Well here it is – Part VI, our final chapter in our 2011 edition of the World’s best soccer players by position, culminating with the top six striker in the world right now. Missed the cut – Diego Forlan (being amazing for Uruguay isn’t enough), Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres (get back in shape fellas).
Number 6 – Gonzalo Higuain, Real Madrid and Argentina
When it was announced the Higuain will be out for at least 3 months after his surgery in December, Real Madrid’s title hopes, previously rocked by the 5-0 shackling against Barca, took another nose dive. Higuain probably doesn’t possess flash and flair like other strikers not on this list, but the man just scores, and a lot. He has scored 56 league goals in his last 78 matches, stretching back to the 2008-2009 season. He isn’t a one trick pony and is a threat from the air and the ground. His only problem, besides being sidelines right now, is the disappearing act he pulls in big games. Not enough of a killer instinct when it’s showtime. He’s still young (23), so there’s hope he’ll get over that.
Number 5 – Samuel Eto’o, Inter Milan and Cameroon
Last year Samuel Eto’o proved he was more than just a goal machine. Mourinho used him all over the field, and the Cameroon captain responded by playing inspired football, even when he was a right back. This season, it’s back to goals, and Eto’o, at 29, is still one of the best out there at scoring. He is the only one who played well under Benitez, and now that the Spaniard is gone, Eto’o is enjoying his teammates awakening. He has 15 league goals and 27 in all competitions for Inter this year, 8 goals shy of reaching the 250 career goals mark and 11 of 200 league goals. With the form he’s in and Sneijder playing like it’s last year again, there’s still hope for Inter in the title race.
Number 4 – Didier Drogba, Chelsea and the Ivory Coast
Drogba’s dip in form since the whole Chelsea mess began doesn’t mean he’s any less of a striker. At the age of 32 the Ivorian is still the most physically imposing target man out there and Chelsea’s best player. Almost anything good that happens when Chelsea attack has something to do with Drogba. His 9 goals so far this season have been too far apart and he won’t get close to his 29 Premier League best from 2009-2010 but his 8 assists this season so far suggest that Drogba is much more than just goals. He creates most of the chances for Chelsea, even when not touching the ball. If he could just stop his dirty antics and diving from time to time, maybe he’ll even become a lovable player. Maybe.
Number 3 – Carlos Tevez, Manchester City and Argentina
Tevez talks all the time. About quitting, about leaving Manchester City, about wanting to stay at Manchester City, about loving the game. As long as he keeps scoring the way he has these past couple of seasons (23 last year, 18 so far this one), Mancini doesn’t mind. The lineups keep shifting, players keep getting bought and sold, his partners up front (now Edin Dzeko), Tevez is the only constant in the City attack. He seems to have found his place on the Manchester ‘Blue’ side, and there’s a chance this will be the first place he stays at for more than two seasons since his Boca days. His recent form, by the way, is scorching – 8 goals in his last 6 matches, including a hat trick vs West Brom last Saturday.
Number 2 – David Villa, Barcelona and Spain
The perfect fit for Barcelona, Villa, who had a rough start with the Catalan football machine, is now playing like he’s been a Nou Camp member for years. He has scored 14 league goals and 17 in all competitions while Barca devour the La Liga and resume their attempt at European conquest very soon against Arsenal. Unlike Ibra, who had a so-so experience with Barcelona, Villa, the 40 million man, has no problem playing as part of the ever improving and tweaking system that Guardiola set up to maximize the amazing group of stars he has ( some groomed by him) under him. His success with Spain the last three years and his numbers with Barcelona have proven Villa is an elite striker and not just a ‘small clubs star’ like some suggested.
Number 1 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, AC Milan and Sweden
It’s scary to think the temperamental Ibra has a black belt in taekwondo. Really. But that’s besides the point. After failing to win any fans at the Nou Camp (despite scoring 21 goals for Barcelona and being their best player during some part of the season), Ibrahimovic was loaned out to Milan, and Italy, Ibra is king. I have no doubt in my mind that Zlatan is the most talented striker in the world, but like Ronaldo, he needs the game to be built on him. He can’t be just a part of a team. He needs to be THE focus of the offense. His ability to create goals from nothing (like his amazing goal against Lecce), be it scoring or assists (9 this season so far, accounting for 22 goals this season, more than half of Milan’s production) in unmatched. He just needs to know he’s the guy, the Alpha-Male in the starting lineup, and he’ll do wonders. Might even lead Milan to their first Serie A title since 2004.