Top 10 Support Strikers in World Football
Who are the top support strikers in world football right now?
With the evolution of football comes common trends, and one very common trend throughout top-tier football is the use of a second forward whose role differs greatly to that of a poacher.
Bleacher Report checks in on the top 10 playing in this position and also moves to define the very meaning of the position, outlining roles, responsibilities and common traits.
Enjoy the slideshow!
So what's a "support striker?"
Footballing roles are becoming increasingly hard to define, categorise and identify. Gone are the days when the word "midfielder" is enough to answer the question "which position do you play?"
Just like a midfielder could be a box-to-box runner, a "regista," a classic No. 10 or an anchor, a striker could be a target man, a support striker or a prima punta.
Here, we define the role as a player who operates in a forward line, usually of two or three, and drops deeper or wider to link the play. He's not the go-to guy for goals, but more a "seconda punta."
He is classed as a striker, but will likely be found in line with an advanced midfield player and is comfortable on the ball.
This article is about the top 10 support strikers playing right now, but for a classical example of this role look no further than Alessandro Del Piero.
We kick off the list with one of the very best in the business, Inter's new acquisition Antonio Cassano.
The Italian's most recent eye-catching display as a top-class support striker was Euro 2012, where he provided vital links from his midfield through to Mario Balotelli throughout the tournament.
His incredible work rate and clever movement made the task a lot easier for his striking partner, as without him Riccardo Montolivo's inadequacies in playing at the point of a midfield diamond would have been exposed to a global audience.
Cassano can pull wide, win flick-ons and keep it simple in possession. He's Edinson Cavani's dream partner.
Brendan Rodgers is playing Luis Suarez as a central striker out of necessity, not choice.
It's common consensus that his favoured position is not as an out-and-out striker, but as some kind of free-flowing hybrid between poacher, winger and attacking midfielder.
Uruguay enjoyed considerable success in the 2010 World Cup and the subsequent 2011 Copa America thanks to a partnership between Suarez and Diego Forlan.
Forlan grabbed all the goals, but it was his compatriot who did the hard yards, linked the play and created the chances.
Suarez's work rate is astounding, while his striker's instinct sees him to the right position at the right time.
What position does Lionel Messi even play?
He's utilised the false nine spot for almost two seasons now, but has frequently found himself anywhere across the front line throughout his career.
Being the world's best current false-nine automatically makes him one of the top support strikers. When he plays in conjunction with Alexis Sanchez—who at times, confusingly, is deployed as a false 10—his link up play is second to none.
He rarely loses the ball, shrugs off challenges and can pass while running at full speed. Perhaps best of all, he attracts the attention of two, three even four defenders at times, leaving his striker partner one vs. one with the last centre-back.
Antonio Cassano might be Edinson Cavani's dream, but Ezequiel Lavezzi was more than a serviceable replacement during their time together at Napoli.
The Argentine hotshot, who has just joined Paris Saint-Germain in a shudderingly expensive deal, showed the world how classy his movement can be against Chelsea last season in the UEFA Champions League.
Even the Stamford Bridge outfit—who went on to become known for their defensive stubbornness during the tournament—couldn't deal with the playmaker, whose runs in and around the box were borderline impossible to resist.
Fiorentina were awfully busy during the summer, but their most prized asset once again evaded the reaches of the big boys.
Stevan Jovetic has come back from a serious injury and fulfilled his potential amidst fears he wouldn't quite reach the levels expected.
Manchester City, among others, have been credited with an interest in him and rightly so—he can pass, dribble and score from just about anywhere.
He's a real live wire with the ball at his feet and you never quite know what he's going to do with it, making him extremely difficult to play against.
David Villa moved to Barcelona and struggled immensely for several months. Why?
He used to be a poacher, and his days at Valencia taught him to be the prima punta in his team—a role in which he would exclusively score goals, and not a lot else.
Barcelona asked him to become more than just a finisher, and believed he had the talent to become an elite all-round forward. Moving to the left-wing allowed Lionel Messi to play centrally and have Villa play more of an influential part in the build-up play.
It's a marker for how drastically (and successfully) he changed his game when, as it became clear he would not feature at Euro 2012, many asked how Spain's entire forward line would cope, not just where the goals would come from.
Wayne Rooney has played a variety of positions at Manchester United as the star comings and goings force him to change his role in the side season on season.
Last season, in Sir Alex Ferguson's 4-4-1-1, Rooney played a deeper role and then went on to feature the same way for Roy Hodgson's England.
His form for England was poor, but his performances for United were fantastic. He's selfless, he's quality on the ball and he's clever enough to get back into a striker's position when necessary.
Sergio Aguero & Carlos Tevez
Although Sergio Aguero clearly thrives as a striker latching onto through-balls and lingering in the box, his earlier years playing football brought out a slightly different side of him.
He's always been capable of playing as an attacking midfielder, and finds it easy to drop off the front line.
Carlos Tevez, too, is adept at switching wide or dropping into midfield. With Roberto Mancini's 3-5-2, Tevez is the striker who floats side-to-side and drifts away from the prima punta in Mario Balotelli.
In fact, look for him to become Balotelli's Antonio Cassano from Euro 2012, but in a City shirt, as long as Aguero is injured.
Together, they form a fearsome Argentine combo who regularly torment defences by switching roles, which is the reason I've coupled them in this article.
Mario Mandzukic represents a different type of support striker and that's why he's squeezed onto this list.
His move to Bayern is no less than he deserved, but no one can be completely sure of how good he can become. What he does do is link play well to the forward line, run until the tank is empty and score goals himself.
Croatia's 1-1 draw against Italy in Euro 2012 saw Mandzukic instructed to man-mark Andrea Pirlo without the ball, then break free and supply balls forward when his team is in possession.
How much more can we expect from the Croatian?
Robin van Persie