Since its inception, the Premier League has grown to be the world’s greatest football league. In our series looking at the greatest players to grace the Premiership, below we look at the 10 greatest ever strikers to play in the Premier League.
Ian Wright’s journey to the Premiership is a real Roy of the Rovers story. Playing in non-league football, he didn’t turn professional until nearly 22, when he signed with Crystal Palace. A late starter, he didn’t waste time stamping his mark on the professional game, and he went on to plunder 90 league goals for Palace until he was bought by Arsenal for a then club record £2.5m in 1991.
An exuberant and magnetic personality who played with his heart on his sleeve, the Arsenal faithful took him to their heart, and he remains one of the most popular players to play for them. He was also Arsenal’s leading scorer until a certain Thierry Henry overtook him.
Love him or loathe him, there is no doubt that Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest home-grown talents to play in the Premier League. Bursting onto the scene as a 16 year old at Everton by scoring an injury time winner against Arsenal, Wayne Rooney has matured into a fine player, albeit one that many suspect has never truly realised his full potential. This is probably because he is such a good all round player, able to play centre forward, second striker, out wide or even in midfield. Such versatility is great for his club, but it may have held him back from being one of the world’s greatest ever strikers.
Now, captain of both his club and country, he has overcome the antics of his youth to become a true leader, and it may be as captain he will find his true calling, especially if he is able to lead England to their first silverware since 1966.
Bursting onto the Premier League scene in 1993, there are very few players to have graced the Premiership that have had anywhere near the natural instinct and ruthlessness in front of goal. Scoring 25 goals in his first full season in 94-95, the following season he scored 28, including his famous hat trick that was scored in just 4 minutes and 23 seconds, which is still a Premier League record today.
One of the infamous ‘Spice Boys’ and now a successful businessman and pundit, Robbie Fowler scored a total of 128 goals for Liverpool in his two stints there. He also played for Leeds United and Manchester City, never reaching the same heights as he did at Liverpool. However, it is in a Liverpool shirt he is best remembered, and he will always be an Anfield legend, as well as one of the Premierships most naturally gifted finishers.
Another Anfield legend, Michael Owen, has had perhaps the best start to any Premiership career. Scoring on his debut against Wigan in 1997 at a mere 17 years of age, he won the Premiership’s Golden Boot in his first full season with 18 goals and testament to his performances was the fact that he finished runner up to Zinedine Zidane as World Player of the Year.
A dynamic and natural finisher, he was a likeable and popular player who also performed well for England. In total, he scored 118 times for Liverpool, the high point being their treble in 2001, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and the UEFA cup. Michael Owen moved to Real Madrid, and subsequently, Newcastle United and Stoke City. He never reached the same heights as he did at Liverpool, but like Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen will be remembered as one of Anfield’s and England’s best ever strikers.
One of the strongest and most powerful centre forwards ever to grace the Premiership stage, Didier Drogba is synonymous with Chelsea. Voted by Chelsea fans in 2012 as their greatest ever player, he scored over 100 Premier League goals during his first spell at Stamford Bridge, winning two League Cups, four FA Cups, three titles and, to top it all off, the Champions League in 2012.
Big and powerful, Drogba was also sharp and quick, resulting in him being a nightmare for opposition defenders to play against. A true Chelsea legend, Didier Drogba deserves his place in Premiership history.
Whereas some strikers have an obvious natural athleticism and footballing skill, Andy Cole was arguably gifted with either. What he had in abundance though was an eye for goal, and is arguably the Premiership’s greatest ever poacher. Andy Cole had the knack of always seeming to be in the right place at the right time. You can be the quickest striker, the strongest or the most accurate, but if you can’t get into the right position at the right time, those skills are useless.
Playing for a number of clubs, unlike many strikers, he was prolific at more than one. He scored 55 goals in 70 appearances at Newcastle United, 93 in 195 at Manchester United, 27 in 83 at Fulham and 9 in 22 at Manchester City. Without doubt, as the Premier League’s second highest ever scorer, he is guaranteed his place in Premiership history.
It is perhaps the fact that Dennis Bergkamp started his career as a defender that made him one of the deadliest strikers to grace the Premiership. After all, what better way to understand how to beat a defender than to draw upon your experience as one? Brought up in the Netherlands, it is perhaps the fact he was brought up immersed in their ‘Total Football’ style of play that made him the player that he was.
So much more than simply a striker, Bergkamp had an abundance of style and class, but as any defender who played against him will tell you – he was one of the toughest strikers to play against what with his icy stare tooting many a defender to the spot. Scoring 87 times in 315 appearances, he was pivotal in Arsenal’s double successes in 1997-1998, 2001, and to this day is many Arsenal fan’s favourite player.
A true footballing genius, both enigmatic and excellent, Eric Cantona will go down not just as one of the greatest strikers in the Premier League, but one of its greatest players. For someone who will be revered by Manchester United (and other) fans for many years to come, it seems amazing that he was bought from Leeds United for just £1.2m, surely the greatest bargain the Premier League has ever seen. Inspiring United to their first top flight title since 1967, Cantona continued to dominate the Premiership, even after his exile after the infamous Kung Fu kick.
It was a sad day for the footballing world when he announced his retirement to a shocked public in 1997. Going out at the very top, it’s unlikely the Premiership will see a player of such class and brilliance for a long time to come.
Of all the people listed in this article, Henry was perhaps the one who had the most natural gifts of any Premiership player. Not only did he score a lot of goals, he did so with a touch of class that has never been seen in the Premiership before or since. He also set up a lot of goals, which a lot of people forget. Although with 175 goals there are players out there who have scored more, none have done so with as much brilliance, class or elegance.
He also won plenty of silverware with three FA Cups and two Premier League titles, as well as being the PFA player of the year twice, and the FWA Player of the Year on three occasions. He was also the winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot. He also won a European Championship and World Cup with France. Quite simply, Thierry Henry is one of the greatest ever players to grace the Premiership.
Alan Shearer is the epitome of the classic English centre forward. Strong, quick and lethal in front of goal, he remains the Premierships top scorer with a staggering 260 goals, winning the Golden Boot award for three consecutive seasons.
Starting his career at Southampton, Shearer was a good (if unspectacular) striker. However, it was when he went to Blackburn Rovers that he became the player that we all know and love, scoring 31 goals in the 93-94 season, taking the small town club to second place. The following year, the club went one better with his deadly partnership with fellow striker Chris Sutton (SAS: Shearer and Sutton) yielding 34 goals that ultimately won them the title race.
It was in the 96-97 season that he went ‘home’, back to his childhood hometown club Newcastle United. Never before has a player been so revered by fans as Shearer, whose contribution in terms of goals was spectacular and consistent. Sadly, further silverware eluded him, but he remains undoubtedly the greatest home-grown striker to play in the Premiership.