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.
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