Power Ranking Top 10 Ligue 1 Strikers
The recent moneyed additions to Ligue 1, as well as the splurge of unlikely but thoroughly enchanting champions, have revived the image of the French top flight and renewed interest in its clubs and characters.
The additions of Falcao, Cavani and Zlatan have been particularly well covered and well received by fans—the three add glitz and glamour, not to mention a not-inconsiderable splash of goals.
These three all feature in my list of 10 finest Ligue 1 strikers—read on to discover the names that join them.
The golden boy of Portuguese football back in the summer of 2012, when he was beckoned into the national squad for the European Championships, Oliveira hasn’t quite kicked on from that initial, explosive introduction.
A loan stint at struggling Deportivo didn’t work out last term as the striker was almost exclusively used as a substitute.
Regardless, he still represented a coup for Rennes who captured him on loan this summer.
The early signs have been promising and despite once again being unleashed from among the substitutes, Oliveira has been the most impressive of Rennes’ batch of forwards.
His two-goal haul and subsequent man-of-the-match performance against Evian was the highlight; if the 22 year old can continue this kind of form throughout the season, then don’t bet against him being a surprise package at next summer’s World Cup.
As an aficionado of the African game, I couldn’t forge a list of Ligue 1’s finest without acknowledging the presence of Malian frontman Cheick Diabate.
The bulky striker has a decent scoring record in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux and with Ajaccio and Nancy before that.
Heading into the season, he had scored 20 in 67 fixtures—not bad for a player who first made the Girondins’ senior team at 20.
It has taken a few loan moves away for him truly to earn his spot in the side at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, but now he is there, the Bamako-born boy will be looking to forge an effective little-and-large partnership with Senegalese winger-cum-forward Henri Saivet.
The powerful frontman is the aggressive, spearhead of Marseille’s attack, leading charge after charge with his direct running and bullish offensive play.
His goal ratios may not stand up too fondly against some of the other players on this list, but A.P. has started the season strongly with three goals—a crucial part of OM’s encouraging early-season form.
There was the potential for Ezequiel Lavezzi to become the forgotten man at Paris following Edinson Cavani’s arrival from Napoli this summer.
Last season he was underwhelming in Ligue 1, bagging only three goals in 28 outings.
Often playing in support of Zlatan and Cavani this term, he has only managed one in five appearances in the French league but has impressed in the Champions League, creating two goals in the side’s opening rout of Olympiakos.
He was in sterling form last term, showing he belonged in Europe’s premier club competition with five goals in nine games. A reunion with former Napoli teammate Cavani could finally, truly ignite Lavezzi’s career in Paris.
Lyon may have endured some early disappointment this season in failing to qualify for the Champions League group stage, but the performances of bright prospect Alexandre Lacazette should provide the club’s fans with a slight fillip.
A star of the U-20 World Cup back in 2011, I recall him downing my beloved Nigeria with two fine goals as Les Bleus won 3-2.
Since then, the local boy has emerged as a key player in the first team, on either flank—but predominantly the right—or as a striker.
A fine dribbler, Lacazette, along with the side’s other exciting young players, will attempt to negotiate the emerging menace of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco, as well as the attendant change of expectations at the club. Then there's the departure of Lisandro Lopez, such an emphatic presence at the club for so long.
He will also look to build on his two French caps to date.
"Clinical." That was all the old gentleman in the Buenos Aires wine bar had to say to me when I asked him about the talents of mercurial forward Dario Cvitanich.
After serving his tutelage at Banfield, where he once scored 19 goals in 30 games, Cvitanich was rewarded with a switch to Europe and continental giants Ajax.
It didn’t quite work out for the forward in Amsterdam where he was often overlooked despite an encouraging goal ratio. He rediscovered his confidence during some title-winning seasons back on loan in South America, with Pachuca and Boca Juniors.
Now at Nice, the Argentine has made up for lost time on the Cote d’Azur where he has emerged as one of Ligue 1’s most relentless frontmen: 19 goals in 29 games last term is a rate that has continued this term as he has bagged six in nine for the Blood and Butters.
The River, as Riviere is known to his teammates, has been a fine source of goals for Monaco so far this season.
After a career to date that has somewhat stuttered and failed to explode, it may be that the Martinique-born striker is finally primed to deliver on his undoubted talent.
Recruited by Saint-Etienne as a precocious youngster in 2005, he was too often shunted out to the wings at the Loire and eventually moved to Toulouse in 2011.
Excluding a purple patch in early 2012 and in autumn last season, Riviere was predominantly a substitute at Le TFC, particularly during late 2012, and before too long had dropped down a division to Monaco.
Now Riviere is back in the top flight and clearly benefiting from the illustrious names populating the Monegasque squad. He's picked up six goals so far this term, including a sublime hat-trick against Montpellier, and the former France U-21 international finally looks like he has arrived.
According to Cavani’s interview in Planete Foot (No. 220), it was the potential of joining a club who could genuinely challenge for the Champions League that convinced the Uruguayan of PSG’s worth.
Naturally, he is yet to enjoy the "Untouchable" tag among Parisians that was bestowed upon him at Napoli, but with four goals to date—placing him fourth in the league’s top scorer charts—"El Matador" is gently endearing himself to the locals.
At 26, he looks set to become a key fixture in this exciting era in La Ville-Lumiere.
The King of Ligue 1, as he apparently likes to be known, still remains the French league’s most visible superstar…even if he is no longer its most potent goalscorer.
However, it would take a more foolish man than me to write off the Swedish martial arts expert, who has relished life in the City of Love since arriving from Milan back in 2012.
This season he faces an engorged challenge to his authority—internally, following the arrival of Cavani; domestically, with the increasing prominence of moneyed Monaco; and continentally, where great things will be expected of PSG and their cavalcade of riches.
If he can replicate his 30 league goals from last year, then Zlaties will be firmly on the road to reclaiming his title of France’s No. 1.
Currently topping the Ligue 1 scoring charts with seven goals in seven games, things have been going just swimmingly for the Colombian hitman since arriving in the Principality.
His goals thus far have guided Les Rouges et Blanc to the summit of the French top flight.
"The road is long," as Neil Diamond once sang, and it may be that we once more find Zlatan and his glistening chums at the Parc au Princes at the top of this list before the season draws to a close.
Until then, however, over to you, El Tigre.