After Lewandowski hit 20 goals for the 2019-20 season, our Sports writers put forward their own Greatest Strikers of the Modern Era, in an attempt to challenge Bayern’s big No.9.
It’s late October. The season is well warmed up, with clubs and players alike finding the form – and with it the expectations – that will see them through to the end of the season. For some, this rise is slow and steady (take Chelsea and Leicester, who now find themselves in Champions League spots after a reliable run of results). For others, it’s unprecedented, with certain players and clubs imposing their mark on the season, it seems, before it has even begun.
This year, one such name outshines the others: Robert Lewandowski. Though no stranger to Europe’s top goal-scoring charts, the 31-year old striker shows no signs of ageing. In the last week of October, Lewandowski hit 20 goals for the season. Twenty. In October.
With his status as the Bundesliga’s finest marksman almost guaranteed, does this latest achievement – outdoing, even, his consistently prolific record of the past eight seasons – make Lewandowski the greatest out-and-out striker of the modern era?
We asked our Sports writers to find the modern-day strikers who could challenge Poland’s finest footballing export.
By Joel Edwards
How many players can you name who have won a Champions League, UEFA Cup, Premiership, FA Cup and an Olympic gold medal? How about further league titles in two more countries, an intercontinental cup and a UEFA Super Cup? I take my hat off to you if you can name anyone other than the wonder, the revelation, the sensation that was and is Nwankwo Kanu.
A member of Arsenal’s unbeaten ‘invincible’ squad, the two time African player of the year (twice as many as Aubameyang and Mane combined) posed a threat most teams just could not handle. Listed by Wikipedia as a prime example of a ‘super-sub’, he has the third most substitute appearances in Premier League history. The 1995 Afro-Asian Cup winner may not have been the most prolific, but what use is a striker if they cannot score in the big games to win you the trophies. He’ll go down as the only player in the history of the game to score in the 2008 FA Cup final and his goal and his man of the match display ensured Arsenal won the coveted final Charity Shield of the millennia.
Quite simply, the scorer of the winning goal in the first game at the Emirates Stadium knew when the goals mattered, scoring the goal that ensured Portsmouth’s mathematical safety in the Premier League 2009. In fact, it was the only goal he scored all season showing he knew when his team needed a hero and one player to step up and, in doing so, prove themselves to be the greatest modern striker.
By Josh Brown, Print Sports Editor
The Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro might be a slightly left-field choice for the best forward of recent years, but the former Bayern Munich man has displayed immense longevity and is still active at the age of 41, playing in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen.
With 17 trophies – including a Champions League title and six Bundesliga titles – Pizarro is also the all-time top scorer for Bremen, and the highest-scoring foreigner, and fifth overall, in the Bundesliga’s history. Pizarro’s ability stems not just from his incredible goal-scoring ability, but also his ability to adapt with declining physicality – he scored 11 goals in 26 appearances under Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, with their infamously complex tactical systems, in part of his late-career renaissance.
He’s part of a small group of strikers that seemed to age like a fine wine, joining a group including the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fabio Quagliarella. Pizarro was, above all, a hard-working, immensely likeable striker who made a name for himself in Germany with his professionalism as well as his undoubted ability.
Sure, he might not be the biggest name – but he symbolises a somewhat anachronistic footballing style that prioritised substance over style – although it must be said that the latter was hardly lacking either. Pizarro will retire at the end of this season having achieved everything, and with a career many will envy.
By Ben Dickenson Bampton, Online Sports Editor
I mean, who else? The finest Frenchman of the Wenger glory days (and there were a few), Thierry Henry set Arsenal’s all-time goal-scoring record with a style and swagger that lit up any competition he played in.
While it’s easy to talk about statistics – which Henry, a four-time Premier League Golden Boot winner who scored 228 and 51 goals for Arsenal and France respectively, has in bags – the manner in which the Frenchman dominated English football is what ensures his legacy as the greatest striker to grace the sport.
Whether jinxing round defenders on mazy runs from deep, dummying keepers before a smart side-footed finish or curling the ball home from outside the box, Henry dazzled both players and fans. While his often spectacular link-up with Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires epitomised the Wenger-ball of the early noughties, Henry’s goals were pivotal to Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ campaign and their run to the Champions League final two seasons later.
Not an out-and-out striker as such, Henry knew how to score when it mattered. His brilliant solo to secure the 2003-04 title against Spurs, his goal at the Bernebeu, his hattrick on the last day at Highbury, along with his characteristic style – his Va Va Voom – makes Henry the definitive modern striker, for both Gunners and neutrals alike.
Robert Lewandowski himself
By James Bagby
Robert Lewandowski is the most complete striker of the modern era. Since arriving at the Bundesliga in 2010, no other player has even come close to his scoring record. His first year at Borussia Dortmund coincided with their first league title win in nearly ten years, a feat that they would repeat the year after in 2011/12. He scored goals for fun in his time at Dortmund, including 4 goals in a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid which brought the BVB to their first final since 1997.
His move to Bayern Munich left behind a void that could not be filled. Dortmund brought in two strikers to fill his absence but Immobile and Ramos could only manage a quarter of his goals from the previous season. More importantly, they could not replace Lewandowski’s playmaking ability that is constantly overlooked. The 6-foot striker is easily viewed as a poacher or a target man but his precise through-balls and ability to pick the key pass has led to double digit assist returns in 6 of his last 8 seasons.
The striker’s consistency with finding the back of the net has helped Bayern Munich dominate Germany since his arrival and more recently his goals have singlehandedly prevented a significant crisis in Bavaria. 19 goals already this season (yes, 19) have kept his manager in a job and Munich with a chance of success. Not bad for a 31-year-old.