The Champions League is home to some spectacular centre-forwards.
The proliferation of goalscoring across the entire attack means that some teams don’t use their central striker as their primary source of goals anymore, but the No. 9 remains a key position in world football. Those able to play it to an elite level make a massive difference to their teams, both in terms of scoring and all-around team play.
So we’ve had a look at all of the centre-forwards playing in this season’s Champions League and ranked them. Individual quality and performances in the Champions League are the measures used to order the players.
Wing-forwards and goalscoring No. 10s like Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, Antoine Griezmann, Sadio Mané, Kylian Mbappé and of course Cristiano Ronaldo are not in consideration despite their amazing feats.
10. Radamel Falcao
Galatasaray – 27 games, 12 goals
If this was about charisma, handsomeness and all-around magnificence then Radamel Falcao would be No. 1. But as it is more about quality, he has to be taken down a few spots. He’s not the player he was at his peak (when he annihilated the Europa League in consecutive seasons for different clubs) but he’s still a wonderful striker with a lethal finish on him. Expect him to claim one big scalp this season.
9. Gabriel Jesus
Manchester City – 16 games, 9 goals
An absolutely incredible young striker, Gabriel Jesus excels whenever Pep Guardiola puts him at the head of the side. Jesus provides much more than just goals, however, as his pressing, passing and intelligent movement make him a superb foil for Manchester City’s magnificent wide men. At just 22 years old there is so much more to come from him as well.
8. Mauro Icardi
PSG – 7 games, 4 goals
He’s only played one season of Champions League football, really, but the way Icardi thrived in the group of death showed that he’s always possessed the sheer goalscoring talent to impact even the biggest stages. Already played a major part in Paris Saint-Germain destroying Real Madrid, he’ll be hoping to finally get the Parisians over the hump.
7. Romelu Lukaku
Inter – 18 games, 7 goals
Lukaku is a polarising figure, but there can be no questioning that he is a consistent and quality goalscorer. He’s always delivered when called upon in Europe, most notably when he scored twice away against PSG to help Manchester United overcome absurd odds to win in Paris last season. Now at Inter, he’ll be keen to show that he’s as world-class as he thinks he is.
6. Edinson Cavani
PSG – 59 games, 34 goals
Few men in history have done so many remarkable things only to be completely and consistently overshadowed by other people. Since leaving Napoli (where he played in Maradona’s shadow, to be honest) Cavani has performed wonders and yet never been regarded with the appreciation he should have been because of more illustrious names on the same team-sheet. A wondrous combination of movement and athleticism, Cavani needs to be appreciated more.
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5. Harry Kane
Tottenham – 17 games, 13 goals
Kane is a relative newcomer to the Champions League but he looks like he’s been playing in it for a decade. England’s finest striker has the movement, mentality and majestic shooting skill to travel to great European heights. Had he been fully fit, the 2019 Champions League final would probably have progressed very differently than it did. He may have to leave Spurs to do it, but you better believe that Harry Kane will make history in the Champions League.
4. Sergio Aguero
Manchester City – 68 games, 37 goals
Sergio Aguero has more European Cup goals than Ferenc Puskas. Alright he’s played more games than the great Hungarian, but it’s a good way to point out just how impressive and consistent Aguero has been in front of goal. A viper who can snap and strike from out of nowhere with some of the crispest and most vicious shots you’ve ever seen. Will be desperate to get Manchester City over the hump and fire them to Champions League glory. And he’s certainly good enough to do it!
3. Karim Benzema
Real Madrid – 113 games, 60 goals – Four titles (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Karim Benzema is one of the greatest strikers in Champions League history. Only three men have scored more goals in Europe’s Big Cup than the Frenchman and only 11 players – eight of whom all played for that one Real Madrid side to win the first five European Cups – have won more than his four individual trophies. Benzema is a master of selfless striking; having spent years moving deep and wide in concert with Cristiano Ronaldo to greatly aid the Portuguese in scoring his absurd 126 Champions League goals. A true legend.
2. Roberto Firmino
Liverpool – 26 games, 14 goals – One title (2019)
Of course Benzema is now a fading force, and the new king of the selfless strikers is Roberto Firmino. After being beaten by Benzema and co. in the 2018 Champions League final, Firmino helped guide Liverpool back there in 2019 where the Reds were triumphant. Firmino is a hurricane; a peerless presser who gives opponents no time to settle whilst with the ball at his feet he’s a wish-granting genie, flicking and slipping the ball through infinitesimal defensive gaps to let his team-mates score in abundance. He’s something special.
1. Robert Lewandowski
Bayern Munich – 81 games, 54 goals
For so long Robert Lewandowski has been a ridiculous, world-class goalscorer that has also had to make do with being just the second-best no. 9 in the world. But whilst Luis Suárez has fallen off a cliff so quickly and dramatically you’d think he had been chasing the Road Runner, Lewandowski keeps on going from strength to strength. The peerless Pole is physically dominant, technically skilled and utterly ruthless in front of goal. Will be out to overtake Ruud van Nistelrooy in the record books this season to become the fourth-greatest goalscorer in Champions League history. And don’t rule him out from going even further than that. The best centre-forward the Champions League has to offer, simple as that.