Best Strikers of the Premier League Era

Sean Butters@shbgetrealFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2014

Best Strikers of the Premier League Era

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    Alan Shearer: King of the boring goal celebrations, but not a bad striker
    Alan Shearer: King of the boring goal celebrations, but not a bad strikerRoss Kinnaird/Getty Images

    When it comes to rating the best strikers of the Premier League era, usually the first name on everyone’s lips is Alan Shearer.

    True, Shearer does have by far the best goal-scoring record in English football since the Premier League’s inauguration in 1992 and still holds a multitude of statistical records despite retiring in 2006.

    But while Shearer is the undisputed list-topper, as you click through, you may notice that it is not ranked just on goals scored—there are other things to take into account, such as goals-to-games ratios, importance to their teams and career longevity, among others.

    Start the countdown...

    All stats are courtesy of Transfermarkt.co.uk unless linked otherwise.

10: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

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    Celebrate good times
    Celebrate good timesClive Rose/Getty Images

    In a career that spanned 18 years and four countries, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s best years were undoubtedly the five between 1997 and 2002.                      

    Four of these were spent in the Premier League, a season-long stint with Atletico Madrid sandwiched by spells with Leeds United, then Chelsea.

    It was at Elland Road that Hasselbaink really made his name, brought in as a replacement for Anthony Yeboah before scoring 34 goals in 69 league appearances.

    His speed and ruthlessness in front of goal earned him a joint Golden Boot award in 1998/99, and upon returning to English shores with Chelsea a year later for a club record £15 million, those qualities had improved.

    Hasselbaink went on to score 69 in 136 Premier League games, including 46 in 70 across his first two seasons and Stamford Bridge.

    Although he never won a major trophy, Hasselbaink's 127 goals in 288 top-flight appearances ensure that he gets the recognition he deserves.

9: Michael Owen

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    Pace and a low centre of gravity: the essential ingredients for a diminutive striker
    Pace and a low centre of gravity: the essential ingredients for a diminutive strikerStu Forster/Getty Images

    The only Premier League player other than Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or and the first Englishman since Kevin Keegan, Michael Owen seemed to have peaked by the time he was 24.

    Understandably for a player who was reliant on his pace, the young Owen enjoyed his most consistent years with Liverpool, from scoring on his 1997 debut to his 2004 move to Real Madrid, he netted 118 goals in 216 appearances.

    From there he never really hit the same heights, though he did manage a decent record in a single season with Real before moving on to Newcastle United and then Manchester United, where he finally secured a Premier League winner's medal.

    And while this is a Premier League-focused list, it is only fair to mention Owen's crowning moment, the brilliant solo goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup—a memory that offers the best example of how effective this often overlooked player could be.

8: Robbie Fowler

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    Fowler savours the moment...
    Fowler savours the moment...Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    While some may remember him for the goal celebration where he appeared to think the white penalty box line was some sort of drug, the Premier League's sixth-highest goal-scorer was one of the most effective strikers to grace the division.

    From his record-breaking hat-trick—four minutes and 23 seconds against Arsenal in 1995, a Premier League record that still standsto his part in Liverpool's 2001 cup "treble," Fowler was a vital cog in his nine-year first spell on Merseyside.

    Combining pace and agility with a strength belied by his small frame, Fowler's two stints with Liverpool and his time with Leeds United, Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers resulted in 162 goals in 378 top-flight appearances, including 53 from 80 between 1994 and 1996.

7: Andrew Cole

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    Cole: massively underrated and highly effective
    Cole: massively underrated and highly effectivePhil Cole/Getty Images

    One of the most consistent goal-scorers of the Premier League era, Cole turned out for eight top-flight clubs during the course of his 19 years as a professional.

    Following promotion to the Premier League with Newcastle United in 1993, Cole rose to prominence with 43 goals in 58 appearances over the next two seasons, before moving to Manchester United in 1995 in a deal worth £7 million that broke the British transfer record.

    It was at Old Trafford that he enjoyed his best years, winning five league titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League, and forming a partnership with Dwight Yorke that would become legendary among United fans for their integral role in the club's 1999 Treble season.

    After United, Cole played top-flight football for Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Burnley before hanging up his boots in 2009, having amassed a staggering 187 Premier League goals.

6: Wayne Rooney

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    Typical Rooney, though in recent years moments of brilliance are becoming fewer
    Typical Rooney, though in recent years moments of brilliance are becoming fewerJon Super/Associated Press

    Granted, Rooney is no longer the archetypal striker and hasn't been since limping off the field in a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich in 2010, bringing to an end what will most likely turn out to be the best form of his career.

    Now more associated with internal power struggles at United and accusations of being overrated balanced by occasional flashes of brilliance, it can sometimes be hard to remember that Rooney was once the most promising player in the country.

    Ever since his 25-yard wonder goal against Arsenal as a 16-year-old, the nation's eyes have been on the Croxteth native, and while it is tempting to suggest that the pressure took its toll, it wasn't until his mid-20s that Rooney began to show signs of wear.

    Signed by Manchester United in 2004, he scored a hat-trick on his club debut and went on to score 160 Premier League goals in 311 appearances, including 26 from 32 in 2009/10, putting him second only to Sir Bobby Charlton in United's all-time club scorers list.

    Whatever you think about his engineering of lucrative contracts, aggressive streak and apparent failure to live up to the hype, there is no contesting that Rooney's record speaks for itself.

5: Robin Van Persie

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    Even Arsenal fans can't grumble about that goal...
    Even Arsenal fans can't grumble about that goal...Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Whatever Arsenal fans feel about his defection to Manchester United, the cold truth is that few can rival the Dutchman's clinical ability as line-leading poacher.

    Robin van Persie arguably won United's 20th league title single-handedly in 2012/13, playing in every game and scoring 26 times to win that season's Golden Boot award—his second in two seasons.

    But it was what he did before moving to Old Trafford that caught Sir Alex Ferguson's eye, and it was thanks to the patience of Arsene Wenger that Van Persie has been able to come through an injury-ravaged career and score 135 in 254 Premier League appearances, as well as becoming Holland's all-time top scorer.

    As good off the ball as he is on it, the 31-year-old possesses a technical ability that sets him apart from most other designated goal-scorers and, strangely, has seemed to get better with age, with 68 goals in the past three seasons.

4: Didier Drogba

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    Total recall: Drogba during his second stint at Stamford Bridge
    Total recall: Drogba during his second stint at Stamford BridgeClive Rose/Getty Images

    Reunited at Chelsea with former manager Jose Mourinho, while Didier Drogba may no longer have the pace or agility that came to characterise him, he is still more effective than your average 36-year-old striker.

    The Ivorian's 2004 arrival coincided with the beginning of Chelsea's back-to-back Premier League title-winning seasons, and over the next eight years, he scored 100 goals in 226 appearances and collected another league title, four FA Cups and the Champions League.

    Never one to be free of controversy, Drogba's effectiveness comes through his ability to use his large frame in a target-man capacity before applying a refined finishing technique, making him one of the more complete strikers of the Premier League era.

    Despite his age, it is these attributes (and decent subsequent records in China and Turkey) that persuaded Mourinho to bring his former player back to Stamford Bridge, albeit as back-up to Diego Costa.

3: Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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    Van Nistelrooy wheels away after scoring yet another goal
    Van Nistelrooy wheels away after scoring yet another goalAlex Livesey/Getty Images

    While the enduring image may be that of Martin Keown jumping on him after Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a penalty in a game that later became known as the Battle of Old Trafford, the Dutchman's goals-to-games ratio remains one of the best in Premier League history.

    Out of the five seasons he spent at Manchester United, Van Nistelrooy scored more than 20 goals in four of those, resulting in a record of 89 in 133 appearances—a tally that would have been higher had he not spent most of 2004/05 injured.

    Quick, technically gifted and adept with either foot from long-range or short, the Dutchman's top-flight total of 95 goals in 150 games caught the attention of Real Madrid, whose interest caused him to engineer a move in 2006.

    Had Van Nistelrooy remained in the Premier League, there is no telling how many entries he would have amassed in the division's record books.

2: Thierry Henry

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    From left-forward to striker: Henry was one of the most accomplished footballers the Premier League has ever seen
    From left-forward to striker: Henry was one of the most accomplished footballers the Premier League has ever seenClive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Despite having started out as a left-forward under Arsene Wenger at Monaco, it was following Henry's 1999 move to be reunited with his former employer at Arsenal that he realised his striking potential and established himself as one of the finest players ever to grace the Premier League.

    After failing to score in his first eight games, Henry finished his first season at Highbury with 17 goals in 31 league appearances—a tally that he would improve year-on-year until 2005, the peak coming with 30 in 34 during the 2003/04 "Invincibles" season.

    Henry's pace and skill allowed him to go past defenders with ease—assets that benefited him while operating as a lone striker—and fashion opportunities in which to exploit his ruthless proficiency in one-on-one situations.

    This flair brought interest from Barcelona, where Henry added two La Ligas to his two Premier League titles, and he joined New York Red Bulls in 2010 before a final loan spell with Arsenal in 2011/12.

    To date, the four-time Golden Boot winner (including three consecutive season top-scorer awards between 2004 and 2006) has scored 175 goals in 258 Premier League gamesit is unlikely, but going by the surprising nature of his last stint at Arsenal, there may be more to come.

1: Alan Shearer

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    In the air or on the ground, Shearer could finish almost anything
    In the air or on the ground, Shearer could finish almost anythingClive Brunskill/Getty Images

    As well as being the king of the all-time boring goal celebrations chart, Shearer also racked up a pretty impressive array of personal accolades during his 18-year career.

    Most Premier League goals (260 in 441 appearances), most Premier League hat-tricks (11), most goals in a Premier League season (34 in the 42-game format, 31 in the 38-game format), most goals in a Premier League game (five), England, Britain and the world's most expensive player at different times in his career—the list is never-ending if you want it to be.

    Viewed as the archetypal English striker, Shearer could compete in aerial duels, score with either foot and link up with team-mates as the focal point of the three clubs he represented—Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United.

    While many see his time with Newcastle United as the golden years, it was actually at Ewood Park where Shearer was in his prime, scoring 112 in 138 appearances, claiming three consecutive Golden Boots awards between 1995 and 1997 (with Newcastle), and, perhaps most importantly, the Premier League title (the only major trophy he ever won).

    For flair and technical ability, there are far more accomplished players to examine, not just now but even during Shearer's years as the unrivalled goal-scoring master.

    But when it comes to getting the ball in the net, which, when you think about it, is what strikers are there to do, no one in the Premier League even comes close.