide, Werner goes hunting for so many different ways to beat a defence, and his combination of speed and vision make him impossible to stop.

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