ABHISHEK DASH |18th December 2019

On paper, the forward has one simple duty: to find space and score goals. But over the period of modernization the beautiful game has gone through, we’ve seen the rise of mavericks over these past 10 years who have risen far beyond their ranks to be the best at what they do; entertaining us with a show of will and skill rarely seen on a football pitch. Keeping this sentiment alive, More Than A Game presents the top 10 forwards of the decade and counting

10. Edinson Cavani

The second Uruguayan on our list, Edinson Cavani created purpose through his grit, determination and knack of scoring match-winning goals at Napoli. The lanky frontman has been a beast at both domestic and international level as he has bulldozed his way into hearts and minds of Paris fans and neutrals worldwide. The Uruguay vice-captain has seen most of his career spent at PSG, where he’s constantly been in the discussion for ending up as the top-scorer in Ligue 1.

A classic no. 9, Cavani finds space where there is none and much like his sniper celebration, he also is a cool customer when it comes to keeping his head down and firing in mountains of goals, scoring 291 in 352 career matches and is still going strong at the age of 32.

9. Karim Benzema

The man whose presence was rarely felt but desperately needed during Madrid’s era of Champions League dominance, the thankless creator and scorer of many important goals for Los Blancos is one of the best strikers of all time in club football and has been inexplicably frozen out of the national setup.

The 31-year-old stalwart differs from the general norm that a target man follows; staying up the pitch and asking for the ball. Instead, he involves himself in the build-up with excellent movement and creates space with his passing, scoring a fantastic 282 goals in 467 matches, rightly presenting himself as our 9th ranked forward on the list; considering Karim Benzema is a player who redefined the limits of a No. 9 on the pitch.

8. Harry Kane

The lad from London is much beyond what the stats show. A natural leader and ferocious predator on the pitch, the England international has 32 goals in just 45 caps, an exceptionally healthy return and is a truly sensational talent. Being the future of the Three Lions and a centrepiece of Mauricio Pochettino’s brilliant Tottenham side before the Argentine was shown the door, Kane has also captained at both levels and is a technically gifted target man.

Having been on the Premier League top scoring charts since he burst on to the scene out of nowhere at White Hart Lane, Kane is only 26, and only time will tell how many more goals he adds to his 195-career tally in 275 matches.

Can Harry Kane surpass Alan Shearer’s record of 260 goals in the Premier League? Only time will tell, but doubt him at your own peril.

7. Eden Hazard

Joining Chelsea in 2012 at an age where most youngsters, academy players or otherwise are made to stagnate on loan, the-then 22-year-old Belgian made the left-wing his own, with his deft touch and magical feet doing the talking for him.

His golden years at Stamford Bridge and in the Belgian national side soon unfolded as Hazard unleashed himself and quickly became the first name on either team sheet, (under four different managers, no less) culminating in 148 career goals, multiple Ballon D’Or nominations and a move to Real Madrid. The oldest of the well-known Hazard brothers, Eden is still only 28 and is surely to shine after finding his footing at the Spanish capital.

6. Sergio Agüero

The third (but not the last) Argentinian on this list, saying our controversial inclusion, ranked at just 6th place has been successful regardless of what dressing room he has been present in is a gross understatement. Consistency is key, and few others understand this better than Kun Agüero, as the 31-year-old has lit the streets of Manchester on fire for the last 9 years, scoring boatloads of goals and none more decisive than his last-gasp winner against QPR to hand Manchester City their first league title in 2012 after a 44-year long wait, instantly entering English football folklore from then on.

Equally lethal on the domestic and international front, his numbers don’t portray the full story as Agüero is praised for his versatility, depth of knowledge, movement in the final third and of course, his keen eye for the six-yard strike. The striker has scored 294 goals in 504 career games, which is astonishing if you look at the average, 1.71 goals/game.

Sergio Agüero has been different gravy over the past decade and is perhaps one of the most clinical strikers to grace the game in the modern era.

5. Neymar Jr.

Despite his vast number of injury layoffs and controversial statements and actions, there is no denying that on his day, Neymar Jr. is a generational talent and a truly rare prodigy in an age where talent is earmarked as genius-level too quickly. The 28-year-old Brazilian captain stormed to the scene as a skinny youngster at Santos FC, winning a Puskás award for a goal where he blitzed from the midway point to the six-yard box and put it in the back of the net before anybody could cheer in celebration, announcing himself to the world in true Neymar fashion.

A world which included scouts from Barcelona, who spent no time dilly-dallying as they pounced upon the forward, signing him as one of their record transfers. He spent no time in pleasantries, forming a partnership with a certain Argentinian and Uruguayan duo and taking La Liga hostage; giving birth to the iconic ‘MSN’ triumvirate.

After leaving for PSG, Neymar is showing no signs of stopping his career tally of 234 goals and 145 assists in 389 matches as he pushes for a Champions League title to bring to the French capital.

4. Luis Suárez

Luis Suárez is nothing short of pure talent and footballing intelligence working in harmony. A walking goal-machine since his early days at Ajax, the Uruguayan striker has been sheer magic to watch as he both creates and scores out of thin air, never giving opposition defenders any oxygen as he hounds them into making mistakes.

After leaving a depleted Liverpool side in 2015, Suárez has taken his game to new heights since joining Barcelona, showing that underneath all the wrongdoing and controversy is a cyborg whose sole purpose in life is to put the ball in the back of the net. As of now, the 31-year-old’s career tally sits at a hardly believable 409 goals in 609 games.

Yes, he’s real. And he’s on the prowl.

3. Robert Lewandowski

The only person in the world who can possibly be better on his day than the Uruguayan goal-magnet is Polish-born footballing masterpiece that is Robert Lewandowski; the definition of a classical target forward. Born in Warsaw, but we suspect it could be a gene manipulation factory, the 31-year-old Poland captain has seen it all and done it all, scoring almost at will and with an air of royalty. Lewa has truly found his footing at Bayern Munich after a controversial move from Borussia Dortmund, although no one will forget his dismantling of Real Madrid in his Dortmund days in a hurry.

“Addicted to scoring goals” in his own words, it is really hard not to believe that statement, looking at this Polish superhuman when one goes through his numbers, which stand at 311 goals in just 381 games.

In fact, the only thing that puts him above Luis Suárez is his animalistic scoring rate. You can read that again.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

If there has ever been a formulaic concoction for brute physicality, elegant technique and unwavering willpower working equally effectively together, Cristiano Ronaldo is probably better than said concoction.

Born in 1985, the boy from the island of Madeira has won it all, including five Ballon d’Or’s and a cabinet full of domestic and international trophies, only short of the elusive FIFA World Cup in his long, long career up until now. Marrying strength with a Russian ballerina-like presence, the Portugal captain is a nigh unexplainable phenomenon who saw his talent and sheer graft take him from Lisbon to Manchester en route to Madrid and finally, Turin, scoring 596 goals in 700 matches and defying age, belief and physics along his way.

Such is his presence that when he left Real Madrid after 9 long years of service in 2018, truly replacing his hole of a presence has been a fool’s endeavour so far for the La Liga giants.

Cristiano is greatness personified, and there is no one else we could have included in this spot, leaving but one more for a certain Argentine.

1.Lionel Messi

Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini, better known just as Leo amongst his, dare I say, worshippers worldwide, is a presence that is much like a god, in that he’s elusive by nature but his presence is something that can’t be helped but felt, a luxury that the world avails on account of a signature on a singular napkin we’re all now grateful for.

The 32-year-old Barcelona and Argentinian national team captain has won six Ballon d’Or’s and has a houseful of trophies that he has hoarded like a Victorian pirate, scoring at will and with a leisurely top gear that is astonishing to watch, no matter if you’re fan or neutral. Scoring 564 goals in just 480 matches, it is testament to his ability of scoring goals and turning the tide in favour of the Camp Nou faithful who have spent the last 14 years cheering him on and basking in the glory of the man they call La Pulga Atomica.

Best of the Rest

Antoine Griezmann

Helping his national side to a World Cup in 2018, 28-year-old French forward, Antoine Griezmann has been in the top scorer charts in La Liga for most of the decade, scoring 180 goals in 392 games, and like another Frenchman on this list has missed out by a hair width, with all due respect to his impact on the game.

Rising from Real Sociedad, Griezmann became a prolific goalscorer at Atlético Madrid, where he came incredibly close to many personal and team honours until Barcelona came calling. Much like Hazard, he is expected to blossom further after settling in at the Camp Nou.

Gonzalo Higuaín

El Pipita has had a sterling career which has seen him rise from the commercial barrio of Nuñez to the lush greens of Madrid, where he joined as a sprightly, lithe 20-year-old with an eye for goal and a sixth sense for jabbing them in, day in and day out. Surprisingly surplus to requirements after Real couldn’t possibly fit all of their forwards in one formation, young Higuaín took his talents to Naples where he went from a potentially wasted talent to the single best striker in Serie A. At the time, with Juventus coming calling a few seasons on, spending a then-record €90 million on the Argentine, showing the kind of faith the Turin club rarely bestows.

Recent seasons have seen a dip in form for the France-born striker, with his international performance also coming under scrutiny and failed loan spells at Chelsea and Milan, but on his day, this 32-year old is simply a goa- machine with his 225 career strikes in 356 matches.

Raheem Sterling

Along with Harry Kane, 26-year-old Sterling has epitomised what it means to be the modern English forward and is brilliance personified on and off the pitch, with his 116 goals and 105 assists in 366 games, working hand-in-hand with a strong presence in the social media spectrum, working towards tolerance and fairness in football and the fight against blatant racism in the sport.

The England international has also captained his nation and is one of the most important players under Pep Guardiola’s high-flying, dominating Manchester City setup.

Alexis Sanchez

Although the Chilean has seen his foothold on the top of European football face a steep decline, there’s no two opinions about it, Alexis Sanchez is magic to watch in full flow, a great scorer and a scorer of great goals. Also, to be noted is his prowess at both domestic level with Barça and Arsenal, and international level with Chile, save from the disaster spell at Manchester United.

He captained his side to the 2015 Copa America, beating Lionel Messi’s Argentine juggernaut in the final.

Sanchez’s downfall is only temporary, we hope, and the 31-year-old is expected to add to his 161 goals in 369 games before he winds down his career.