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Pele, Lewandowski, Ronaldinho: Ranking the Top 10 Best Strikers of All Time

The Aiddas Golden Boot on display
This image is courtesy of Getty Images

In football, field positions are crucial to achieve maximum efficiency in a team. Namely, the positions of a Goalkeeper, Defender, Midfielder, and Forward. These are just the primary positions in the game, and they can change according to the preference of the player.

Of all the positions, there is only one that spearheads a team’s attack, and that position is of the forward. There are subcategories like Center Forward, False nine, Inside Forward, Winger, and Striker within this position. A striker is the only one who finds himself or herself deep in enemy territory from the different bold parts. This is due to their role of providing goals for their respective teams.

The sharpness of the striker is a must in every team. After all, passing the ball around with no one to net is ridiculous. But, a striker’s duty is not only to score goals, as they also provide guidance to their team. Over the past many years, there have been many competent strikers who have led their teams to fame and glory. However, only a few go above and beyond and deserve to be called legends of the game.

The list mentioned below will unravel ten of those strikers’ careers and the many accolades they have won for themselves and their team.

Honorable Mentions: Before getting into the ranking, a few players have to be honorably mentioned. Although they appeared later, they are not to be disregarded in the list.

1. Zlatan Ibrhamovic:

A list of strikers cannot be made without giving due diligence to the great Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Swedish target man has recorded 484 goals in 783 appearances all throughout his career. Zlatan’s career has included moves to many big clubs.

Zlatan IBRAHIMOVIC / Johny PLACIDE - 08.08.2014 - Reims / Paris Saint Germain - 1er journee de Ligue 1 , Photo : Dave Winter / Icon Sport

Zlatan IBRAHIMOVIC / Johny PLACIDE – 08.08.2014 – Reims / Paris Saint Germain – 1er journee de Ligue 1 , Photo : Dave Winter / Icon Sport

Of his 22 years as a footballer he has been nominated for the Balon d’Or eleven times since the year 2003. It was finally at PSG that he was ranked in the top five lists of the 2013 Ballon d’Or.

2. Robert Lewandowski:

Robert Lewandowski is the next name on the list. In his fourteen years as a footballer, The Body recorded 453 goals in 626 appearances in overall. The goals scored by him has contributed to him winning a fourth place on the 2014 Ballon d’Or list.

In addition, he won the 2019 UEFA Champions League title with Bayern and became the highest goalscorer and assist maker.

3. Thierry Henry: 

The last name of the honorable list is the biggest of them all, hence he has been given the title of ‘King’. Thierry Henry was an adept winger at Juventus but the Frenchman rose to heights at the Emirates Stadium. It was with Arsenal that he recorded 178 goals in 258 appearances.

Henry had made himself a force to reckon with at the North London club and once there he came in second and third place respectively in the years of 2003 and 2006 in the Ballon d’Or list. Other than that he won the UEFA Super Cup in the year 2009 and won the UCL title in the 2008-09 season after his move to Barcelona on June 25th 2007.

Unfortunately with the Gunners he could not achieve the same, but he did come close to winning the title in the 1999-2000 season and in the 2005-06 season.

Ranking the top 10 best strikers of all Time

10. Andriy Shevchenko: 

It should not come as a surprise that Andriy Shevchenko has made his way to the list. Agreed, his career at Chelsea had been a poor one and like Torres, the Ukrainian would want to wish for a time machine to turn time around so that he can avoid his mistake. However,  his career before Chelsea cannot be forgotten as he placed himself amongst the greats.

During his fruitful years, Shevo was at AC Milan and he recorded 127 goals in 207 appearances for the Red Devils. In the year 2004, Shevchenko recorded 52 goals in 71 appearances and this became his best season for the Milan side.

Considering his performance, the 2004 Ballon d’Or award had been bestowed upon him, and that became the biggest award that he had won.

9. Fernando Torres:

Fernando Torres is considered a legend. However, over years lost his status in the football community. This change came as a surprise to the fans of the spanish striker who had followed the Spaniard since his time with Atletico Madrid. At his time with Los Indianos, he recorded 121 goals in 353 appearances. Soon clubs with robust financial power came looking for him.

Of them, he felt Liverpool fit the profile that he desired for in his future club. Thus the Spanish striker moved to the Premier League and adapted to it as fish takes to water. In his debut season, he recorded 24 goals in 33 appearances and missed winning the Premier League golden boot by seven goals. Following his debut, he recorded a further 41 goals in 69 appearances for the Merseyside Reds.

At Liverpool, he made such an impression that the Ballon d’Or granted him a third-place finish in the year 2008. Unfortunately, he has never won the Golden boot with Liverpool despite his prolific form in front of the goal. His move to Chelsea for a sum of 50 million pounds resulted in El Nino started declining as a player. In the course of five years he scored a meager 45 goals in 172 appearances and his status as a ruthless striker had come to an end.

However, Torress is fortunately not just remembered for his performance at club level, but also his contributions for the national side. It was his performance for Liverpool and the impact in the 2008 Euros that nominated Torres for the  Ballon d’Or. If not for the move to Chelsea, he would have had the chance at winning the Ballon d’Or and maintain his hold longer.

8. Arthur Friedenreich 

Arthur Friedenreich faced a lot of problems due to his skin color. However, he did not let that stop him and became a force to reckon with and let his anger score his goals for him. He has been rumored to have scored 1352 goals in 1239 games. Though fans of Pele dispute this and say that the record is false,  the actual record cannot be found (due to a mysterious disappearance). However, it is more than what any other footballer has accumulated in their entire career. If there was a definition in the dictionary next to ruthless goalscorer, then Friedenreich’s picture would be placed next.

Arthur Friedenreich

Arthur Friedenreich

7. Alfredo Di Stefano:

The true legend of the Spanish capital. The statue of Alfredo Di Stefano outside the stadium is an edifice to the fact.  The ‘Golden Arrow’ never really made his mark internationally until he moved to Madrid in the year 1953. Once there, he made an immediate impact and became the highest scorer (27 goals in 28 apps) in the Spanish first division. After some controversy, this move came to be after some debate, but it all turned out for the best as he set up many foundations at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Alfredo Di Stefano of Real Madrid

Alfredo Di Stefano of Real Madrid

He set up the foundations that allowed Los Blancos to win their first-ever European title. One of the steps in that foundation was met by Di Stefano when he scored a hat-trick against Barcelona in the El Classico. The astonishing fact was that Barcelona had been the reigning European Champions at that point, and a win over them meant a new start for Los Vikingos. Alfredo continued his run of scoring goals and thus led his team to a dramatic final in the Champions Cup (the champions league equivalent) and won it against a robust Stade De Reims side.

Di Stefano has done a lot at the club level as he won two Ballon d’Or s (1957 and 1959). But, his actual achievements came after his retirement, as he won the UEFA President’s Award and the Golden Foot in the years of 2004 and 2007, respectively.

6. Ferenc Puskas:

Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskas

Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskas

Ferenc Puskas belongs to the Golden Team from the 1954 FIFA World Cup squad, who came in second. For Puskas to achieve this, he had struggled a lot at the club and national level. Puskas made his impact at the Santiago Bernebeau where he recorded 156 goals in 180 appearances . This form helped him at the national level as well, and he recorded eighty-four goals in eighty-five appearances for the Hungarian national side. His accomplishments entail the World Soccer Player of the Year, and the FIFA Golden Ball awards won in the years 1953 and 1953, respectively. The only trophy he missed out on was the Ballon d’Or (1960) as he came in second to Luis Suarez (1960).

5. Gerd Muller: 

Gerd Muller, born in Nordiigen, Germany made a name for himself in the top division of the German football league.

Though Muller was infamous at the local football club in his hometown, his time at Bayern Munich is what led to his name resonating in the tongues of football enthusiasts everywhere. At Munich, he recorded 487 goals in 555 appearances, which led to his achieving the Bundesliga top scorer title seven times in his fifteen years at the club. Other than his club performances, he recorded 68 goals in 62 appearances while playing for West Germany.

His achievements caught the eye of officials, and they bestowed the Ballon d’Or on him in the year 1970. He also received the FIFA Golden Boot in the same year and therefore inducted himself into the 1970 FIFA World Cup All-Star team.

Alike Puskas, he too won the prestigious Golden Foot award in the year 2007.

4. Ronaldinho:

Ronaldinho, formerly known as Ronaldo Luis Nazario No Lima, is who many fans call the ‘Real’ RonaldoThis is due to his name resonating with that of Cristiano Ronaldo. Then again, Fenomeno has a better record than his Portuguese counterpart, as he has scored 247 goals in 343 appearances. This record has been bettered by him at the country level, as he has recorded 62 goals in 98 appearances. During his time in club football, the Brazilian has been infamous for moving from one club and then joining their rivals, which has caused discomfort to his fans.

Brazil's Ronaldo shoots

Brazil’s Ronaldo shoots

Nonetheless, he won the Ballon d’Or twice in the years 1997 and 2002 respectively. Ronaldo also became the FIFA World Player of the Year thrice in 1996, 1997, and 2002. But his most important titles have been with the Brazil national team as he has won the prestigious competition twice in the years of 1994 and 2002 and won the FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe as well in 2002.

3. Romario: 

Just like Fenomeno, Romario is a name that is memorable to the fans of football. In his career, he too did a lot of shifting like Eusebio, and his career took off in the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven. At Eindhoven, he recorded 129 goals in 141 appearances, and soon his performances caught the attention of Spanish giants Barcelona. Though his move to . The award could have also been given to him because he led his team to a FIFA World Cup in the year 1994 and won the Golden Ball at the competition.

Romario of Brazil

Romario of Brazil

This was the most significant achievement of his career. He ended his career by recording 690 goals in 890 appearances at club level and 56 goals in 70 appearances for the Brazil national side.

2. Marco Van Basten: 

The Netherlands as a nation has always produced youths who have a natural talent in football. Hence they were able to introduce names like Johan Cruyff, Edgar Davids, and Ronald Koeman. Unfortunately, none of these players made it onto this list, and in place of them, it is the Utrecht native Marco Van Basten who finds himself here. Though Cruyff has scored more goals overall (Goals: 290>210) than his fellow countryman, he has done so at seven different clubs. While Basten has achieved his record at just two clubs, Ajax and AC Milan. The Dutchman has even scored more goals in fewer appearances than the Barcelona legend(Apps: 280>514).

In his time with the Rossoneri and De Godenzonen, he has won three Eredivisie titles (1981–82, 1982–83, and 1984–85) and four Serie A titles ( 1987–88, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94) over the course of fourteen years. Other than his achievements with his clubs, he has won three Ballon d’Or’s ( 1988, 1989, and 1992), UEFA Best Player of the Year (1989, 1990, and 1992), and the FIFA World Player of the Year (1992).

1. Pele:

Pele has proven himself as the world’s greatest striker by recording 541 goals in 560 appearances overall at the club level. Dico has scored a further 77 goals in 92 national team appearances to help his team reach a World Cup on three occasions in 1958, 1962, 1970.

The Brazilian forwards VAVA and PELE struggling with the French defense

The Brazilian forwards VAVA and PELE struggling with the French defense

Other than that, he became the recipient of the Ballon d’Or a total of seven times between 1958 and 1970. His performances worked as a catalyst and helped Brazil win a World Cup for the first time after the first World Cup was commemorated in 1934. Pele, however, struggled to achieve what he did at the national level as he faced a lot of racism.

Pele with his his contributions will not lose his number one spot, despite claims that Freidenreich has recorded more goals than the Nascimento. This is due to the fact that Dico’s records has proof behind it and Arthurs does not. However, the subject is up for heavy debate and discussions among the allies of this beautiful game.

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