Football Features

Every striker signed by Pep Guardiola, ranked from worst to best

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:39, 25 June 2021

Manchester City are trying to sign Harry Kane as Pep Guardiola looks to replace Sergio Aguero.

With the decline of Aguero last season, City often went strikerless which led to many wondering whether or not they even need to sign a new replacement. But the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea was a clear illustration that City do need someone to fill those massive boots of Aguero, and they appear to have earmarked Kane as the man.

Of course, Guardiola’s penchant for possession play often leads to him operating without a striker, not just at City but at Barcelona and Bayern Munich too, though he has signed strikers at all three.

But who is the best striker he’s signed? The worst? We’ve looked back at all the centre-forwards Guardiola has signed through his career as a coach and ranked them.

Who falls where? Read on and find out!

7. Olarenwaju Kayode

Games for Guardiola: 0
Goals for Guardiola: 0

The Nigerian striker was signed by Manchester City in 2017 after an impressive season for Austria Wien where he scored 24 goals in 48 games. He was immediately loaned out to Girona with the idea clearly for him to gain experience in a better league where, if he succeeded, he could perhaps become a viable squad player for City (he also didn’t have a work permit to play in England). Sadly Kayode didn’t score a single goal in 13 games for the Catalan side, and was shifted out to Shakhtar Donetsk. Not a success.

6. Keirrison

Games for Guardiola: 0
Goals for Guardiola: 0

Keirrison signed for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2009 and the hype was very real for a Brazilian forward who, by 20 years old, had scored 89 goals in 158 games for Palmeiras and Coritiba. However, Guardiola showed little to no interest in developing Keirrison and instantly sent the forward out on loan where he struggled, first at Benfica and then Fiorentina before heading back to Brazil after one year with Santos. He never recovered that initial fire, sadly, and his career fizzled out.

5. Alexis Sánchez

Games for Guardiola: 41
Goals for Guardiola: 15

Barcelona signed Alexis Sánchez as European champions in 2011 as a way to improve the mobility and versatility of their front line, with Sánchez capable of playing as a leading No. 9 but also a No. 10 and even a winger.

This allowed Guardiola to change formation multiple times in one game, which he most famously did in Barcelona’s epic 3-1 comeback win at the Santiago Bernabeu when the Blaugrana switched from 4-3-3 to a radical 3-1-4-1-1 after 15 minutes and dominated the game despite going 1-0 down, with Sánchez himself scoring the equaliser.

The Chilean scored 15 goals in his debut season at the Camp Nou but tragically missed two sitters in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, directly leading to Barcelona’s shock elimination.

Guardiola then left the club after that campaign but Sánchez went on for two more seasons, peaking in Catalunya at his last season when he scored 21 goals including a stunner in his final La Liga match before the club moved him on to bring in Luis Suárez.

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Games for Guardiola: 46
Goals for Guardiola: 22

After winning the Treble in his first season at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola wanted to evolve his side, so he moved Samuel Eto’o on and brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Suffice to say the Swede was an instant hit, scoring repeatedly to start the season (he notched seven times in his first seven appearances in La Liga) and giving the Blaugrana a physical edge to augment their technical superiority.

However, it didn’t last as Ibrahimovic’s ego couldn’t handle Lionel Messi’s prominence in the side and his form suffered after the winter break. Barring a superb showing away to Arsenal where he scored twice, there was none of the magic glimpsed in the early days of his time in Catalunya.

However, he still scored nine times including the aforementioned brace against Arsenal and he had peppered game-winning goals all through the season and in a title race that ended 99 points to 96, those were crucial; none moreso than Zlatan’s stunning left-footed volley to win the first Clásiso of the season. So while it was a middling season, there was still plenty of quality packed into that short period.

3. Gabriel Jesus

Games for Guardiola: 196
Goals for Guardiola: 82

Gabriel Jesus joined Manchester City halfway through Pep Guardiola’s first season in Manchester and instantly looked like his understanding of the Catalan’s system would see him usurp Sergio Aguero as the star striker even though he wasn’t as relentless a goalscorer.

Despite an impressive 82 goals in 196 games, including a few crucial strikes like away to Real Madrid, or that last-minute winner to clinch the 100-point season in 2017/18, that never quite came to pass. Nevertheless, Jesus has still been a fundamental part of all City’s successes under Guardiola which includes three EFL Cups, one FA Cup and three Premier League titles.

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2. David Villa

Games for Guardiola: 76
Goals for Guardiola: 32

After Guardiola aborted the Ibrahimovic experiment just one season in, the man earmarked to replace him was David Villa. The last signing of the (first) Joan Laporta presidency, Villa joined just before the 2010 World Cup where he helped Spain win the title.

He joined Barcelona and carried that momentum forward. Despite having to play wide on the left, Villa was still a righteous success, scoring 23 goals and being a key part of the Blaugrana producing what may well be the greatest club side of all-time. They powered to win La Liga, reach the Copa del Rey final and then claim the Champions League where Villa scored the spectacular third goal in a 3-1 win in the final.

Villa’s form wavered a bit the following season and he picked up a horror leg break that could have derailed his entire career (it caused him to miss Spain’s Euro 2012 triumph). Without him the Blaugrana surrendered La Liga in Guardiola’s final season, but Villa fought back to once again play a vital role in a Barcelona winning the title, this time with a sensational 100-point season. A smashing striker success.

1. Robert Lewandowski

Games for Guardiola: 100
Goals for Guardiola: 67

In Pep Guardiola’s first season in Bayern Munich, he instantly discarded the idea of Mario Mandzukic as a No. 9 and tried to bring Mario Gotze through as a false nine in the Messi mould only to realise that Mario Gotze is not Messi. A striker would be needed, so Bayern went out and got Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski on a free transfer.

The Polish striker had 103 goals in 187 games for the Bundesliga side and quite predictably fit in with Guardiola perfectly. Lewandowski was a striker who could hold the ball up and do all the classic No. 9 things, but also had the technical proficiency to drop deep or drift wide and link with his team-mates, creating passing triangles and possession overloads in the classic Guardiola style.

This is what Guardiola would be hoping to achieve by signing Kane for City, with the Englishman being the closest thing to Lewandowski around at the moment. A striker who can be more than just a pure goalscorer.

That’s Kane, and it was and is Lewandowski, but don’t sleep on his goalscoring either, the Pole has scored 67 goals in 100 games under Guardiola and has since gone on to rack-up a ridiculous 294 goals in 329 games for Bayern (winning seven straight Bundesliga, three DFB Pokal and a Champions League) with more time on the clock to boost those numbers to an even more ridiculous level.


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