Goals. It's still what football's all about.
You can keep your possession stats, your heat maps and your number of "overhit crosses that stay in play via the corner flag" indicators (we may have made that last one up) firmly in your pocket, because football is, and will always be, about goals.
All kinds of goals. Long-range piledrivers, 20-yard curlers, scrappy two-yarders, predatory first-timers, as well as penalties and free-kicks. Goals are very much the things dreams are made of.
And as such we've put together a list of the nine hottest goalscorers in world football right now, those strikers who are in red-hot form and using goals as their own personal currency.
We make no apologies for the list being 100 percent European-based—our main South American contender, Brasileiro top scorer Ederson, has scored in only one of his side's past 10 league games—and as such, it skews very much in favour of the big names.
Additionally, a few other pieces of business.
Unfortunately for those of you who love a Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo argument, the former has not been included due to his current injury status.
Radamel Falcao also misses out, having not scored for his club since November 8—likewise for Alfred Finnbogason, who has found the net in just two of his past 10 matches for club and country.
For those wondering, 10th place went to FC Porto striker Jackson Martinez after his recent run of form.
And with that, on we go to those who are presently the world's nine hottest goalscorers:
Perhaps the outstanding No. 9 in European football last season when he bagged 36 goals, Robert Lewandowski remains at Borussia Dortmund this term and already has 15 goals in 23 matches for Jurgen Klopp's side.
A forward who at his very best has the ability to trap an entire opposition defence with his movement, determination and intelligent link play.
Simply, however, Lewandowski's linear interpretation of the role—pretty much surmised as every touch and every move made with the sole purpose of his side putting the ball into the back of the opposing net—makes him one of world football's very best strikers.
His most recent displays, much look his injury-hit side, haven't quite matched the heights of which he is capable, and he's scored in just one of BVB's past six matches.
Therefore, he's only ranked No. 9 on our list.
However, he remains one of the very best at consistently troubling goalkeepers—hitting the target with 69 percent of his shots, via Squawka—and it's only a matter of time before he increases his regularity once more.
The 26-year-old has taken the roundabout route to European football from his native Colombia—arriving in Portugal via MLS and the Seattle Sounders—but he has played a major role in Sporting's surprise run to the top of the Primeira Liga.
Sporting's win at Gil Vicente on December 8 put them two points clear at the top of the table—a position which they haven't frequented since January 2005.
And once again they had the quicksilver Montero to thank, his two goals doing the damage. They were his 12th and 13th league goals for Sporting and his 16th in 14 matches in all competitions for the Lions.
Playing as a centre-forward, Montero's clever movement, lovely touch and composure in possession have been a joy to behold, not to mention his sharp shooting.
And one of the great things about Montero is the type of goals he is now finding himself scoring.
Standing at 5'9", Montero isn't the biggest, but he's found himself nodding home from set pieces on more four occasions already this term. Additionally, he's been scoring goals from around the 18-yard box and helping himself to the sort of predatory tap-ins that weren't his stock in trade during his time in MLS.
All-in, he's matured and is looking like a far more rounded striker. And he's taking Portugal by storm.
13 - Fredy Montero has scored 13 goals in 12 games for Sporting in the Primeira Liga this season - Jackson Martinez has 10 in 12. Airplane— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 8, 2013
After 18 months of injury hell, it's truly brilliant to see the Italian international getting back somewhere near his best.
With Fiorentina's big summer signing, Mario Gomez, struggling with his own injury problems after a move from Bayern Munich, the task of leading the line for Vincenzo Montella's men has fallen on the shoulders of Giuseppe Rossi.
And he has responded magnificently.
The 26-year-old New Jersey native leads the Capocannoniere for Serie A's top scorer, having struck 12 times in 15 league games, with 14 in 18 overall.
A hat-trick against Juventus in October may have been the standout moment, but he's been a consistent name on the scoresheet and marked his international return with a goal in the November draw with Nigeria. Most recently, he's struck three times in his past four outings for the Viola.
With his intelligent movement, sharpness around the box and clinical left foot—he very rarely doesn't work the goalkeeper—it's good to see Rossi back.
Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi has scored 11 goals with his left foot this season, more than any other player in Europe's top 5 leagues.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 5, 2013
The Uruguayan hitman had earned himself almost God-like status at former club Napoli before leaving the Neapolitans last summer—104 goals in 138 matches and a major trophy will do that at the Stadio San Paolo—and Edinson Cavani has taken to life in Paris like the proverbial duck to water.
The 26-year-old has been forced to adapt his game in Paris—he now finds himself playing around Zlatan Ibrahimovic or from a nominal right-sided position, rather than being the central striker—but the goals have continued to flow.
Since the start of November, he's notched six in seven games for Les Parisiens.
Tall and languid, yet quick and powerful, he blends a tremendous work ethic with excellent technical ability.
Throw in his ability to finish with any part of his anatomy in and around the penalty area and he's a major threat.
As the powerful focal point of Diego Simeone's attack at the Vicente Calderon, Diego Costa has taken his game up a notch or two this season and has taken La Liga by storm.
Long viewed as the bad man of Spanish football, Costa has continued to be a nightmare for defenders, but now his football is what's giving them the biggest headache as he leads from the front for hard-running Atletico.
Strong, determined and a brilliant leader of the line over the past 16 months for Atleti, the 25-year-old has now added a greater goalscoring edge to his game and has taken over on that front from the departed Radamel Falcao.
Already this season the Brazilian-born, more likely future-Spanish international, has plundered 18 goals in 19 matches for Los Rojiblancos, including 15 in the league—a feat only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo.
"15 goals in 15 games for Diego Costa. That's not a streak, that's talent". From @AS_Inako's Elche - Atleti match report.— AS English (@English_AS) November 30, 2013
Noticeable has been Costa's consistency. Whereas other strikers may score their goals in bunches, his have been spread throughout the season, and he has only failed to score in three of Atleti's 15 league matches—meaning he's found the net in 80 percent of encounters.
It's more than enough to earn him fifth place on our list.
And his goalscoring exploits are a major reason why they remain in the race for the Premier League title, despite some rather iffy away form.
The 25-year-old is maturing nicely into a complete centre-forward, someone who is every bit as capable dropping toward play as he is stretching it, while he is perhaps the Premier League's strongest player, physically, pound-for-pound.
And when you throw that in with his predatory finishing and exemplary technique, the Argentine international is rather sublime.
Already this term he's hit 18 goals in 19 matches for City (adding a further 10 assists), and the former Atletico Madrid star is getting more consistent as we go along, with Pellegrini's methods bringing the best out of him.
Sergio Aguero has scored 10 goals in his last 9 PL appearances for Man City, as well as providing 3 assists #FootballFocus— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 7, 2013
Eight goals in eight games have been his reward since the start of November for his club, while he also hit a double in La Albiceleste's 2-0 win over Bosnia in the middle of the month.
Rightfully Aguero has been earning plaudits for his scoring and his performances, and if City can keep him fit and firing, then they'll be there or thereabouts when England's domestic trophies are handed out in May.
The mercurial Swede has long been one of world football's premier talents, and he ranks second on our list.
Thirty-five goals in 46 games in all competitions (including 30 in Ligue 1) for Les Parisiens in 2012-13 saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic using all his technical and physical gifts with great aplomb as he led the line for PSG playing as an out-and-out No. 9 under Carlo Ancelotti.
And he's continued in similar style this term under new manager Laurent Blanc, once again as the leader of the Paris Saint-Germain attack.
The 32-year-old is showing no sign of letting up where goalscoring is concerned, despite being at the point where most players begin to enter the twilight of their careers, and he's helped himself to 21 goals in 22 games for Le Parisiens.
Included have been a recent treble against Nice, a four-goal salvo in Belgium against Anderlecht and braces in the 3-0 defeat of Benfica at the Parc des Princes, as well as in wins over both Lyon and Sochaux as Blanc's men have taken charge of both Ligue 1 and their Champions League group.
Since the start of November, he's netted 10 goals in seven games for his club and almost led Sweden back against Portugal.
As he had been for much of the past decade, Ibracadabra remains one of the world's hottest goalscorers.
Watch this, then answer the following question: Is Zlatan from earth or is he in fact a higher being? http://t.co/7az4R92HrA— Beast Mode Soccer™ (@BeastModeSoccer) December 9, 2013
In fact, outside the duopoly that is Messi and Ronaldo, he may just be the best footballer in the world.
It's not just the sheer magnificence of some of the Uruguayan's displays so far this term. It's the consistency, the goals output and the fact that he is seemingly thriving at Anfield, despite having to do pretty much everything in an attacking sense for the Reds.
He's had the (very) rare off day in the defeat against Hull, but that aside, Suarez has been virtually unplayable during the past month or so and is taking his game to a far superior level than 99.9 percent of his fellow professionals can even think about reaching.
As such, the 26-year-old's goals output has only continued to increase, and he now has 14 Premier League goals in just 10 matches (an impressive six assists also), including 11 in his past seven matches.
And as impressive as those numbers are, it's the varying nature of his goals that perhaps impresses moreso.
His four-goal salvo against Norwich was a highlight reel on its own (and probably the best individual performance of 2013), but there have also been predatory headers, close-range finishes and composed strikes after running off the back of defenders.
All in, he's now something close to the full striking package.
Making chances and most importantly taking chances, he's leading Liverpool's charge for Champions League football and is the hottest goalscorer in world football—except for one man.
Suarez more goals per minute than anyone else in top flight world football. That includes Ronaldo, Messi, Aguero, Bale, Costa.— Ponder The Point (@ponderthepoint) December 9, 2013
The current standard-bearer among goalscorers across the globe at the moment is undoubtedly Cristiano Ronaldo.
Originally I made the decision to leave him off this list due to an injury, but since he decided to return with a goal against Copenhagen, picking right back up where he left off after his hamstring problem, it was only right that I put him in his rightful place at No. 1 on this list.
FACT: Tonight, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score 9 goals in the Champions League Group Stage. #RMCF&mdash">https://twitter.com/search?q=%23RMCF&src=hash">#RMCF— The Football Bar (@TheFootballBar) December">https://twitter.com/TheFootballBar/statuses/410535068218966016">December 10, 2013
In 2012-13 he lived up to the high standards that we expect of him, even as Real Madrid went without a major trophy, netting a total 55 goals. This term, the Portuguese maestro has raised the bar even higher.
For club and country this season, Ronaldo has helped himself to the incomparable sum of 30 goals in a mere 21 matches, a mixture of long-range efforts, tap-ins, clinical drives, composed touches and terrific headers.
Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Galatasaray and most importantly Sweden have all been met with hat-tricks.
His pace, strength, composure, skill fearsome desire to be the best make the 28-year-old one hell of a proposition.
He is almost the perfect executioner, who as he has matured, has led his side with increasing authority.
The Real Madrid superstar is nothing short of a phenomenon who is very much the prototype of the modern forward.
Worth [I guess] repeating Ronaldo's figures again - 9 in 5 group games this year, top scorer last season with 12 in comp, 57 CL career goals— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) December">https://twitter.com/dermotmcorrigan/statuses/410744079673073664">December 11, 2013
Greatness in football is spoken of in far too big an over-arching term these days.
However, Cristiano Ronaldo, at present the hottest goalscorer on the planet, is most deserving of a place in the pantheon of greats.
If he can lead Real Madrid to a tenth European Cup, his place will be all but assured.
For more football talk, why not tweet me: @AA_Richards.