Serie A's Best Strikers: Rating the League's 10 Most Important of 2011-12
Despite being known as a defensive league, Serie A has produced and featured some of the best strikers in the world—as well as humbling some of the best. This year is no different and the league has already tallied over 800 goals.
The league has some fantastic strikers from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Di Natale to Fabrizio Miccoli and Marco Di Vaio.
Strikers aren't just evaluated on the goals they score, work rate must also be taken into consideration along with the goals they create for teammates.
With six matches to go, the Serie A season is coming to a close with one of the tightest title races in all of Europe. And with the season finale a month away, it's time to see who has been the 10 most important strikers to their teams this season.
10. Stevan Jovetic, Fiorentina: 13 Goals
Dino Panato/Getty Images
Sitting only three points above the relegation zone, it's easy to believe Fiorentina would be all but relegated without the 13 goals of Stevan Jovetic.
Last season, the Montenegrin missed the entire year due to a knee injury. This term he has returned to form, and has showcased some of the talent he displayed in the 2009-10 Champions League when his goals put Liverpool to the sword.
In recent weeks, Jovetic's high workrate enabled the Viola to knock AC Milan off the top spot in Serie A. His goal and assist were the catalyst to the club's win, and possible rescue from relegation.
Fiorentina will do everything in their power to keep the striker at the Stadio Artemio Franchi next season. Without Jovetic, 2012-13 could be a repeat performance of this year for the Florence club.
That is, if Fiorentina isn't relegated come the end of May.
9. German Denis, Atalanta: 15 Goals
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Many believed Atalanta was destined for the drop before the season started.
However, German Denis’ goals enabled the club, who was docked six points due to a match-betting scandal in Serie B last season, to overhaul their penalty and flirt with European qualification.
Since those early days the small club from Bergamo has settled into 10th place, by far exceed preseason expectations.
Denis is on loan from Serie A rivals Udinese, and he has already repaid La Dea by tallying his most goals in one season since moving to Italy.
After relocating to Bergamo to play for Atalanta this season, he was red hot, however, he has cooled down after the turn of the year. It took the Argentine until late February to score his first goals of 2012, which just happened to be his second Serie A career hat-trick.
Without Denis, it is hard to believe Atalanta would be safe from relegation this far into the season. His goals have allowed the club to settle into midtable.
It’s uncertain where he will be next season, though Inter Milan is a rumoured destination.
8. Alessandro Matri, Juventus: 10 Goals
Dino Panato/Getty Images
Since Alessandro Matri arrived at Juventus in January 2011, he has been criticized by many for his perceived lack of quality and scoring ability.
Despite the criticisms, Matri has excelled in the Bianconeri shirt notching 10 goals this term. That may not seem like a lot, but the Italian continues to be the club's top scorer; and Juventus remains unbeaten in the league and the Coppa Italia.
In the early part of the season Marti was highly productive, but he has cooled off since the new year. However, without his early season form, it is feasible that Juventus wouldn't be in the position they are currently.
Of late, Matri has found himself coming off the bench. He hasn't scored since the club beat Milan on February 25, and manager Antonio Conte has elected to start Fabio Quagliarella in Matri's place.
Perhaps teams have figured out Matri to some extent. This would reason for his falloff over the past two months. But with Juventus' high octane style and emphasis on fitness, Matri's dry-spell is more about wearing down over a long season than a lack of quality.
7. Rodrigo Palacio, Genoa: 17 Goals
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Rodrigo Palacio may be the best kept secret in world football.
The Argentine isn't too dissimilar to Carlos Tevez, and perhaps he could even be called a poor man's Tevez. The biggest difference, however, is Palacio only gives opposing coaches problems; not his own.
Like Jovetic, Palacio's goal return has kept his club above the relegation zone. Genoa's possible relegation was unfathomable last autumn when Palacio had the Grifone near the top of the table.
His good form was even noticed by the Argentina national team, who included Palacio in the squad for their autumn and winter fixtures.
Unfortunately for Genoa supporters, the club's defense capitulated as more teams figured out Genoa's only adequate attacker was Palacio. Thus far, the club has given up the most goals of any club in Serie A.
Though the goals dried up around Christmas, thanks to a lack of form and injury, Palacio has gotten back among the league's elite since Genoa signed Alberto Gilardino in January . The Italian international's presence has taken defenders away from Palacio, allowing the Argentine to knock in the goals.
Last summer it looked like Palacio would join Inter. Those talks broke down, and Inter signed Mauro Zarate and Diego Forlan instead. Those two have combine for a paltry three goals.
Palacio's 17 goals this season should spark several notable teams across Europe to bid for his services, regardless if Genoa survive the drop.
6. Miroslav Klose, Lazio: 13 Goals
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Miroslav Klose was one of the steals of last summer's transfer window.
The German international was passed on by Bayern Munich before landing at the feet of Lazio on a free transfer.
Since arriving in Rome, Klose has played 31 times for the Biancocelesti. That is the most games he has played in a season since 2008-09.
The German is one reason—along with Hernanes and Stefano Mauri—that Lazio is currently third in Serie A, and pushing for a Champions League place. Klose has contributed on 21 Lazio goals this term, and he leads the club with 13 goals of his own.
Klose may not get to add to his current totals as a thigh injury may rule him out for the club's remaining fixture. Regardless, he has rejuvenated his career with Lazio and brought much need offense to the club.
5. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Napoli: 9 Goals
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Those that judge Ezequiel Lavezzi on his goals alone have obviously not seen the Argentine play.
While the Napoli striker's teammate Edison Cavani knocks in the goals, it is Lavezzi who does a lot of the creative work. Not too mention the incessant running off the ball that draws defenders away from the club's leading goal scorer.
Not only is Lavezzi second on the team in goals with nine in the league, but he is also second in assists with seven. He is the type of player that never stops working for the team.
Along with Cavani and Marek Hamsik, Napoli has been one of the most exciting Serie A teams to watch this season. Lavezzi and company even humbled the British press after their draw and win against Manchester City in the Champions League, and Lavezzi was a handful throughout the clubs' two matches.
Like Cavani and Hamsik, Lavezzi has been linked to almost every big club in Europe. However, if fans are expecting a 20-goal a season striker than they will be disappointed.
His season high goal total prior to this year was eight, which was achieved in both the 2007-08 and 2009-10 season.
As previously stated, he is a striker that will work for the side, and Lavezzi's assist totals are routinely as high as his goal output. He finished the 2010-11 season with 12-assists, and may break that mark this season.
4. Diego Milito, Internazionale: 20 Goals
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Diego Milito's return to fitness, coupled with his 20 goals in 27 matches is one reason Inter still has an outside chance at the final Serie A Champions League place.
The Argentine has been a fantastic servant for the Nerazzurri since he arrived from Genoa in 2009. Milito has notched a goal in just over half the games he has played for the club.
Last season, under Rafael Benitez and Leonardo, Milito's chances were few and far between. However, this season he has been given more opportunities, especially now that former strike-partner Samuel Eto'o is in Russia.
It looked like Milito was set for the San Siro exit last January and many believed it was time for the striker to go. Inter now look like geniuses for keeping him around, and Milito has a realistic chance of winning the Serie A Golden Boot award.
Milito currently sits third in the league's goal scoring chart and without his timely goals, Inter would still be in the lower half of the table.
At 32 years old, it's doubtful Milito has many years left in him.
Yet, Serie A is a league that rewards experience. He may not have too many more years at Inter, but surely there's another club in the league that will sign him for his fantastic goal scoring abilities.
3. Edison Cavani, Napoli: 19 Goals
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Edison Cavani is currently one of the most sought-after players in world football. Last season the striker was on loan at Napoli, courtesy of former club Palermo.
During that time he tallied a career best 26-goals.
Many of his goals come from teammates Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Without the two around him, Cavani could see a falloff if he moves away from the San Paolo next season.
Cavani's style is much different to that of the other two attackers. He is a pure striker, and unlike Lavezzi isn't the the creator.
Currently, Napoli fans do not have to worry about a falloff, and all three are contributing heavily to the Napoli cause. The Uruguayan has 19 goals currently and could still reach the lofty total he scored last season.
Napoli currently sits six points outside the final Champions League place and two outside the final Europa League spot. Unfortunately, with a small squad, the club has looked increasingly tired in the last few weeks.
Cavani's five Champions League goals this season showed he can score on the biggest of stages. Meanwhile, his four Coppa Italia goals have propelled Napoli into the cup final where they will face Juventus.
Numerous clubs will want to sign the striker in the summer, however, unless they have "crazy" money the striker will most likely be putting on a Napoli shirt in 2012-13.
2. Antonio Di Natale, Udinese: 20 Goals
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
Antonio Di Natale's Udinese was the surprise package in the first half of the season. The club pushed Juventus and Milan for top spot, but due to injury, form and the African Nations Cup, the team has come back to Earth.
Di Natale finished top scorer in Serie A last year with 28-goals. That was in the side with the much praised Alexis Sanchez. This season, even without the Chilean to supply the ball and take defenders away, Di Natale has excelled.
The Italian has been with Udinese since 2004, and has scored 133 goals in 257 matches. His goal return begs the question, why hasn't a bigger club—no disrespect to Udinese—come in for Di Natale? Now at 34, he will most likely see out his career at Udinese.
He now has 20 goals this term and with a solid finish he could overtake Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and win his second straight scoring title.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, AC Milan: 23 Goals
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
No Serie A striker has been as important to his team as Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Everything Milan does in attack goes through the big Swede. When he is off, the rest of the team is usually off as well.
Due to everything going through Ibrahimovic, it does make Milan quite one-sided. Especially, if the rest of the club is unable to give the striker the support he needs.
Typically, the club misses him greatly when he is out though this season Milan was able to pick up points when Ibrahimovic was missing.
Currently, Ibrahimovic leads the league in goals with 23.
Last season, he only netted 14 goals, but this time around he has been more comfortable in the side; and he has stayed red card free, sans his slap on Salvatore Aronica.
If Milan can overtake Juventus for the Scudetto, it will once again show the power of Ibrahimovic. The Swede has won eight consecutive league titles with Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and Milan. Arguably, Juventus would have sealed the title by now if they had the big man in their team.
Fortunately for Milan supporters, he isn't in the Bianconeri shirt and with Ibrahimovic in the side the club always has a chance.
He is Zlatan!