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From the start the Premier League was the place to see goalscorers. The way the league has evolved over time has brought a huge variety in the styles of strikers, from the likes of Les Ferdinand and Andy Carroll who were always ready to get their heads on the end of a cross to poachers like Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler.
Here we pick our top 10 Premier League strikers of all time. We've used a number of stats from last season to quantify our rankings, as well as a player's overall contribution to the game in recent times. So who makes it into our top 10?
All stats come from premierleague.com and are correct as of the publish date. If you enjoy this, read our takes on the best right-backs and strikers in the world right now and the best goalkeepers of all time.
Other articles in this series:
When you ask about Robin van Persie, a theme emerges. “I remember Arsene Wenger saying to me, ‘He’s better than you think’ when we concluded the deal,” said Alex Ferguson. “He was right.” Rio Ferdinand was also surprised: “He was actually a better player than I thought – I had played against him many times, so I knew he was good but not this good. He is so silky to watch, great touch, can hold the ball up, bring others into play, timing of his runs, skills, a dream of a left foot… oh, and he can finish!”
It was less about the goals that Eric Cantona scored, but more about the way he scored them. One of Alex Ferguson’s most inspired signings, the Frenchman spent four and a half seasons at Old Trafford after outstaying his welcome at Leeds. With his strut and his turned-up collar, Cantona brought ‘swag’ to United before it was a thing. With a knack for vital goals, his nine in 22 games helped Fergie win the first Premier League in 1992/93 and his inspirational play brought three more titles to the Reds and influenced a generation of players like Scholes, Beckham and Giggs.
In his first Premier League season with newly promoted Newcastle, Andy Cole scored 34 goals in 40 games as Kevin Keegan’s side finished third. The following January, Keegan shockingly shipped him to rivals Manchester United, leading to angry confrontations with Geordie fans demanding an explanation. Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, was licking his lips. “Andy Cole is ideal for Manchester United," said Fergie. “He's our type of player.” As was usually the case, the Reds boss was right. Teaming with Dwight Yorke for 53 Premier League goals, Cole powered United’s Treble-winning campaign of 1998/99, including netting the goal that won the league title.
Not the most prolific scorer in Premier League history by any means, but Dennis Bergkamp was the heartbeat of Arsene Wenger’s revolution at Arsenal – his 94 assists are second only to Wayne Rooney among strikers (in 176 fewer appearances). According to the player that benefited from many of those assists, the Dutchman deserves credit for helping to transform the Gunners. “Absolutely magnificent for our club,” says Ian Wright. “The best signing I think we’ve ever made in the way it changed the DNA of our football club. He was the one you have to say all the success we’ve had was built upon what Dennis Bergkamp brought to us as a football player.”
Unfortunate not to burnish his career with a Euro 2021 trophy in the summer, England captain Harry Kane is closing in on Jimmy Greaves as Spurs’ all-time leading scorer. The only player on this list not to win a Premier League title, the 28-year-old has won the Golden Boot three times. “He can do everything,” says former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp. “Score a goal, pass it and bring other players in. If every footballer had his attitude a manager’s job would be so much easier. He’s like a Frank Lampard or a Stevie Gerrard, a consummate professional.”
Voted Chelsea's greatest ever player in a poll of 20,000 fans by Chelsea Magazine, Didier Drogba’s performance in the 2012 Champions League final retains its place in Blues lore. Scoring Chelsea’s equaliser against Bayern Munich then despatching the winning penalty earned the Ivory Coast striker the nickname the Lion of Munich. Twice the Premier League’s leading scorer and a four-time league-winner, he was much more than one game. “People talk about Henry, Rooney, the great strikers, but he is right up there,” said fellow Chelsea legend Frank Lampard. “People that score in finals and in the big games, he is right up there.”
“There was a day when we had him in training,” says David Moyes, former Everton manager. “He was only a young boy and Wayne chipped a goalkeeper from near the byeline. It was a moment when we all looked at each other and said, ‘Did he really do that? Did that happen?’. We knew it before, but when we saw that happen we all thought ‘there is a real special talent here’.” That special talent would win five Premier League titles at Manchester United and become England’s most capped outfield player.
Only Manchester neighbours Andy Cole and Wayne Rooney on this list can match Sergio Aguero for the number of Premier League champions medals. Fourth in the all-time scoring chart, and second only to Thierry Henry in goals per game, the Argentinian’s philosophy is simple: “I like tricks; I like to dazzle,” said the striker who helped City to five titles. “Dribbling and leaving your opponent on his backside is what life is for.”
Other than Peter Crouch’s robot, is there a more familiar scoring celebration than Alan Shearer’s head-down, arm-raised wheel away from the goal? No-one has had cause to celebrate more in the history of the Premier League – Shearer’s 260 goals are two season’s worth away from second-placed Wayne Rooney. A title-winner with Blackburn Rovers, Shearer would win three Golden Boots with his physical, bustling style and according to Liverpool great Alan Hansen, he should be top of this list: “Alan has been the best striker in the history of the Premier League. He’s strong, great in the air, boasts great technique and power in his shooting and, in his prime, he had real pace.”
When Thierry Henry arrived at Arsenal ahead of the 1999/2000 season to reunite with his former Monaco manager Arsene Wenger, he was, according to teammate Ian Wright, concerned. “I don’t score goals,” he told his manager. “I won’t score enough goals for you.” After eight goalless games, it appeared he had a point. But Henry finished his debut season with 26 goals in all competitions and never looked back. Two years later, he’d win the first of four Premier League Golden Boots as Wenger’s Gunners won the double. Blessed with blistering pace and incredible touch, Henry has the best goals per game ratio of every player to score more than 100 Premier League goals and is the only player to score more than 20 goals in five straight seasons (1999/00 to 2005/06).