There is no other position in football more idolised than that of a No9.
Just glance through previous winners of the Ballon d’Or and the list is dominated by premier goalscorers.
While the dynamic of the role has changed in recent years with strikers now expected to contribute more than just goals, they still command the same prominence within teams, like lead singers in a band.
But which strikers are hitting the right notes? From tier one-four, we examine eight of the best in the world.
Harry Kane, Tottenham
There are strikers on this list who possess specialist attributes. Kane is an all-rounder, though, the most complete striker in Europe.
On the surface, Kane’s finishing is most striking. Acute angles, low or high, smashed or precise, he’s showcased an ability to score all sorts of goals, against any team, at any time.
But since ridding himself of the one-season wonder tag, Kane has also shed the notion he’s just a one-dimensional goalscorer.
Indeed, the 25-year-old frontman’s passing is pristine with his propensity to drop in and ping glorious balls over or through defences becoming a big feature of Tottenham’s attack.
The England international is not blessed with piercing pace, but his expert movement means he remains elusive in key areas.
His idol is Cristiano Ronaldo, and Kane is on his way to becoming idolised himself.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus
Ronaldo will be assessed, both by himself and the rest, through success in Europe, but Juve’s exit owed to their ponderous midfield as opposed to any profligacy from the Portuguese.
The statistics may point to a drop off in 2018/19 – his 19 league goals is seven less than last term and his six Champions League strikes was nine less than in 2017/18 – yet at 34, Ronaldo remains a freak of nature.
His mentality matches the physique, steely and conditioned for success. He this season became the first player ever to claim Serie A, Premier League and La Liga titles and was central to the Bianconeri’s triumph.
With unrivaled movement, predatory instincts and finishing ability, Ronaldo is one of the great goalscorers past and present.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
To be considered underrated is very much in vogue these days and while Aguero can hardly contest to be placed in that bracket, there is a sense he’s not appreciated in the way he should be.
The Argentine’s reinvention under Pep Guardiola has been absorbing. Poise and power in front of goal have long been hallmarks of Aguero’s game, but Guardiola has helped him become a more complete No9, to the extent Gabriel Jesus remains an understudy.
Ferocious in the press and immaculate at dropping in to link up with team-mates, Aguero has taken his talent to a new level, all the more impressive when you consider he’s 30.
Still, goalscoring his what he does best and there are few in world football better than City’s record marksman.
Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain
Ignore the football philistines who habitually refer to Ligue 1 as a ‘Farmer’s League’ and just appreciate the evocative talent of Mbappe.
There is no doubt the France forward will be entering the very top tier in the near future with more exposure in the Champions League.
Only Lionel Messi has scored more goals in Europe’s top-five domestic leagues in 2018/19 and Mbappe has guided PSG’s title gallop in the absence of injured stars Edinson Cavani and Neymar.
His speed across the ground is matched by his mind and what we’ve seen emerge is a supremely intelligent striker. Above all else, though, he’s a frightening player and Mbappe is primed to take the throne as the world’s best once Messi and Ronaldo vacate.
Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
Now, there may well be some controversy in the decision to hoist Benzema into Tier 3, but hear his case out.
In a similar vein to Kane, Benzema is a rare hybrid No9/10 and his perceived decline can be closely attributed to the self sacrifice of serving Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese departs and Benzema, at 31, enjoys his best goalscoring season in nearly a decade.
It’s been a wretched campaign for Los Blancos, the opposite is true for Benzema, though.
A true No9 in his cold finishing ability, the Frenchman’s link-up play remains elite and he more than warrants his spot among the premier strikers.
Luis Suarez, Barcelona
On reputation, Suarez could argue to be much higher but it cannot be ignored he’s lost a step recently, particularly in the bigger European contests.
For a striker so reliant on a tenacious mobility, the degradation of age is keenly felt. And it’s not just in his ability to swallow opponents up, but also spit out goals.
Chances have been missed and he’s lost a clinical edge. Still, the 32-year-old has scored 20 times in La Liga and that record is impossible to ignore.
The Uruguayan also showed in El Clasico what he’s capable of in isolated bursts. Yet judging him on individual ability and within the context of other No9s in Europe, he’s certainly dropped down.
Roberto Firmino, Liverpool
Signing a No9 is of paramount importance for Barcelona this summer and Firmino is actually the perfect candidate.
The Brazilian is a unique striker. The production of music is perhaps the best way to explain what Firmino offers. Artists are influenced by idols from different genres, taking pieces from each to form their own style.
Firmino is the same in that he possesses all the classical Brazilian flair, yet blends that talent with the work rate of a greyhound.
His hold-up play and calculated pressing is intrinsic to the way Liverpool play. Of course, he’s capable of stunning goals as well, which is why he’s one of the best in Europe.
Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich
Lewandowski is a mirror of Suarez. Both are enduring relative declines and neither have done the business in key European fixtures, however, the two showed flashes of their class against eternal rivals this season.
The Pole was a one-man demolition team when his brace destroyed Borussia Dortmund earlier this year. But those performances have been few and far between.
His exploits in front of goal in recent seasons have been outstanding, however, breaking the 40-goal barrier in each of the last three entire campaigns.
Juventus need one more point to clinch the Serie A title next week after second-placed Napoli were held to a 1-1 home draw by 10-man Genoa.
It was another setback for Carlo Ancelotti’s side after their midweek loss to Empoli as they failed to see off opponents who had Stefano Sturaro sent off in the 28th minute.
Dries Mertens fired Napoli in front after 34 minutes, but Genoa responded with Koray Gunter heading against the bar before Darko Lazovic equalised in first half added time.
Atlanta earned the point they needed to leapfrog Milan into fourth place as they held out for a goalless draw at third-placed Inter.
Making his first start at the San Siro in six weeks after controversy over the club captaincy, Mauro Icardi had the best chance but prodded a poor shot straight at visiting goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.
Lazio lost further ground in their quest to ensure European qualification for next season as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Sassuolo.
Ciro Immobile’s controversial 53rd minute penalty put the hosts in front but Rogerio deflected home an equaliser and substitute Domenico Berardi looked to have won it with an 87th minute strike.
But Lazio still had to time to hit back and Senad Lulic rescued a potentially crucial point with an equaliser deep into added time, following a short corner.
Frosinone stepped up their unlikely battle for survival as they claimed their second straight win with a 1-0 triumph at Fiorentina.
The Viola almost won it in the 81st minute when Federico Chiesa hit the woodwork but three minutes later Frosinone substitute Daniel Ciofani fired home from the edge of the box.
Rodrigo de Paul scored twice as 10-man Udinese eased their relegation fears and plunged Empoli further into trouble with a 3-2 home win.
Empoli twice led through Francesco Caputo and Rade Krunic but de Paul’s goals twice pulled Udinese level, including his second from the penalty spot.
Rolando Mandragora grabbed Udinese’s third in first half added time and the hosts held on despite the 63rd minute dismissal of Marvin Zeegelaar.
Cagliari beat SPAL 2-1 with goals from Paolo Farago and Leonardo Pavoletti, after a Mirko Antenucci penalty had brought the visitors level.
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Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri felt teenage forward Moise Kean should not have responded to racist chants from the home stands with his goal celebration at Cagliari – but called for the “idiots” responsible to be handed lifetime bans.
The Italy international, 19, was abused all night by sections of the home support, with monkey chants aimed at him.
Kean, though, had the final say when scoring Juve’s second goal of the 2-0 win with five minutes left before standing next to the post, his arms spread in defiant response to the abuse coming from the stands behind – which only continued to grow louder.
Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini led the player protests to referee Piero Giacomelli, who also spoke to both managers.
Meanwhile, Cagliari skipper Luca Ceppitelli appealed directly to the home fans behind the goal for the offensive chants to stop.
Juve’s France midfielder Blaise Matuidi appeared to gesture to manager Allegri he should take his players off.
There was a delay of around some three minutes. An announcement had been made over the public address system to highlight the issue – which was greeted by more jeers from some home supporters.
Afterwards, Kean posted a message on Instagram with a photo of his celebration and a caption which read: “The best way to respond to racism #notoracism”.
The incidents followed on from England players being subjected to racist abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro.
Earlier on Tuesday, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin insisted referees would be told to be “brave” and halt matches to stamp out such abuse from “loud, aggressive and primitive” people.
Kean, whose goal added to Leonardo Bonucci’s towering header in the 22nd minute, was handed a start by Allegri at the Sardegna Arena.
The Juventus manager, though, expressed the need for calm heads, despite all of the provocations from the stands.
“He shouldn’t have celebrated in that manner,” Allegri said afterwards in a press conference reported by the club.
“He is a young man and he has to learn, but certain things from the crowd also shouldn’t be heard.”
In his post-match comments to broadcaster Sky Sport Italia, Allegri turned his attention to the need for the football authorities to tackle the “idiots” head on.
“You need great intelligence to deal with these situations and should not go to provoke people. That, of course, does not mean the idiots in the crowd and the way they reacted should be justified,” the Juventus boss said.
“As always in life, there are idiots who do stupid things and ruin it for everyone else.
“I don’t think talking about it all the time helps. I don’t think halting play helps, because not everyone in the stadium did that.
“We need to use the cameras, find those who are doing it and punish them. It’s very simple, identify them and not one-year ban or two, just give them a lifetime ban.
“We’ve got the technology, it can be done if the authorities want to. The problem is, they don’t really want to.”
Defender Bonucci also appeared to suggest Kean could have opted for another way to handle the unsavoury atmosphere at the Sardegna Arena.
“Kean knows that when he scores a goal, he has to focus on celebrating with his teammates. He knows he could’ve done something differently too,” Bonucci told Sky Sport Italia.
“There were racist jeers after the goal, Blaise heard it and was angered. I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have done that and the Curva (Cagliari’s ‘ultra’ fans) should not have reacted that way.
“We are professionals, we have to set the example and not provoke anyone.”
Provided by Press Association Sport