Football Features

Target men, link men & pure goalscorers: The strikers to watch this summer transfer window

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 10:16, 14 June 2022

It’s been a wild summer 2022 for strikers and we’re only two weeks into June!

The transfer window has only been officially open a few days and already three of the four best strikers in the world have clarified their future. Kylian Mbappé has rebuffed Real Madrid and signed a new contract with PSG, Erling Haaland moved to Manchester City and Robert Lewandowski has repeatedly stated his desire to leave Bayern Munich and play for Barcelona.

What’s so exciting about summer 2022 is there’s still plenty of great goal-getters on the transfer market, ready to move and star for a new team. With that in mind we’ve had a look at the three main striker types: target men, link men and pure goalscorers, and come up with a handful of names, some familiar and some not, you should be looking at this summer.

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The Target Man

Plenty of sides play with target men: big bodies in attack that win long balls, challenge for crosses and generally cause havoc in the skies. The advantages of these kind of strikers is obvious: direct football often catches defenders unawares and a physically dominant striker is a fantastic way to destabilise even the most organised of defences.

Looking around the top seven leagues in Europe (the traditional top five plus Portugal and the Netherlands) there are a few interesting names to pay attention to.

Serhou Guirassy

The 6’2″ Guinea international helped Rennes finish fourth in Ligue 1. While he wasn’t the club’s first-choice striker, playing just 1,000 minutes on the season, he was involved in all but one game and racked up an impressive 3.42 aerial duels won per 90 minutes and had 0.9 headed shots on goal per n90 as well. At 26, he is entering his prime and could be set for a breakout season should a savvy club pick him up and punt the ball up to him.

Enes Unal

Unal played a mammoth 2,809 minutes for Getafe last season and won an impressive 4.68 aerial duels per 90 while also attempting 4.39 flick-ons and having 0.8 headed shots at goal. Unal also scored a very impressive 16 goals in total as he almost single-handedly kept the Madrid side in the Spanish top flight.

Milan Djuric

At 32 years old, Djuric has definitely seen better days and really isn’t much of a goalscorer (he had just 5 all season) but if you’re looking for a big body to bounce the ball off they don’t come much bigger. Standing 6’5″, the Bosnian won a ridiculous 10.06 aerial duels per 90 last season and made 8.32 flick-ons as well.

Sasa Kalajdzic

Another gigantic human is Sasa Kalajdzic. The Austrian international spent the first half of the season out with injury but at 6’6″ he is a fiend in the air with a ridiculous 1.33 headed shots at goal per 90. At just 24 here is a potential killer target man should he make the right move. West Ham, what do you say?

Moussa Dembélé

Moussa Dembélé is probably the standout name in terms of target men, however. The Lyon forward isn’t exactly a trade secret for his sheer goalscoring skill. He’s not much for flick-ons but 0.98 headed shots at goal plus 0.86 goals per 90 (21 overall) in a decaying Lyon side is very impressive. He’s 25 years old and now is the time for a big move.


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The Link Man

Since Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi revolutionised the world at Barcelona with the False No.9, what used to be strictly “second strikers” or even attacking midfielders can now be deployed up-front by themselves (but not always) as pure link men. Pressing and passing fiends.

Vangelis Pavlidis

Vangelis Pavlidis of AZ had what can only be described as a breakout season. He joined AZ from Willem II a year ago and scored 14 goals in 30 Eredivisie games. The 23-year-old Greek international has won possession in the attacking third 0.98 times, made 1.89 lay-offs and while his xA is low at 0.13, what’s great about Pavlidis is that he’s a bit of a target man too with 3.69 aerial duels won per 90, 2.27 flick-ons attempted and 0.82 headed shots at goal. He’s a real all-around forward who someone very smart is going to sign soon.

Mu’nas Dabbur

The 30-year-old plays for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, having spent three years at Red Bull Salzburg earlier in his career. So already his pressing bonafides are clear and sure enough he’s won possession in the attacking third 0.96 times per 90 minutes. as well as attempted a massive 0.55 through balls and generated 0.22 xA. He’s only scored three goals but if goals aren’t a massive concern, he could help.

Christopher Nkunku

Christopher Nkunku is the shining light of the link men, however. The Frenchman has had a sensational season in the Bundesliga, scoring 20 goals on the season (only Lewandowski, Haaland and Patrik Schick scored more) but he was not Leipzig’s line-leader. No.

Nkunku occupies pockets of space in and around a No. 9 and attempted 1.58 lay-offs per 90 last season, which we also saw when France played Denmark and his lovely backheel freed Karim Benzema to work his magic and score. Nkunku has won possession in the attacking third 0.72 times per 90 and has 0.33 in xA. The very best sides in Europe want him and it’s easy to see why.

Pure Goalscorers

Sometimes all you want is someone to, quite simply, score an avalanche of goals. To hang around up top, be off the shoulder of the last defender, and stick the ball in the back of the net. Other traits are obviously wanted, but goal-getting is key.

Raul de Tomas

Raul de Tomas may play with his initials on the back of his shirt but don’t let that put you off. The Spaniard is a lethal finisher, bagging 17 goals this season (0.52 per 90) for an awful Espanyol side that only just avoided relegation. He could surely be picked up for a reasonable fee by an ambitious European side and, with better team-mates, could do great things.


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Evanilson

The 22 year-old Brazilian had himself a great title-winning season with Porto, bagging 14 times to leave him second top-scorer for his side. He took 0.22 shots from one-on-ones, indicating how often he’s in a great goalscoring position. Moreover, his 0.62 goals per 90 came from an xG of 0.66 so he’s reasonably clinical.

Mehdi Taremi

Porto’s top-scorer? Mehdi Taremi. The 29 year-old Persian icon scored 20 times (0.74 per 90) as Porto won the title. Both will be on the market, as Porto’s players always are.

Lois Openda

Over in the Netherlands Openda had a breakout season, going from 10 goals to 19 for Vitesse Arnheim snd taking 0.12 shots from one-on-ones as well as getting caught offside 0.89 times per 90. He’s always attacking space and getting better at doing so; put him in a better side and he could explode.

Lautaro Martinez

Of course you can’t talk about strikers on the move without mentioning Lautaro Martinez. The Argentine is a world-class superstar already but Inter Milan’s financial situation is so perilous that they may be forced into selling the man that has scored 0.82 goals per 90 from an xG of 0.86 (that’s 21 goals overall). It would be bad news for Inter, for sure, but any side able to pick Lautaro up would be getting a phenomenal talent who, at 24 years of age, is ready to explode into the prime of his career.

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