Strikers often grab the headlines and the Premier League has been home to some truly great goalscorers in recent decades.
From classic number nines to more modern interpretations of the role, English football has been blessed with an abundance of stars capable of winning a game in an instant.
We’ve decided to pay tribute to some of the best strikers the division has seen, an ode to eight men who rank among the elite of the Premier League era.
Alan Shearer’s place among the Premier League’s pantheon of goalscorers is unquestioned, with the Geordie goal-machine the leading scorer in the league’s history.
Shearer signed for Blackburn Rovers from Southampton ahead of the Premier League’s inaugural campaign, as Jack Walker bankrolled a big spend to turn his hometown side into challengers. The arrival of Shearer proved to be inspired as the forward scored prolifically at Ewood Park, form which fired Blackburn to the Premier League title in 1994/95.
Shearer scored 112 goals in just 138 league appearances for Blackburn, a return which delivered two Golden Boots and PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards. He signed for Newcastle in a then-world record £15m deal in 1996 and added another Golden Boot and PFA gong during his debut campaign at St James’ Park.
Shearer spent a decade with his boyhood side and scored 206 goals in all competitions, surpassing Jackie Milburn’s long-standing record as the Magpies’ all-time leading goalscorer.
At his best Shearer was the benchmark in a division packed with quality number nines, a centre-forward who bullied defences and thundered in goals at a record-breaking rate.
When Thierry Henry arrived at Arsenal, the forward had reservations about his own ability to thrive in a central role. At the time of his departure eight seasons later, he did so with a record four Premier League Golden Boots and is recognised as arguably the finest footballer the division has seen.
Henry was far from a traditional number nine, but rather a template for the modern forward. Building on where the likes of George Weah and Ronaldo had gone before, Henry was a footballer not constrained to the opposition’s box, equally – and often – at home drifting wide and taking on defenders.
The Frenchman boasted electric pace, flawless technique and an ice-cold temperament, a combination which at his best saw Henry stand head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Defenders desperately attempted to stop the forward, but few succeeded as Arsenal’s talisman glided past challenges and scored a catalogue of stunning goals.
Henry scored a club-record 228 goals for Arsenal, of which 175 came in the Premier League. He could create too, including a single season record of 20 assists during the 2002/03 season.
Free-kicks, thumping efforts and trademark finessed efforts into the far corner were all part of the portfolio for Henry, who won two Premier League titles, two PFA Player of the Year awards, three FWA Footballer of the Year accolades and two European Golden Shoes. Simply unplayable at the peak of his powers.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Ruud van Nistelrooy can be an overlooked name when discussing the Premier League’s finest forwards, a result of his relatively shorter spell in English football and failure to reach the fabled 100 club required for endless montages of goals scored.
For five seasons at Manchester United however, Van Nistelrooy was a phenomenon.
The Dutchman arrived from PSV Eindhoven in 2001 after an initial transfer had been delayed due to a knee issue and wasted no time in proving there were no ill-effects from his time out. He scored 36 goals in all competitions during his first season, a return which saw Red Devils recruit named as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
The following season got even better for Van Nistelrooy, whose 44 goals set a then-Premier League record for a single campaign. He won the Premier League’s Golden Boot as Manchester United overhauled Arsenal to win the title, with their talisman scoring in each of the final eight games of the season.
🇳🇱 Ruud van Nistelrooy = great goalscorer (56 goals in 73 games)…
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) June 3, 2020
He was also exceptional in Europe, ending as the Champions League’s leading scorer three times in four seasons between 2002 and 2005.
Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in just 219 games for United, with 95 coming in the league. His record of 0.63 goals-per-game in the Premier League is the highest in the club’s history, ahead of Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Wayne Rooney’s arrival remains arguably the most exciting emergence of the Premier League era, when the fresh-faced teenager stunned the division at Everton.
Rooney introduced himself as a 16-year-old with a sensational last-minute winner to defeat defending champions Arsenal, a goal which demonstrated the hype was real. From there he continued to star, shining for England at the 2004 European Championship to earn a £27m move to Manchester United.
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 29, 2016
A hat-trick on debut against Fenerbahce indicated that the sky was the limit for a teenage Rooney, who fearlessly took on and troubled the world’s finest when barely out of school. Rooney was a whirlwind of aggression and street-footballer technique in his younger years, caring little for reputation and backing himself against the best. His latter career saw his game become more refined, including a spell in midfield.
He went on to spend 13 seasons at Manchester United, a period which brought five Premier League titles and the Champions League among a wealth of honours.
Rooney remains one of just two English players to have won it all at club level, having also lifted the FA Cup, League Cup (3), Europa League, Club World Cup and Community Shield (4).
Manchester United’s record goalscorer with 253 goals, he is one of just three players to have scored 200+ goals in the Premier League and the only player to reach 200+ goals and 100+ assists.
If asked to select one centre-forward from the Premier League era to deliver on the big occasion, there would arguably be no better answer than Didier Drogba.
Drogba was so often decisive when it mattered most for Chelsea, during a career with the club that saw the Ivorian powerhouse win four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and the Champions League.
Drogba was the hero of that latter triumph with a crucial late equaliser and the winning spot-kick in the final win over Bayern Munich, as Chelsea were crowned champions of Europe for the first time.
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 6, 2022
Having overcome a difficult start in the Premier League that saw him criticised for theatrics, Drogba developed into Chelsea’s talisman as a one-man forward line, shrugging off defenders with strength and speed as lone forwards became the norm. Add in ridiculous technique and a relenting will to change the narrative of the biggest games and it was a potent combination.
A two-time winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot, he compiled an astonishing record in cup finals with nine goals in 10 finals.
Manchester City beat competition from Europe’s leading clubs to sign Sergio Aguero in 2011 and the forward needed just 30 minutes to confirm the £34m fee was money well spent.
Aguero’s debut in the division was explosive as he came off the bench to score twice – including one scorching effort from distance – and create another with an outrageous assist for David Silva.
His debut season ended with 23 league goals, including the most iconic of the Premier League era as his stoppage-time winner against QPR snatched the title for Manchester City in the most dramatic of circumstances on the final weekend.
The goals continued to flow freely, with Aguero a prominent figure in City’s rise to become the most dominant team of the last decade. The Argentine scored a club record 260 goals in 390 appearances, 184 of which came in the Premier League. No overseas star has ever scored more.
Aguero’s electric acceleration and low centre of gravity made him almost impossible to stop, with his sharp shifts to find shooting space often followed with predictable results. A five-time title winner and Manchester City icon, he ranks among the greatest imports the Premier League has seen.
Luis Suarez’s inclusion on this list is a testament to the impact he made in a significantly shorter period than those above.
Suarez spent just three-and-a-half seasons in the Premier League, a period which saw the Uruguayan evolve into one of world’s football’s biggest stars. Signed with a growing reputation from Ajax, Suarez initially took time to settle at Liverpool and to repeat the prolific form shown in the Eredivise.
He scored 21 goals across his first 18 months in English football, before exploding at Liverpool. The 2012/13 campaign saw Suarez net 30 in all competitions for the Reds, before a sensational 2013/14 which saw Suarez stand clear as the Premier League’s finest talent.
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 31, 2021
Despite missing the first five games of the season through suspension, he scored 31 league goals – none of which came from the penalty spot – and provided another 12 assists as Liverpool narrowly missed out on the title. His performances earned Suarez a clean sweep of individual accolades at the season’s end, claiming the PFA Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Golden Boot.
Tenacious, technical, controversial and compelling, his time in English football was box-office viewing.
Alan Shearer’s record as the Premier League’s leading scorer had been labelled untouchable, until Harry Kane came along.
Kane burst onto the scene at Tottenham with 21 league goals during the 2014/15 and soon shedded the one-season wonder tag with a career of incredible consistency.
Kane has scored a club record 280 goals in all competitions for Tottenham and is the only player in Premier League history to score 30+goals in multiple 38-game seasons.
The 29-year-old has 213 goals in the Premier League and is chasing down Shearer’s record, with the three-time Golden Boot winner having evolved into one of the most well-rounded forwards of the Premier League era. Kane boasts near-flawless technique when striking the ball off either foot and is more than capable in the air, setting a new record with 10 headed goals in a single season in 2022/23.
Recent years have also seen Kane develop into an exceptional creator, leading the league for both goals and assists in 2020/21 to reinforce his reputation as one of the world’s best. Tottenham and England’s all-time record scorer, the Premier League record is within real reach for a forward who has scored 15+ goals in nine straight seasons.