Serie A: The League's Most Imposing Strikers of All Time

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2013

Serie A: The League's Most Imposing Strikers of All Time

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    The Serie A is known for its defense, but it has been home to some of the best and most feared strikers in history.

    From Giuseppe Meazza to Paolo Rossi to Alessandro Del Piero, the league has boasted men who could strike fear into the hearts of any defender.

    So, which strikers appeared most often in goalkeepers' nightmares?  

    Let's look at six of the most imposing strikers in league history.

Filippo Inzaghi

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    Filippo Inzaghi was around forever, and his impressive haul of 156 goals was accrued over a long stretch.

    Indeed, he had only one 20-goal season in the league—in 1996-97 with Atalanta. But those numbers don't tell the whole story of Super Pippo.

    Besides being tied for 18th in league history, Inzaghi is one of the most prolific strikers to ever play in European competition.  Between Parma, Juventus and Milan he scored 70 times in continental play, second all-time behind Real Madrid legend Raúl.

    Inzaghi made his career out of playing off the opponent's very last defender, giving the players fits as he ghosted through the defense to finish.

Alessandro Del Piero

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    Any Serie A defender dreaded having Alessandro Del Piero coming towards him.

    Del Piero could beat a player and score in any number of ways. From long-range thunderbolts to weaving dribbling runs to crazy back-heels, Del Piero scored in almost every way possible. To see the best of them, take a look this article of mine.

    The Juventus legend was only 5'9" tall, but his skill made him one of the most imposing presences on any field.

Gunnar Nordahl

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    Transferred to AC Milan in January of 1949, Gunnar Nordahl scored a whopping 225 goals in his 10 seasons in Serie A.  That number was good for second in history until Francesco Totti passed him last season.

    What is truly frightening about Nordahl's Serie A career is not the number of goals, but how frequently he scored.  Those 225 goals came in a mere 291 appearances in the league—a .77 goals-per-game average that is the best in the history of the league.  

    Nordahl also racked up five capocannoniere awards as the league's top scorer.

    Nordahl's dazzling goalscoring didn't stop in the league.  He was even more efficient playing for his country.  He scored 44 times in 30 matches—just short of a 1.5 GPG average.

    Nordahl was a true terror for any defender—he was a danger to score anytime he touched the ball.

Francesco Totti

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    Francesco Totti is an absolute legend, and only one man has more league goals than Totti's 228.

    Not always deployed as an out-and-out striker, Totti nonetheless commands fear when he enters the box—and very often from outside it.  

    He is an outstanding free kick taker and even at 37 years of age he can score from outside the area. His 113 km/hr stunner against Juventus a year ago—one of twelve goals of the season—showed just how dangerous he still is.

    He played his best in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Luciano Spalletti and, later, Vincenzo Montella used during their respective tenures at Roma. It was under Spalletti in 2006-07 that Totti scored a career-high 26 goals to go along with 10 assists.

    Tying his prolific scoring ability with his ability to set up his teammates, Totti is a nightmare for opposing defenders, and one that no one ever wants to face.

Gabriel Batistuta

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    Argentine marksman Gabriel Batistuta was feared not only in Italy, but worldwide.

    He set the Argentinian national team scoring record in international play, and in 12 years in the Serie A he climbed to 10th on the league's all-time scoring charts.

    Batistuta was spotted by Fiorentina executives while playing in the Copa America in 1991 and was brought to the club that summer. He scored 13 times in his maiden Serie A campaign, but la viola were relegated the next year. The Argentine helped the team fight back into the top flight after a lone season in the second division. Then he caught fire.

    He scored a career-high 26 league goals in 1994-95. He broke a 30-year-old record that season by scoring in his team's first 11 games.

    The next year he scored 19 times in Serie A play and led Fiorentina to their fifth Coppa Italia title. He scored in both legs of the final against Atalanta, then scored a brace in the Supercoppa against Milan later that summer to secure the team's first ever success in that competition.

    He spent four more years in Florence before his desire for a title instigated a move to Roma.  He won his long-awaited scudetto in his first year with the team—the last of his five 20-goal seasons in Italy.

    His form broke down after that, and in the next three years combined he only scored 12 times before leaving the league.

    In his prime, though, he was one of the best strikers in the world.  He could score easily with either head or foot and was dangerous while standing over a free-kick. His game made him one of the best all-around strikers of his era—and a man that no 'keeper wanted bearing down on him.

    All told he scored a total of 184 league goals—242 in all competitions for Italian clubs—and a record 37 times for the Argentinian national team, 10 of which came in World Cup play.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic never stays in one place for long. But wherever he is, goals tend to follow.

    Ibra's Italian career began with Juventus, who bought him from Ajax in 2004. He jumped straight into the starting XI with injuries to David Trezeguet and ended up scoring 16 times in 35 games.

    He forced a move to Inter after the 2005-06 season in the wake of the calciopoli scandal, and he spearheaded the nerazzurri's run to five straight league titles. He scored 56 league goals in his three years with the club. He also began to display his superlative passing skills, notching 26 assists from the front.

    After a controversy-filled year with Barcelona, Ibrahimovic moved back to Milan—this time the red side.

    His record in his two years with the rossoneri was astounding. In 61 league games he scored 42 times and added 22 helpers, along with another nine goals and five assists in Champions League play.

    Ibrahimovic spent seven years in the league and scored 122 times in 219 games—better than a goal every two matches.

    At 6'4", he could rise high over defenders to score with his head and was equally adept at dribbling through them before unleashing powerful drives at goal. He often drew multiple defenders to him, opening up scoring opportunities for his teammates, who he would duly set up with his great vision and passing skills.

    The dual threat of his finishing and passing abilities makes him one of the best and most feared strikers in the world.