The celebrated Dutch coach Foppe de Haan once told his student Ruud van Nistelrooy to “wait like a lion in the sun” instead of chasing every ball.
It proved sound advice as the Geffen-born marksman would go on to become one of Europe’s most feared centre-forwards.
Van Nistelrooy, who tormented Premier League and La Liga defenders for much of the 2000s, was a dying breed of striker – the pure number nine, who enjoyed poaching more than being a creative outlet.
Not completely eradicated, there are few and far between across Europe’s top five leagues; but the art of effectiveness – being able to score with the minimal of ease – lives on.
With that in mind, we’ve crunched the numbers in search of the most effective ‘poachers’ across those five top divisions by looking at those players who continue to score without being too involved elsewhere on the pitch.
There is one caveat, however: they must have registered a minimum of five league goals.
Here are the results.
10. Duván Zapata
Touches per goal: 43
Duvan Zapata played an instrumental role in Atalanta defying the odds and reaching this season’s Champions League after bagging 23 goals across 37 matches last season. A serious injury, sustained whilst on international duty in October, has since robbed the Serie A side of their Colombian marksman who had until then registered six goals in seven outings.
9. Roger Martí
Touches per goal: 41.83
Levante find themselves mid-table in La Liga with not many expecting them to be playing European football next term. Among the goals for them is Roger Martí who has netted six times in 15 matches, with the latest two coming against rivals Valencia at home though the Frogs fell to a 4-2 defeat.
8. Arkadiusz Milik
Touches per goal: 39.6
The former Ajax marksman has enhanced his reputation in southern Italy despite struggling with serious knee injuries. He’s not always been first choice, but whenever the Pole has played a goal isn’t far away. Milik has registered five goals across six league games so far.
7. Robert Lewandowski
Club: Bayern Munich
Touches per goal: 37.63
Arguably the undisputed ‘number nine’ currently plying his trade in world football. Robert Lewandowski has been nothing short of amazing this season, if he’s not breaking records and setting new ones, the Polish striker is putting the fear into defenders.
6. Tammy Abraham
Touches per goal: 36.82
Tammy Abraham had to bide his time at Stamford Bridge and since being handed a first start under Frank Lampard the young English centre-forward hasn’t looked back. He’s currently one of four Premier League goalscorers to have reached double digits and the youngest, just edging out Marcus Rashford.
5. Sergio Agüero
Club: Manchester City
Touches per goal: 34.89
Agüero started this season like a house on fire, Man City’s record scorer registered a goal in each of their opening six matches (eight goals). However, he would subsequently blank in five of the next six games before taking a trip to the physio room and they’ve missed him with points dropped against Newcastle and neighbours Man Utd.
4. Paco Alcácer
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Touches per goal: 33.6
Playing time has been scarce for Alcácer, but that’s nothing new for Borussia Dortmund’s number nine. That being said, he’s averaging one league goal every 103.6 minutes. If anything, it’s a reminder to boss Lucien Favre what he’s capable of.
3. Ciro Immobile
Touches per goal: 32.82
Where would Lazio be without Ciro Immobile? The Serie A outfit have so far registered 36 goals in the Italian championship with Immobile scoring just over half of those, 11 more than any other Lazio player. This comes despite Immobile averaging 41.78 touches per 90 minutes.
2. Jamie Vardy
Club: Leicester City
Touches per goal: 22
Jamie Vardy lives and breathes goals. No one could have envisaged him becoming an even better goalscorer north of 30, but here we are. Vardy’s Premier League record of scoring in 11 consecutive matches is under threat from himself now he’s scored in their last eight games.
1. Mauro Icardi
Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Touches per goal: 17.57
Vardy’s stat of averaging 22 touches per goal is topped by one man in Europe’s top five divisions. Mauro Icardi was deemed surplus to requirements at Inter Milan with PSG taking him in which has proven to be a success so far. His seven goals, scored with minimal fuss, have come across nine matches and whilst not being a guaranteed starter evert week, Icardi has proven to be ever-so reliable.