Strikers—are they worth their weight in gold, or a vastly overpriced commodity?
As the game has evolved, the position of striker is no longer merely about scoring goals, with a half-dozen different roles employable by players of different skills and attributes who play up front, but goals remain the benchmark for judging these stars of the team who can win points and games on their own.
What all teams want from their top men is to get fair value, and in strikers, that means scoring goals to repay the money spent on them.
Here's a countdown of all the Premier League strikers, ranked by their transfer fee-to-goals-scored ratio for their present clubs.
For consistency, all transfer fees and goals scored statistics are taken from transfermarkt.co.uk.
By the nature of the ranking system, certain players must be excluded from the process.
These include those signed on free transfers, players who came through the academy set-up (including those signed initially from other teams, but who joined to a club's youth programme) and players who have yet to represent their club in the Premier League.
Also, players who have played in the top flight for their club but have not scored a league goal would by default be ranked last on the list, so they are therefore not included (such as Romelu Lukaku).
After the exclusions, detailed below, more than 30 Premier League strikers remained to be ranked according to their transfer fee-to-goals-scored ratio.
Arsenal: Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner, Park Chu-Young
Aston Villa: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andi Weimann, Nathan Delfouneso, Nicklas Helenius
Cardiff City: recently promoted, no players considered
Chelsea: Romelu Lukaku
Crystal Palace: recently promoted, no players considered
Everton: Victor Anichebe, Arouna Kone
Fulham: Hugo Rodallega
Hull City: recently promoted, no players considered
Liverpool: Iago Aspas
Manchester City: Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo
Manchester United: Danny Welbeck
Newcastle United: Shola Ameobi
Norwich City: Luciano Becchio, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper
Southampton: Billy Sharp, Tanadari Lee, Emmanuel Mayuka
Stoke City: none
Sunderland: Jozy Altidore, David Moberg Karlsson
Swansea City: Wilfried Bony, Leroy Lita
West Brom: Nicolas Anelka, Markus Rosenberg
West Ham: Andy Carroll
With 36 players in all to rank, there is quite a spread of value provided until we reach the top 15 or so, meaning we'll group the earlier players here first.
Those lower down but with impressive early goalscoring feats for their new clubs—such as Robin van Persie—are of course penalised as only having had one campaign to score in, but they will surely rise quickly if they remain in form and playing for the same team.
Others have struggled for goals, fitness or form early on, while some have consistently underperformed since making moves for significant money—see a pair of Chelsea forwards in the lower reaches of the table.
Every player in the top 15 has so far cost their team less than £600,000 per goal, while those ranked below have in some cases cost more than double that—and three players, more than 10 times that amount.
|Rank||Player||Fee (£m)||Goals||Price per Premier League goal (£m)|
|23||Ji Dong Won||2.1||2||1.05|
|22||Robin van Persie||27||26||1.04|
Former England striker Peter Crouch has been at Stoke City for two seasons following a £10 million move from Spurs. During that time he has hit 17 Premier League goals.
That gives him a price per goal of £588,000 to kick off our top 15 listings.
Crouch suffered a poor run of form last season and will hope to add considerably to his tally this season, now under the guidance of new boss Mark Hughes.
Sticking with Stoke, fourth-choice forward Cameron Jerome has not had too many chances at the Britannia Stadium, but his relatively low purchase price lends him to a fair fee-per-goals ratio after scoring seven times in two years.
He cost Stoke just £4 million, giving him an overall ratio of £571,000.
Capable of the spectacular and the rather silly, the striker will hope for more opportunities to shine this term and add to his rather measly goal tally. He is one of only two forwards in the top 15 to have failed to reach double figures in goals.
Newcastle United striker Papiss Cisse has recently come to an agreement with his club about wearing the new Wonga-sponsored jersey, and they'll be hoping he gets back to the form he showed soon after his arrival in the Premier League as a result.
Having cost the Magpies £10.6 million from Freiburg, Cisse has totaled 21 league goals, averaging out at £505,000 per goal.
He managed just three league goals from February until the end of the 2012-13 season.
One of the signings of last summer, a single season at Villa Park is enough to rocket Christian Benteke up close to the top 10 of the league after he hit 19 goals in his debut campaign.
Having cost just £7.7 million from KRC Genk, Benteke has cost Villa just £405,000 per goal to date, and with the Belgian having signed a new contract, they will be hopeful of that reducing even further in the coming year.
Everton striker Nikica Jelavic struggled hugely in front of goal last season, but his electric start to life on Merseyside ensures that the Toffees have already had good value from him.
Despite scoring only seven times last season, he now has 16 goals in a year-and-a-half for his club following a £5.8 million transfer from Rangers.
That equates to £363,000 per goal; not bad business at all. New boss Roberto Martinez will hope to get him firing again this season.
England striker Jermain Defoe has been steady rather than spectacular in hitting the back of the net since he rejoined Spurs in 2009, managing to break the dozen-goals barrier for the season only once since then.
But his relative consistency has seen him score 47 times in this second spell at White Hart Lane, following a £14.4 million move back from Portsmouth.
A ratio of £306,000 per goal is enough to see him into the top 10.
Fulham's Bulgarian hit man Dimitar Berbatov cost the club £4.4 million last summer, but he came with a guarantee of goals and quality. He scored 15 in the Premier League in his first campaign with the Cottagers.
His strike rate means Berbatov has so far cost Fulham £293,000 per goal.
Another relatively low-cost, low-risk purchase sees Shane Long well inside the top 10.
The Baggies splashed out £4.5 million for him from Reading. He has responded with 16 Premier League goals to date, eight in each of his two campaigns as a West Brom striker.
This gives him a fee-to-goals rate of £281,000 per goal so far, and he is likely to play a more pivotal role in the team next season, giving him the chance to reduce this cost significantly.
The highest transfer fee in the top 10 by some distance, and the second-highest transfer fee involved in the entire list, Wayne Rooney signed for Manchester United for £35.6 million.
However, he's also the longest-serving forward involved, so his 141 Premier League goals for the Red Devils have meant the club have received great value overall down the years.
Since joining United nine years ago, Rooney has cost his employers just £252,000 for each and every one of his goals. Will he still be around after the summer to lower that cost further? Or are Rooney's days at Old Trafford numbered?
Sticking with the same club, Mexican striker Chicharito just edges out his teammate in terms of his goals-to-fee ratio.
Javier Hernandez has hit 33 league goals since signing for £6.6 million, an average of £200,000 per goal and the first forward on our list to come in at under a quarter of a million per goal.
Our second and final striker now who has failed to reach double figures for his club, Luke Moore shows that getting value for money doesn't necessarily mean you're getting a goalscorer extraordinaire.
Swansea spent just £900,000 to sign Moore from West Brom two-and-a-half years ago, and he has spent most of that time as a substitute and squad member.
He has, however, netted five times in the Premier League, costing Swansea only £180,000 per goal.
Low cost, low risk, but also low return.
Just missing out on a top-three finish is our third Stoke City striker of the top 16, Jon Walters.
The former Ipswich Town man signed for just £2.9 million three years age. He has responded with a number of committed and skilled performances, weighing in with 21 goals during that time.
His average of £138,000 per goal is significantly better than that of his teammates and could perhaps have been even lower had he not suffered a series of penalty misses during the 2012-13 campaign.
Probably a number of fans' tip to be the highest-ranked forward, Michu came in to Swansea City last summer and made an immediate impact to challenge for the Premier League golden boot award.
The Spanish forward cost £2.3 million last summer and hit 18 goals in return, a fabulous debut season which means he averages out at £128,000 per goal for the Swans.
There will be plenty of interested eyes on Michu this coming season to see if he maintains his impressive strike rate and forges a good partnership with Wilfried Bony.
Into the top two now, and the exceptionally low cost-per-goal players.
Peter Odemwingie is in second place, having scored 30 Premier League goals for West Brom since moving in 2010.
Half of the Nigerian's goals came in his first season, while he found the net just five times last term after falling out of favour with the management. Even so, at a cost of just £2.6 million when he first signed, Odemwingie has cost WBA only £87,000 per goal now.
Top of the charts for providing amazing cost-to-goals value is Southampton striker Rickie Lambert.
Though the burly English striker has been at the club for four years now, it was only last season that the Saints made it into the Premier League, so he has had to bide his time to provide a return in the top flight.
Even so, he took to the task superbly well, scoring 15 times in the league last term.
Having cost Southampton £1 million in 2009 when signing from Bristol Rovers, Lambert's tally last year means that the club paid out just £67,000 per Premier League goal for their captain's talents—great value by any yardstick.
The coming campaign will test Lambert and Southampton yet further, while other top strikers will be aiming to add to their own tallies considerably. But for now, Lambert is the league's best forward in terms of his transfer fee-to-goals ratio.