10. Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan)
Romelu Lukaku’s partner in crime last season, Lautaro Martinez has adapted extremely well to losing such a prolific aid up front alongside him, showing himself to be the complete package, even on his own.
The Argentinian has the strength and hold-up play as well as the speed and awareness to thrive in the final third. Still only 24 too, there’s plenty of room to evolve and improve.
9. Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea)
The rise of Romelu is one of the most glorious stories in the recent history of football. He was a round peg in a square hole at Manchester United – and now he’s the shining star of the European Champions.
But while people tend to point to the Belgian as brutish and strong – and he is – perhaps an underrated aspect of his game is his sheer intelligence. He can turn a defender with ease, he’s always in the right place and his chemistry with other forwards – Lautaro Martinez last season, Mason Mount this or even Eden Hazard at international level – is reliant on his efforts to play to others’ strengths as well as his own. Truly, he’s become one of the best players on Earth in the last two years.
8. Patrik Schick
After scoring Euro 2020’s best goal – an audacious 55-yard lob over Scotland ‘keeper David Marshall – Schick’s doubled-down this season, scoring at a rate only the very elite can match. There’s been 18 in 18 Bundesliga appearances so far, for a Leverkusen side who have thrilled under new manager Gerardo Seoane. The Czech striker is perfect all-rounder: quick, great in the air, strong and intelligent. It won’t be long before bigger clubs come knocking.
7. Diogo Jota
He never used to be a striker… but he certainly is now.
Diogo Jota was expected to provide backup to the most fearsome front three in football – and he’s gone on to break it up. The Portuguese is a sure starter for Jurgen Klopp now, offering more running on the ball than Roberto Firmino, retaining what made him great as a winger. The goal record shows that something’s clicked with him up front, alright.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
We’ve reached the point in the timeline where we can legitimately label CR7 a proper striker. He lives up front for United nowadays and he’s still as ageless and breathtaking as he ever was.
If ever there was an advert for mentality pulling you through, Ronaldo is it. Have you watched him in the Champions League this season? He’s used to being no.1 or 2 in these lists but given that he’s now 37 and that really, Manchester United have fallen apart around him thanks to his lack of all-round game, we reckon he’ll take being sixth in the world… or maybe not.
5. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
For a while, we wondered what kind of striker Harry Kane was. He felt like a throwback; a Shearer-type box-dweller who could hit the ball really hard but not much else.
Perhaps we just weren’t watching closely enough. The England captain has gradually developed to become a Swiss Army knife of a forward, with a passing range to make the average deep-lying playmaker weep and off-the-ball movement to tear defences apart. Frankly, Tottenham Hotspur were propped up by him last season.
He’s not had the best season but is gradually getting deadlier as the campaign goes on and Antonio Conte moulds his side around the star. He’s still world-class.
4. Kylian Mbappe
Was there ever a man less obviously destined for the very top of the game?
Kylian Mbappe has come on leaps and bounds even from his extraordinary explosion into European football, becoming an excellent left-winger last season and the focal point of the MMN front this. He has breakneck pace, an eye for goal that can’t be taught and he oozes subtle flair.
Oh and he’s still just 23. Just in case you feel old yet.
3. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
OK, can we please kill the myth that Karim Benzema was nothing more than a foil for Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid?
The star attraction of 2010s-era Madrid was BBC, after all – and Benzema was the integral central letter in that trio. The Frenchman hasn’t let up over the years, either: he leads from the front with power, hard-running, exemplary passing and as Chelsea found out the hard way last season, an eye for goal that can’t be taught. He’s every bit as golden as your other Galacticos, thank you very much.
2. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Red Bull Salzburg: 17 goals in 16 league games. Borussia Dortmund: 56 in 57 league games. It’s terrifying to think how good Erling Haaland will be when he’s 22 years old – let alone 25 or 30.
The awkward blonde giant has become the most coveted player in the world over the past 18 months. He’s rapid, he’s beefy and he can find the corner of the net with his eyes closed; not only that but he has a habit of delivering when it matters. Dortmund had a wobbly season last time out but imagine what they’d have been like without this genuinely world-class talent leading the line.
1. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
If Robert Lewandowski had been fit to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-final last season, the tie is perhaps a different story. The season as a whole, potentially, shifts to another realm.
That’s the influence of the big Pole – and he’s one of a dozen top-class players in the Bayern Munich’s arsenal. Lewandowski managed 55 in 47 in all competitions when Bayern did the treble; he has 16 in 12 this time around. That’s ludicrous. And he’s supposed to be winding down at 33 years old, too.
Lewandowski has everything in his locker and he’s always a step ahead of everyone else. His finishing is unparalleled and he has a knack for always being in the right position at the right moment. It’s not by chance either: if the ball drops to him, there’s only one outcome.
In another universe, he has a second Champions League medal in as many seasons and looking for the third right now. He’s still the best striker in the world in this one