Thierry Henry, Ruud Van Nistelrooy or Didier Drogba – Who is Europe’s Top Striker of the Last 10 Years?

Filippo Inzaghi, the AC Milan and Italy forward, overtook the great Gerd Muller in the all time European scoring charts two weeks ago with his typically simple goal against Celtic in the Champions League. FanCast columnist Alex Brodie looks at where his 63 goals in UEFA competitions place him amongst Europe’s elite finishers from the last ten years.

Surely few centre forwards of recent times can have been as derided as Filippo Inzaghi.  Sir Alex Ferguson described him as “born in an offside position” whilst Johann Cruyff claimed: “He can’t play football at all. He’s just always in the right position.”  So how has this overachiever recently become the highest scorer in UEFA competitions?  There must have been at least ten strikers over the last ten years who you would rather have in your side.

10. Ruud Van Nistelrooy – Unfortunate to fall in between two great United sides, ’99 and the present squad.  However in his time at Old Trafford he was rightly seen as one of the greatest finishers of the Premier League era.  Has been top scorer in three leagues (Spain, Holland, England) and is United’s top scorer in European competition.  Has scored goals for fun wherever he’s been, 62 in 67 in the poor Dutch league was backed up by 95 in 140 at United and currently 32 in 50 at Real.  Natural finisher.

9. Fernando Morientes – Formed a formidable partnership with Raul at Real Madrid where he won the Champions League in his debut season and went on to win it twice more along with two La Liga titles.  After being pushed out of the Real line up by (fat) Ronaldo he was loaned to Monaco for a season where he led the French principality to the Champions League final, beating Real in the quarters where he bagged two vital goals and ended the competition as top scorer with 9. He was named 2004 European striker of the year.

8. David Trezeguet – A close friend of Henry from their days under Arsene Wenger at Monaco, Trezeguet won the ’98 World Cup and Euro ’00 with France scoring the Golden Goal against Italy in the final.  Has scored 175 times for Juve, which included staying with the club during their exile in Serie B.  Despite winning two Serie A titles with the Turin giants the club have of course subsequently had them stripped following the match fixing scandal. A complete athlete similar to Henry, who has played consistently for Juve and France, says enough really doesn’t it? 

7. Christian Vieri – A much travelled striker whose former clubs read like a Who’s Who of European football; Juve, Atletico, Inter, Milan and Lazio.  His best years were spent with Ronaldo at Inter scoring 103 goals in 143 games over five seasons.  However his temper tantrums and refusal to celebrate goals whilst at the San Siro meant he wasn’t a fan’s favourite.  A goal every two games for Italy becoming one of their top all time World Cup scorers seem to be reasons enough for his inclusion.

6. Didier Drogba – Of course he is still to win anything at European level but since moving to Chelsea from Marseille three years ago he has taken on the best in Europe and invariably come out on top.  The fact that Chelsea are seen as half the team without him says enough.  Will surely move up this table in the coming years

5. Ronaldo – Past his best and has been for sometime but his scoring record at some of Europe’s biggest clubs is phenomenal and his achievements are second to none.  34 goals in 37 games at Barca along with the European Super Cup, 49 in 69 at Inter along with the UEFA Cup and 83 in 127 at Real.  Twice top scorer in La Liga, once with Barca, once with Real; three time FIFA World Player of the Year; two time European Footballer of the Year; European Golden Boot; Copa America top scorer and holds the record for most goals scored in World Cup Finals to go with his two World Cup medals.

4. Andriy Shevchenko – Has struggled since his move to Stamford Bridge, being largely overshadowed by Drogba.  However in his pomp at Dynamo Kiev but most notably at Milan where he became the club’s second top scorer of all time, he proved himself as Europe’s top striker.  Won everything at Milan including the Champions League and the European Footballer of the Year in 2004.  Scored 30+ in two consecutive Serie A seasons, in an infamously tight defensive league.

3. Hernan Crespo – Another name in the list simply for an amazing goal scoring record at every club he’s been at, even Chelsea.  Scored 62 goals at Parma when they were a leading club in Serie A then moved onto Lazio and scored 39 in two seasons winning the Serie A title.  Whilst struggling to prove himself to the British public whilst at Chelsea he has been loaned out to both Milan sides in consecutive season and clearly enjoys life at either end of the San Siro.  Unfortunately his struggles at Chelsea will always see him underrated by English fans however he still scored goals at Stamford Bridge.  He is also (unsurprisingly) the only player to have scored Champions League goals for five different clubs. 

2. Thierry Henry – A controversial decision to place him second as he’s never won anything in Europe and choked in his only Champions League final appearance.  However for shear presence over the European game and class he brought to the English and in many European matches Henry must feature.  Has everything a striker needs, pace, composure, strength and arrogance.  Class act but still to fully prove himself following the step up to Barca.

1. Raul – The king of Madrid, Spain and Europe.  If you’re Real Madrid born and bred then you must be doing something right.  There are one-club players but they don’t tend to be strikers; think Maldini, Scholes, Giggs, Neville, Le Tissier and they certainly don’t play for Real Madrid.  Currently the club captain Raul has been at the Bernabeau since 1994 winning 102 Spanish caps and becoming the nation’s all time top scorer, playing at the past five major tournaments.  He is the Champions League all time top scorer with 59 goals, second only to Di Stefano as Real’s top scorer and has won three Champion’s Leagues, five La Ligas and three Spanish Cups.  Beat that.