11 of football’s greatest goalpoachers: Inzaghi, Lineker, Van Nistelrooy…
The term goalpoacher is rarely used as a compliment, but some of the best teams in the world have used a fox in the box as their focal point over the years.
Centre-forwards are expected to do much more than simply put the ball in the back of the net these days, but there has always been something endearing about watching a player who’s primary concern is personal glory.
Here are some of the greatest from the past 30 years…
“Look, he can’t play football at all, he just knows how to get in the right place.” Johan Cruyf probably didn’t mean this as a compliment, but with over 300 career goals, three Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues and a World Cup to his name, it’s unlikely Inzaghi cares.
His managers didn’t seem to mind too much about his apparent lack of technical ability either. “No great team should be without this kind of killer striker,” Carlo Ancelotti once said.
Inzaghi might not have been a world-class player, but he was definitely a world-class goalscorer.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
As Steven Chicken noted in his tribute to the former Manchester United striker, watching back Van Nistelrooy’s goals for the Red Devils is almost hypnotic as he manages to repeat the same trick time after time.
The Dutchman’s specialty involved taking the ball as close as possible to the goal before somehow squeezing it past the goalkeeper just as the chance seemed lost.
Proving the point that these kind of players rarely thrive these days – at least at the very top level – Hernandez scored plenty of goals for Manchester United and on loan at Real Madrid but failed to establish himself as first choice for either club.
He then scored 39 goals in 76 games for Bayer Leverkusen to leave Premier League fans wondering why he was allowed to leave in the first place, only for his return to England with West Ham to remind everyone of his deficiencies.
However, that’s not what we’re bothered about. Chicharito scores goals, lots and lots of goals. And for that reason, no matter what else he does or doesn’t do, he’ll always have managers queuing up to sign him.
A polarising figure nowadays – to put it kindly – but Owen was one of the most thrilling goalscorers in world football during his ridiculously young pomp, winning the Ballon d’Or when he was still only 22.
Owen’s career went on to be blighted by injuries, but in his Liverpool heyday the striker hit at least 20 goals in five of his seven full seasons at Anfield, only falling one short in 2003-04.
One of the greatest examples of how spoilt for choice England were in terms players to lead the line during the 90s. Cole still sits third in the list of the top goalscorers in the history of the Premier League with 187 goals, yet he only earned 15 caps for his country over six years, scoring only once.
Between 1992 and 2006, Cole failed to reach double figures in a single campaign just twice.
Famed as much for his sense of humour as his goalscoring exploits – the striker once arrived late for a meeting with Rangers chairman Sir David Murray only to declare: “Sorry, Mr Chairman, but this is the earliest I have been late for some time” – McCoist thrived in the role of ‘small man’ in his big-man-small-man partnership with Mark Hateley.
After a disappointing spell with Sunderland, McCoist returned north of the border to become Rangers’ record goalscorer at a time when the SPL was flooded with top quality talent.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Not only one of the Premier League’s greatest super subs, Solskjaer will always be famed as a fox in the box.
There is no greater example of both than the 1999 Champions League final when he pounced inside the six-yard area in injury time to fire Manchester United to a dramatic victory.
Revered as the ultimate gentleman due to his unblemished disciplinary record, Lineker was nonetheless deadly in front of goal, scoring over 300 goals for club and country, including an El Clasico hat-trick and six goals at Mexico 86 to become the only English player to win the Golden Boot at a World Cup.
The former Everton, Tottenham and Barcelona hitman perfected the art so much so that his production company is called Goalhanger Films Ltd.
Just watch all 16 of Klose’s goals at World Cup tournaments, it is an absolute masterclass in the dark arts of goalpoaching.
Nobody has scored more goals at a World Cup, yet not a single effort comes from further out than the penalty spot, with an extremely unscientific calculation suggesting the 16 goals came from a cumulative distance of 105 yards out, at an average of 6.6 yards per goal.
“Arsenal have needed a natural goalscorer since Ian Wright and now they’ve got one,” Paul Merson told Goal after the Gunners completed the signing of Alexandre Lacazette earlier this summer.
Thierry Henry and Robin Van Persie may take umbrage with that quote, but it speaks volumes about Wright’s relentless habit of putting the ball in the back of the net, becoming the north Londoners’ record goalscorer before a certain Frenchman came and took that honour away from him.
Modern football has a strange relationship with strikers whose only use is forcing the ball home over the line. Huntelaar is nicknamed ‘The Hunter’ for a reason, but he never quite fit in during his biggest chances at Real Madrid and AC Milan.
Even so, with 309 goals in 533 appearances, the Dutchman has been prolific for the tier of clubs below, scoring 36 goals in consecutive seasons for Ajax and bagging 48 in 48 games for Schalke in 2011-12.