Drawing up a list of the top ten strikers in La Liga is a tricky task, mainly because of the abundance of attacking talent in the league. A large chunk of the top attacking midfielders, wingers and strikers ply their trade in Spain, making the league arguably the most exciting in the world.
Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Kaka and Iniesta are just a few of the names on show, yet none of that superstar quartet make it onto this particular list. For the purposes of this list (and possibly to give others a chance!) only those traditionally recognised as strikers will be considered here.
Of course this may be controversial, especially as Messi (4 goals in 4 games) and Ronaldo (54 shots in 6 games) have showcased again this season that they are still their teams’ main attacking threat.
Even so, Messi and Ronaldo are predominantly wingers, and Iniesta and Kaka are attacking midfielders, whereas this list is reserved for strikers. It is a mark of the fluid nature of football that it is very difficult to distinguish between wingers and strikers in the modern game, with many teams fielding 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 systems that blur the lines considerably.
However, this list will focus on strikers, which means counting out Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta, Xavi, Kaka, Di Maria, Mata, Joaquin and Jesus Navas.
But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of talent to make up this top ten!
The Brazilian forward has been a revelation since his move to La Liga to join Villarreal, forming an impressive partnership with Guiseppe Rossi. The two struck up a real understanding last year and have scored seven goals between them in Villarreal's opening five games this season.
It seemed as if Nilmar's ventures into European football were over after a highly disappointing spell with French side Lyon a few years ago, with Nilmar only lasting one season (2 goals in 32 games) before he moved back to Brazilian football.
Despite his impressive goal record in Brazil across two spells with Internacional, many thought it was a gamble when Villarreal splashed out €10m to bring him to Spain, but Nilmar looks set to repay them handsomely.
The 26 year old has great technical qualities, with an array of flicks and tricks in his locker. He also possesses pace and is a good finisher, something he is showcasing on a near-weekly basis in La Liga.
Negredo started his career at Rayo Vallecano before moving to Real Madrid, where he didn’t quite make the grade and moved on to Almeria, albeit with a buy-back clause. Negredo’s sparkling form for Almeria, where he scored 32 goals in 70 league games in his two years there, prompted Madrid to buy him back for €5m.
Unfortunately for Negredo, Madrid viewed him solely as a financial asset and sold him to Sevilla that same summer for €15m, but Madrid’s surplus has proved to be Sevilla’s gain as Negredo has gone from strength to strength in Seville.
The forward is so highly rated at Sevilla that for much of his time with the Andalucians, it has been a case of Negredo plus one up front, as Fredi Kanoute and Luis Fabiano have had to battle to start alongside the powerful hitman.
Negredo has pace, power and is good in the air, qualities that have seen him reach double figures in goals during each of his three La Liga seasons and also break into the Spanish national squad on occasion. At the age of 25, the best of Negredo is yet to come and he is likely to be one of La Liga’s top strikers for years.
Rossi moved to Manchester United from Parma as a 17 year old, but became frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities. A successful loan spell, ironically back at Parma, was enough to convince Villarreal to splash out €10m to bring him to Spain.
The American-born striker has gone on to fulfil what many believed to be his obvious potential during his time in Spain, and like Negredo he has scored in double figures in each of his three La Liga seasons. What Rossi lacks in height and strength, he makes up for in technical brilliance and great vision.
Rossi, at the age of only 23, is a very clever player who brings the best out of his strike partners, as evidenced by the form of previous partner Diego Forlan and current partner Nilmar during their time playing alongside the Italian international.
Rossi has made murmurings about wanting to return to Serie A, due in part to his desire to become a starting striker for the Italian national team. Rossi’s departure would be a huge loss for Villarreal and indeed the league as a whole, and the Villarreal fans will be hoping that their impressive start becomes a season impressive enough to convince Rossi to stay.
Benzema’s time at Madrid so far can be summed up in one word: disappointing. The 22-year-old French international joined Ronaldo and Kaka as the third star of the ‘Galactico 2.0’ summer of 2009, with Real spending a staggering €35m to buy him from Olympique Lyonnais.
Despite his struggles in Spain, there is no doubt as to Benzema’s ability. The young striker has pace, power, technical ability, an eye for goal; in short, he has it all. Part of his Bernabéu struggles so far have been down to the Madrid system, with their 4-2-3-1 system leaving only one striking place, currently occupied by another player on this list.
Still, Benzema undoubtedly has a bright future at Madrid, and is one of the top strikers in world football when in form. The fact he has been playing at the top level for years and already has 29 caps for France means that some tend to forget just how young he is. At the age of 22, Benzema still has a lot to learn, and a lot of room to improve, and if he continues to develop he will be a star for many years.
The 6’5” hitman, known as El Rey León (The Lion King) by the Bilbao faithful, has proved himself to be a fearsome competitor who is fast becoming one of La Liga’s top talents. The 25 year old is fantastic in the air, perhaps predictably given his height, but also has great technical qualities and is increasingly deadly in front of goal.
He took a while to break into the first team at Athletic, but has improved season upon season and is now the star striker of a side that continues to defy expectations and compete in La Liga despite their commitment to only fielding Basque players.
Last season was the best of his career so far, as Llorente scored 14 goals in La Liga and added another eight in the Europa League, form that led to him making the Spanish national squad for the 2010 World Cup.
Although he only played one game in the tournament, Llorente made a key contribution to the 1-0 Second Round victory over Portugal and looks comfortable at international level. Three goals in the league already this season suggest he is ready to pick up where he left off, and Llorente should enjoy another successful goalscoring season this year.
Strangely enough, Fabiano is the second Brazilian striker on this list whose career in European football looked to be over after one disastrous year in French football. In this Brazilian’s case, it was a move from Ponte Preta to Rennes which proved so difficult and prompted a swift return home to play for São Paulo.
His time at São Paulo saw him score a stunning 61 goals in 87 games and earn a €10m move to FC Porto. A difficult year in Portugal had many doubting his ability once more, but a move to Sevilla the next year was the catalyst needed for Fabiano to prove himself as one of Europe’s top strikers.
The 29 year old has enjoyed a highly fruitful five seasons with Sevilla so far, scoring at a rate of one every two games in his 200 games for the club. Fabiano is another with pace, power, and technical ability, and he is also a tremendous finisher. He also seems to have matured greatly from his younger days, and delighted the Sevilla supporters by signing a new contract this summer despite admiring glances from some of Europe’s top clubs.
With the highly gifted Fredi Kanoute now reaching the twilight years of his career, it is Fabiano and Negredo who are the future of Sevilla, and it will likely be a future full of goals for them both.
A teenage prodigy, Agüero became the youngest player ever to play in the Argentine First Division (15 years, 35 days), breaking Diego Maradona’s record. Agüero’s lack of height and abundance of technical ability saw him join a string of young Argentines compared to El Diego, who, funnily enough, is now Agüero’s father-in-law.
Of course, Agüero is not Maradona, but the striker is still supremely talented, with superb dribbling, passing and shooting abilities that convinced Atletico to pay Independiente over €20m for him when he was only 17. Agüero is still only 22, but has been one of La Liga’s top performers for years, with over 20 goals in all competitions in each of the last three seasons.
There is far more to Agüero’s game than just goals, and his all round game have made him an ideal partner to both Fernando Torres and then the prolific Diego Forlan during his time in Madrid. Agüero and Forlan are truly one of the top strike partnerships in world football and their goals fired Atletico to a Europa League win last season.
Agüero is a regular in the transfer gossip columns, with many believing it is only a matter of time before one of Europe’s top clubs make Atletico an offer they can’t refuse to secure Agüero’s services. Chelsea have been frequently linked to the player, but for now he remains an Atletico player, and the Atletico faithful will have the pleasure of seeing Kun Agüero lighting up La Liga for at least one more year.
It’s hard to believe that the player who won the Golden Ball as the 2010 World Cup’s best player (not to mention two Golden Shoe awards as Europe’s top goalscorer) is the same player who struggled for so long to find his first goal as a Manchester United player. Forlan has come a long way since his days in Manchester, and however odd it may seem to those who saw him in England, he has been one of the world’s top strikers for several years now.
Forlan’s scoring record in Spain has been simply stunning, as the numbers illustrate; 25, 13, 21, 23, 35, 28. These are the number of goals Forlan has scored in Spain, with five out of the six years seeing Forlan score over 20 goals in all competitions. Forlan has scored better than 1 in 2 in La Liga with both Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, and with all due to respect to those clubs, it is frightening to think how many he may have scored if he had played for Barca or Real Madrid.
At the age of 31, the chances of a big money move to a European giant are fading; if it were ever going to happen it would have been this summer after his World Cup exploits. Make no mistake, though, Forlan has a good thing going at Atletico—a very big club themselves—and will continue to thrive alongside Agüero at the Vicente Calderón.
His pace, aerial ability, technique, movement, cleverness, and tremendous shot, both in open play and from set pieces, make him a continual goal threat and a perennial contender for the Pichichi trophy for La Liga’s top scorer.
The fifth South American on this list, Higuain has the potential to be the best of them all. While he may not be a traditional number nine, the young Argentine has become a goal machine, with 49 La Liga goals over the last two seasons.
More often than not, his goals are down to his quick feet, great technical ability, and an eye for goal, qualities that have seen him become a prolific scorer at every level he has played. Higuain became a regular starter for River Plate at the age of 18, and showed enough promise to convince Real to splash out €13m for his services when he was only 19.
After a quiet first two years in Madrid, Higuain has been the main man up front for Real for over two years now, holding off the challenge of big money signing Karim Benzema. There are continual whispers that Higuain has never fully won over the Madrid board or even the Madrid media, but Higuain has silenced his critics continually over the past two years with his goals.
Even at the international level Higuain was ignored by Diego Maradona for a long time, and only called up out of desperation as others failed. But he has since become Argentina’s top striker, scoring seven goals in 11 international games already, including a World Cup hat-trick. And at the age of 22 he will surely score goals galore wherever he is playing over the next decade.
Finally we reach our number one striker, and in truth, this decision wasn’t even close. Villa is pound for pound the best striker in world football right now, guaranteeing goals wherever he goes.
Villa may have taken a while to work his way up the footballing spectrum, overlooked for being “too short” as a teenager and not really hitting the big time until he moved to Valencia at the age of 24. Since then, however, there’s been no looking back for El Guaje (The Kid), as he has proved any doubters wrong. Villa is built to score goals. He is technically brilliant, has bags of pace and quick feet, has brilliant movement, and is the best finisher on the planet. The 28 year old is at the peak of his powers and is a nightmare for any defender to face.
Villa’s scoring record is predictably impressive; 40 in 85 for Sporting Gijon, 41 in 92 for Real Zaragoza, 129 in 212 for Valencia and 44 in 67 for Spain. Villa has already equalled Raul as Spain’s all-time top scorer, and will no doubt extend the record considerably over the next few years.
All this convinced Barcelona to open the chequebook and pay €40m to Valencia this summer. In hindsight, the move should probably have been made a year ago, instead of the purchase of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Villa is superior to Zlatan, particularly in Barca’s system.
His current total of 141 La Liga goals is 18th on the all-time list, and while the top four of Alfredo di Stéfano (227), Raúl (228), Hugo Sánchez (234), and Telmo Zarra (252) seem a long way off at present, who would bet against Villa joining or perhaps even surpassing that illustrious group before the end of his career?
Playing alongside Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and the rest can surely do no harm to his chances, with Villa likely to receive the best service in world football as the spearhead of Barca’s attack.
Not bad for a short kid.