Ranking the Best 15 Strikers in the World
The world of football is blessed with a number of high-profile and highly skilled strikers that grace their various stages throughout any given week.
Be it the English Premier League, the Bundesliga or Serie A, so many quality strikers exist in the world of football that it's hard to narrow it down to a group of "bests."
But here we go anyway, as we try to narrow down the best 15 strikers in world football, something that needs a whole lot of criteria to help us along our way.
Firstly, focus is given predominantly to 2013 performance. That's not to suggest that career form doesn't count, but how someone performed in 2003 has little resemblance on how good they might be now, and so their ranking or non-ranking in this list will be reflective of that.
Secondly, being a striker is more than just scoring goals, though the mark of a good striker is to score goals consistently. After all, that is their job in the team.
And thirdly, Cristiano Ronaldo is a winger, not a striker.
So with that out of the way, let's count down to the No. 1 striker in the world and have a look at a whole bunch of other quality strikers along the way.
15. Hulk, Zenit St. Petersburg
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Brazilian international Hulk has never quite shown the full potential that he seemingly has stored up in his brilliant brain, but every now and again, we get glimpses of just what he can do on the pitch.
Starring for Zenit St. Petersburg in their recent triumph over Liverpool was testament to that, and it will be fascinating to see how the 26-year-old fares over the remainder of the competition. Especially with the Russian Premier League not giving him the domestic form or consistency at the moment.
Even still, his raw talent alone earns him a spot on this list for now.
14. Fernando Llorente, Athletic Bilbao
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It's hard to fault Fernando Llorente for a poor season for Athletic Bilbao, as the striker has really not been given any opportunity to showcase his skills for the La Liga club.
Having been frozen out by Bilbao after refusing to sign a new contract, the Spanish international has barely been played in 2013, which, given the success that he had in 2012 and previously for the club, is a remarkable sign of just how far these two parties are from each other.
Llorente is a huge signing for Juventus for next season, however, and with their midfield behind him pulling the strings, he could well break back into the top 10 strikers in world football.
13. Stevan Jovetic, Fiorentina
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Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic doesn't possess the big, dominant frame that some strikers in world football do, but the 23-year-old certainly makes up for that with a deadly attacking style.
Jovetic has netted 11 goals and four assists in 22 Serie A games this season for Fiorentina, and he has perhaps gone somewhat unnoticed this year in terms of world football praise given the lack of European and domestic success that his club is having.
But with his skills and brilliance, it's hard to say that success isn't on the horizon. One look at his statistics and goalscoring record will quickly tell you otherwise.
12. Antonio Di Natale, Udinese
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Another guy whose achievements have gone relatively unnoticed in Serie A this year is Antonio Di Natale, with the veteran churning out one of his strongest years for Udinese.
The 35-year-old Italian has netted 15 goals and two assists from his 22 domestic appearances so far this year, plus three goals and an assist in three Europa League matches—showing that he is every bit the heart and soul of the Italian club's attacking core in 2013.
Given his current form and proven success, it's hard not to include the veteran here—who definitely deserves more recognition for what he's achieved this year.
11. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
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In a role that's changed dramatically with the arrival of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, Wayne Rooney has been incredibly impressive for the Red Devils this year.
Injuries have kept him from the regular appearances we've come to expect from the England international, but his 20 showings so far have still produced 11 goals and nine assists in the Premier League—as well as a goal and three assists in the Champions League.
United are cruising in the English competition and potentially on course for a league/cup double—largely due to the success of Rooney throughout 2013.
10. Stephan El Shaarawy, AC Milan
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The mohawked Italian, Stephan El Shaarawy, continues to establish himself as one of the brightest young stars in world football, and has done so again this season with a great year to date—netting 16 goals and four assists for Milan in Serie A.
His performances in the Champions League have also been very special—potentially providing the assist for the crucial goal against Barcelona in the first leg of round of 16—and his strong combination with Mario Balotelli has the Italian powerhouse poised for success for many years to come.
Which, given the fact he's just 20 years old, is incredible praise for the striker.
9. Luis Suarez, Liverpool
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Whether you love him, hate him, or are simply indifferent about him, there's little doubting that Liverpool's Luis Suarez has been in career-best form for the Reds this year.
No other player in the Premier League has scored more goals than the Uruguayan this year, 21 goals in 27 appearances, and his combination with Daniel Sturridge will be something that many Reds fans will be very excited about looking forward.
His inability to fire against the big-name teams and in big games this year has cost him, however, and it does see him drop a spot or two here because of it.
But even still, it's been a very strong year from Suarez.
8. Mario Mandzukic, Bayern Munich
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Mario Mandzukic probably doesn't get the credit or respect that he deserves as a striker in world football at the moment given the depth of talent behind him in midfield, but the reality is that the Bayern Munich striker is a genuine top-10 attacker in the world right now.
With 15 goals in just 18 starting appearances (on just three shots per game also), Mandzukic has been huge in the Bundesliga race for Bayern this year—giving them a huge lead domestically—and is also a key reason why the Germans are so highly thought of in the Champions League.
Definitely a danger player to watch in the back half of both competitions.
7. Mario Gomez, Bayern Munich
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Regardless of how much playing time German international Mario Gomez has spent for Bayern Munich this season, the 27-year-old is definitely one of the top strikers in world football.
Gomez has netted four goals and an assist in his last four Bundesliga appearances, despite not playing the full 90 minutes throughout, and continues to establish himself as a genuine attacking threat both in the air and on the ground in world football.
His reputation as a dominant finisher definitely comes into play here, but even still, it's hard not to count the legend as one of the top strikers in the modern game today.
6. Stefan Kiessling, Bayer Leverkusen
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Given the focus that 2013 also has on this list, it's hard not to count Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling as one of the top strikers in world football this year, with the 29-year-old scoring 16 goals and providing six assists in his 24 Bundesliga appearances so far this season.
Kiessling has consistently netted goals for Leverkusen over the past five or so years, but it's been his movement and attacking style this year in particular that have truly allowed the striker to take his game to the next level and dominate his opponents' defense.
Kiessling is rated as the fourth-best player in Europe overall this season, and with more man-of-the-match awards than the likes of Ronaldo, Van Persie, Suarez and El Shaarawy, it's hard not to count him as a deserved feature in our list this season.
5. Robin van Persie, Manchester United
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Manchester United would not have the lead in the Premier League that they do were it not for Robin van Persie, with the Dutchman bailing out United time and time again this year.
He has been a dominant attacker and has threatened every opponent he's come up against, and his 19 goals and eight assists from just 25 appearances speak volumes of that success.
His inclusion as a top-five striker this season is an absolute no-brainer.
Not in the slightest.
4. Edinson Cavani, Napoli
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Some will argue why Edinson Cavani is ahead of Van Persie here, but when you consider what RVP has to work with behind him and what the Uruguayan has to work with—the answer is pretty clear.
Cavani has been immense in Serie A this season for Napoli—netting 18 goals from 24 appearances and doing everything he can to keep his side from slipping even further.
Without much behind him, Cavani has sparked attacking chances and scored goals that few others have done in world football this year, and with several strong seasons behind him now, he must be included as one of the top strikers in world football at the moment.
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris St. Germain
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The things Zlatan Ibrahimovic does simply astound people more and more with every passing week, and the Swedish international has continued his success again into the 2013 season.
Ibrahimovic has 22 goals and five assists in just 23 starts domestically this season, despite averaging less than five shots per game. And now with the arrival of David Beckham and Lucas Moura, his attacking assistance just got a whole lot better heading into the end of the year.
Look for an improvement from Ibra as the season comes to an end—if that's even possible given the strong numbers that he's put up so far this year.
2. Radamel Falcao, Atletico Madrid
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What Radamel Falcao has done this year is perhaps even more incredible than the year before, when he seemingly announced himself as one of the greatest players in world football at the moment.
Falcao has scored 21 goals in 23 games for Atletico Madrid this year—leading them into the Copa del Rey final and above Real Madrid on the La Liga table in the process.
Yet the fact that he's done it on an average of just 3.5 shots per game (compared to the 5.4 of Lionel Messi, the 7.0 of Cristiano Ronaldo and the 5.8 of Luis Suarez), those numbers are truly incredible and show just how deadly the Colombian is in front of goal.
And he's only 27.
1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona
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Was there ever going to be another name here?
Lionel Messi deserves every bit of praise and recommendation that comes his way throughout the remainder of his career, for already—despite being only 25 years of age—he has changed world football forever, and reshaped the way in which we thought goals could be scored.
Not content with the record-breaking season of last year and the four Ballon d'Or's that he's picked up in a row, Messi has scored a staggering 39 goals and nine assists in 26 games domestically for Barcelona this season, and he doesn't look like slowing down either.
A true champion of the game and without doubt, the best striker in world football.
Agree or disagree with any? Who else do you think deserves a mention?
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All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com