Wednesday, 8 August 2012

10 OF THE BEST STRIKERS IN MY TIME

A body of work as this you are about to read has the propensity to evoke controversy, doubt, and debate due to  it's deeply subjective methodology, and rightly so. Every fan of the game should have his / her own definition and yardstick for picking a list of 10 strikers. We are always going to be divided on that one, but my criteria was three-fold - impact on the World Cup, or Continental tournaments or League football - I have to have repeatedly followed the player ( not from old Videos) - and  lastly, any player on the list would invariably fit the the definition of an out-and-out striker. There may be  players who were / are great goal scorers, but might not be on the list as i do not consider them to be strikers. It does not mean they are any less respected, just that they do not fit the mould these 10 share. With that cleared , let's walk through the stadium tunnel, on to the pitch to meet the best of my pick. Let's go......

10.  ROGER MILLA :  From Cameroun,  born May 20th, 1952. African Footballer of the year 1974. Moved to Europe in 1977 with  French Club Valenciennes scoring 6 times in 28 appearances .  At Monaco his next Club where he had just a season, scoring twice in 17 games. He moved on to Bastia, scoring 35 goals in 113 between 1980 and 1984.  He spent 2 years at Saint Etienne, scoring 31 times in 59 games between 1984 and 1986. Roger Milla starred for Montpellier between 1986 and 1989 , scoring 37 times in 95 games .

IMPACT : Milla has a special place in the history books as the oldest player to score in the World Cup ( USA '94 at 42 years Old ).  His performance at Italia '90 earned him legendary status in African Football folklore. He scored 4 times as Cameroun got to the quarter finals . Milla played a big role in breaking that barrier  African strikers had prior to suffered . Milla played with character at the world Cups, and his goal celebration by the corner flag which involved wiggling his waist was not only fun and distinct, it  was a projection of Black African Culture

STYLE : Roger Milla was a Wily Striker, full of movement, and imposed himself on defenses. The records may not have him as a prolific goal scorer, but that was more to do with the caliber  of teams he played, rather than his ability. He ranks as one of the top African strikers ever, and his 5 World Cup goals remains unsurpassed for strikers from the continent.


9. PREBEN ELKJAER : From Denmark, born September 11th, 1957.  Shot to fame after his move to Belgian Club Lokeren from Koln, Germany in 1978 .  He spent 4 years at Lokeren netting 98 times in 190 League games.  He scored twice at the Euro Championship in 1984 as Denmark got to the semi-finals ; later that summer secured a big move to Italian Club Verona. He was second runner-up ,  and first runner-up to Michel Platini in 1984 and 1985  European Footballer of the year awards.

IMPACT : His first season in Italy  was a big one, as he  played a leading role in helping Verona to their First and only Scudetto  ( Italian league championship ) in 1985 .  Mexico 86' brought Preben Eljaer  to global recognition. He smashed a hat-trick when Denmark took Uruguay apart 6 - 1, and his 4 goals in the competition enabled him to the bronze ball award at the Mexico '86 World Cup.

STYLE : I  am yet to find a player to possess  Eljaer's mix of aggression , speed and skill . This bloke could play, and any defender to come up against him on his day would live to remember this powerful striker . Right foot, left foot, in the air, technique, and skill , he had in good measure.  He was one hell of a player. One of my favourite forward's ever. 


8. HANS KRANKL :  Born February 14th, 1953 . Austria's Best ever player, and goal scorer exctraordinaire. Krankl played for Austria Wien between 1970 and 1978 .  Scoring 160 goals in 205 games.  His tally for the Austrian National team is 34 goals in 69 games .  He returned to Austria Wien after 2 years at Barcelona,  and scored another 107 goals in 145 games .

IMPACT :  1978 / 79 was Hans Krankl's  most impressive spell . European golden shoe winner in 1978, he moved to Barcelona in the summer of that year, after scoring 4 goals in the world Cup. He ended up scoring 29 goals in 30 league games  to be La Liga's top scorer at the end of the season. In addition, that season, he won the Spanish Cup, and European Cup winners' with Barcelona .

STYLE :  Krankl was a striker of the highest predatory instincts.  He often made his move in a flash. Left footed he was , but his accuracy at placement was deadly.  His performance against West Germany in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina remains a standard bearer for strikers . I have utmost respect for Hans Krankl,  and he remains one of the best i have ever seen at putting the ball in the net.


7. GARY LINEKER :  Born November 30th, 1960. England's most successful striker. He began his career at local Club Leicester. A small team that fluctuated the first and second divisions.  Lineker announced his ambition in the 1984/85 season when he tied Liverpool's goal scoring legend Ian Rush at the top of the First division goal scorer's chart with 24 league goals. In the close season, he moved to Everton ( 1985 / 86  ) where he had an outstanding season for Club and Country, helping Everton to a second place finish in the league, and an FA cup final place, scoring 30 times in 41 League games. His goals had shot England to qualification for the Mexico '86 world Cup. 

IMPACT :  Lineker cemented his goal scoring credentials at the Mexico '86 World Cup where he finished top scorer with 6 goals from 5 games. His World Cup exploits brought him to Barcelona's attention, and he moved to Spain for almost £3 million in the summer of 1986. Although his 3 years at Barcelona were bitter-sweet, he left an enviable mark there,  scoring 42 goals in 103 league games, winning the Spanish Cup, and European Cup Winners' Cup.  His last English Club was Spurs, he was top scorer of the first division with them on his return with 24 goals in the 1989/90 season. He scored 67 goals in 105 league games for Spurs, and won the FA Cup in 1991.  Gary Lineker has 10 goals from 12 games in 2 world  cups. He has has the most goals in the world cup for an England player, and the only English player to have won the Golden boot at the world cup . He is England's second all time highest goal scorer with 48 goals from 80 games.

STYLE : Lineker was not the best you would see in terms of his technical attributes ; he had pace to get behind defenders, but his greatest asset was his ability to attract the ball with his positional play in the box. One i would liken to a poacher and a plunderer. In his time, you underestimated him at you peril.


6. JURGEN KLINSMANN: Born july 30th 1964. Nationality: German. He began his ascent to stardom with Stutgarter Kickers in 1981 . He would play for them till 1984, scoring 22 goals in 61 matches. In 1984,  Klinsman moved to VFB Stuttgart  where he spent 5 years  ( 1984 /  89 ) which time he won the Bundesliga  top scorer award 1987 / 88 with 19 goals from 34 games, and German Player of the year 1988. 
In 1989 , Klinmann moved to Italian giants Inter Millan, spending 3 seasons, and winning the UEFA Cup. His scoring ratio was 1:3 , netting 34 in 95 League games. After quitting Italy, he Moved to AS Monaco in France, and scoring 29 in 65 in 2 seasons. He quit Monaco for Tottenham hotspurs, smashing in 21 league goals in 41 league games.  Bayern Munich tempted him back to Germany in 1995 for two seasons. In his first season back in Germany, he won the UEFA Cup ; and the following season the bundesliga title. His two seasons at Bayern  Munich saw him net 31 times in 65 league games

IMPACT : One of the few to have won World Cup and European Championship medals ( 1990 and 1996 respectively ).  He is the sixth highest goal scorer in the history of the world cup ( 11 goals from 3 world cups ) ; and he scored 47 in 108 games for Germany. 


STYLE : One i would refer to as a swashbuckling striker. Klinsmann redefined the widely held ideology of a centre forward. He was strong, tall, formidable in the air, all-action in purpose ; but combined those attributes with speed, technique, grace, and the ability to score all maner of goals, especially towards the end of his career . He was an exciting brand. It was a pleasure to follow his career. 



5. MARCO VAN BASTEN : Born October 31st 1964.  Nationality : Dutch . He featured for Ajax Amsterdam  between 1981 - '87,  winning the Dutch League title on 3 occasions. He was Eredivisie top scorer in 1984, '85, '86 , and '87.  He also won the European Cup winners' Cup in 1987 under Johan Cryuff . 

IMPACT:  Van Basten moved to AC Millan at the beginning of the 1987/88 season, unfortunately suffering serious knee injury which kept out for six months of the season. He did return in time to celebrate AC Millan's capture of Serie A. Notably, Van Basten was fresh going into the Euro Championship in '88 , and he proved to be Devastating.  He scored a hat-trick against England, and a spectacular volley against U.S.S.R in the final of the Euro championship, making him the tournament's top scorer with 5 goals, and a European championship winners' medal.  Van Basten was Serie A top scorer with 19 goals from 26 games in the 1989 / 90 season, and the 91 / 92 season with 25 goals from 31 games. He lifted the European Cup back-to-back 1989 and 1990 with Millan, as well as winning Serie A thrice in his eight year stay at Millan. He was European Foot baller of the year 1988, 1989 , and 1992. He also won FIFA world Footballer of the year 1992. He scored 90 goals in 147 league games for Millan. For the Netherlands, he scored 24 in 58 games .

STYLE : Marco Van Basten was complete striker of awesome capacity . This guy could do everything- volley, penalties , free kicks , headers, play make, dribble,  tactically and technically brilliant. He had so much in his locker you watched him play with your mouth open.  He is a strriker's striker. Sadly, his career was cut short by injury at the age of 30.


4. GABRIEL BATISTUTA : Born February 1st, 1969. Nationality : Argentine.  Started out his playing career at Newell's Old Boys in 1988, playing for just a season. Similarly, at River Plate, before a transfer to Boca Juniors.  It was his second season at Boca Juniors that heralded the emergence of a pulsating  striker. That was the 1990/ 91 season when he scored 11 times in 19 games. On the back of his Club exploits, he received a call-up to Argentina's COPA AMERICA squad  ; he duly obliged by being top scorer of the tournament with 6 goals , and Argentina won the tournament. The bounce he  got from his Copa America success landed him a contract with Italy's Fiorentina. He was Serie A's top scorer in the 1994/ 95 season. Before his transfer to AS Roma in 2000 , Batistuta had spent 9 seasons in Florence , scoring 168 goals in 269 league games. He remains Fiorentina's all time leading scorer, and a legend in the city of Florence .
Gabriel Batistuta won the Italian league title with AS Roma in 2001, and ending his time at  Roma in 2003,   with 30 goals from 63 league games to his account.

IMPACT : Batistuta Played in three world cups, finding the net in each. At USA '94, he scored 4 in 4 games. In France '98,  he became one of the few players to have scored a hat-trick in back-to-back world cups, and he found the net 5 times ; and in japan and korea 2002, he scored once. In all, he scored 10 goals in 12 world cup games. He is Argentina's all time top scorer with 56 from 78 games. In serie A, he ranks number 10 in the all time best goal scorers chart with 200 from 344 league games.

STYLE : Gabriel Batistuta was a blistering striker that played on the edge. His game was crafted towards one thing only - goals. He could strike the ball with some violence. He was phenomenal from free kicks out side the box, to attempts at goal in open play from outside and within the box, there was always something explosive about his style, and his goal scoring - be it headers or volleys. He was always awesome . A symbol of virility and potency to all the teams he played for. You did not mess with this man.


3. ROBERTO BAGGIO : Born February 18th, 1967. Nationality : Italian. Baggio started out at Vicenza in 1982 in Serie C. He stepped into the lime-light when he joined Fiorentina in 1985 scoring 39 times in 94 games, and  making a big splash to the attention of giants Juventus where he was between 1990  and 1995. He won the UEFA Cup with with his new club in 1993, and later that same year became European player of the year, and FIFA World Player of the year.  He joined AC Millan in 1995/ 96, and winning Serie A in his first season with them. He moved in 1997 to Bologna for just a season, scoring 22 goals in 30 Serie A games.  He moved to Inter Millan the at the beginning of the 1998 / 99 season, and had a relatively unproductive spell, before heading for Brescia in 2000 to rekindle himself, scoring 45 goals in 95 league games over four seasons.


IMPACT: Despite his injuries, Roberto Baggio managed 3 world cups, and left his mark in all of them. He scored the goal of the tournament at Italia '90; at USA '94, he was Italy's main man, and voted second best player of the tournament, scoring 5 goals in 7 matches. At France '98, despite all his injury problems, forced his way into Cesare Maldini's plans, scoring twice in five matches, thus making him the only Italian player to have scored in 3 world Cups, with 9 goals in total. In serie A, he scored 205 goals, in 452 league games, and making an incredible 113 assists. His goal scoring in Serie A is the sixth best of all time.

STYLE : This Italian icon combined Grace, Class, and Genius in his play and goal scoring. A Smooth, Sexy forward player who's attacking prowess served a multi-tactical approach. He played like poetry in motion, gliding past players, cutting through defenses, with skill, a measure of wit, and sheer sophistication. Baggio was the real deal. For one not so tall ( five feet, nine inches ), not particularly quick, he had an incredible football brain ; he made a beautiful pass as he could place a ball well in the corner of the net. He was an embodiment to the artistic side of the game, he manipulated the ball aesthetically for whatever purpose. An amazing player, goal scorer, and spectacular on the pitch, always.


2. ROMARIO : Born  January 29th, 1966.  He began his career at Vasco da Gama, scoring 17 goals in 47 games between 1985 and 1988. Subsequently, he transfered to PSV Eindhoven, Starring for them between 1988 and 1993, winning the Dutch Championship thrice. In the summer of 1993, he joined the all star cast at Barcelona, managed by Johan Cryuff. In his first season, he won La Liga, and the league's top scorer award with 30 goals from 33 games. Romario went on to play for a motley of teams after spending 2 seasons in Catalunya. They typically were short spells with teams in Brazil, America, in the Middle East, and Australia.  The most astonishing was a return to Vasco da Gama in 2005, and top the scorers chart in the Brazilian Championship with 22 goals at the age of 40.

IMPACT : Top scorer in the Dutch League for four out of the five seasons he was there, scoring 96 goals in 107 games. He scored a total of 34 goals in 46 games for Barcelona. In his second spell at Vasco da Gama ( 2000-2002 ) he scored 41 in 46. In his third stint - 22 in 31 games.  He was South America's footballer of the year 2000.
Romario was voted the stand-out player ( Golden Ball Winner )  at USA '94.  Romario was instrumental to Brazil 1994 World Cup triumph, scoring 5 goals in 7 games.  For Brazil, his statistics was 55 goals in  70 games. FIFA acknowledged  that Romario scored over 900 career goals.

STYLE : Dutch Legend Johan Cryuff managed Romario at Barcelona, and called him " a genius in the goal area ". How true ! Roamrio took the art of goal scoring in box, and one-on-one with  keepers to another level. Unsurpassed in my eyes when it boils s down to finishing. He did it with dexterity, and peculiar innovation.  A master of the shimmy, feint , and rounding the keeper. Romario was not the type to pay too much attention to matters outside the penalty box ; he inhabited the penalty box, and ruled there. With his command, and uncanny ability, he scored lots of goals. Put it this way,  what players of skill did outside the box, he did in the box, and it produced goals like few have managed. His performance at USA '94 remains the best i have seen of a striker in the world cup. He was sharp and primed in all 7 games. That takes some doing. This man played like a goal scoring sorcerer.


1. RONALDO Luis Naziro de Lima : is soccerprescription's best of the best, and number 1 striker. Born September 18th, 1976.  Began his career at Cruzeiro in 1993. He scored 12 goals in 14 games, before his transfer to  PSV Eindhoven when he was almost 18 in 1994. In his first season, he scored 30 goals to top the scorers' chart. At the beginning of the 1996/97 season, he joined Spanish giants Barcelona, and typically ended the season as goal king, scoring 34 in 37 games. After one season in Barcelona, he moved to Inter Millan, winning the UEFA cup in his first season. 2002/ 03, moved back to Spain to none other than Real Madrid, winning La Liga with them.  He won the top scorer's award again in 2004 with 24 goals for Real Madrid. 

IMPACT : Ronaldo 15 goals from 4 world cups makes him the tournament's top marks man. He won FIFA world Player of the year on three occasions ( 1996, 1997, 2002 )  European Footballer of the year 1997.  He has 2 world cup winners' medal ( 1994 and 2002 ) top scorer at the South Korea-Japan 2002 world cup with 7 goals ; outstanding player ( Golden ball winner ) at France '98 world cup. He played for his country 98 times scoring 62 times. Ronaldo played a total of 384 league games throughout his career, finding the net 280 times.

STYLE: Ronaldo's all round game, and goal scoring talents makes him unique, and the best i have seen. He was a daisy-cutter of a striker. A real terror because he was always dangerous. He had Devastating running power, and when he turned-on his turbo, he wrecked defenses single handedly. He had the skill to attack defenses in over-powering fashion.  I have not quite seen even a pretender to his throne. As if pulverizing defenses did not do, Ronaldo could score from outside the box  courtesy of his tremendous shooting power, and he was adept at making the keeper look silly, rounding-up before sticking it in the net like Romario.  I have seen many good strikers, but none as wonderful as Ronaldo. The attributes he possessed in tandem makes him untouchable. At his best he erupted like a volcano. Little wonder the Italian press dubbed him " the phenomenon "

So there you have it, my top 10 strikers. None playing today ? no , that surprises me too. There should have been cases for Messi and Christiano Ronaldo, but these two are not strikers as this body of work entails.  I only saw Pusckas,  PELE and Gerd Muller  on video . Maradona was most definitely not a striker in the sense i mean. This pick is subjective, but i am sure there is enough facts to sway even  the doubters . 





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