Whilst reading blogs over the last 10 years or so, the term ’20 Goal a Season Striker’ has come up a lot in the context of what every club needs. In recent times I have read Newcastle blogs, where you get some of the most unrealistic fans ever saying “all we need is a 20 goal a season striker” – and it has got me thinking, are those a thing of the past? Just how many strikers really do score 20 a season?
Well, to start with I took a look at the top 5 leagues in Europe (there maybe some debate over that) – England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy. I then took a look at the 2013/14 stats, and exactly how many strikers achieved that 20 goal magic number. To my surprise – there were only 10!
- Luis Suarez – 31
- Cristiano Ronaldo – 31
- Lionel Messi – 28
- Diego Costa – 27
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 26
- Ciro Immobile – 22
- Daniel Sturridge – 21
- Yaya Toure – 20
- Luca Toni – 20
- Robert Lewandowski – 20
Now, bar the likes of Toni, who is in his mid 30’s and is a great finisher, the common denominator is all of those will cost between £30m and £200m to buy, maybe more with Bale, Ronaldo and Messi. Suarez has recently moved for £75m, Lewandowski for Free due to his contract situation, but last summer Dortmund could have sold for £20m plus, but instead they realised he would be worth losing for free because he would win them a lot of prize money, and they were proven right.
Look at the 5 Champions – Man City, At Madrid, PSG, Juventus and Bayern – only 3 had at least one striker who scored 20 or more. Juventus and Bayern did not have one who scored 20+, but instead had two or three that scored between 13/14 and 19. Tevez and Llorente scored 36 between them, with Arturo Vidal chipping in with over 10. Mario Mandzukic only scored 18, but Robben, Gotze, Muller and Ribery all added countless goals. In France, Monaco finished 2nd and none of their players scored more than 15 – with Falcao injured the likes of Riviere and Rodriguez did their bit, with a tight defence proving very useful. Man City ended up with a midfielder scoring 20 in Yaya Toure, and their two main forwards scored 16 or 17 – Dzeko and Aguero.
A point well made – a good defence is key. At Liverpool, Suarez and Sturridge scored a combined 52, but thanks to massive errors, they lost the title. A common theme throughout the leagues were that having 2/3 strikers/forwards who contributed 13-19 goals proved better than having one who scored them all. Torino and Verona were dependant on Immobile and Toni, and both waivered their chances of Europa League football when they didn’t fire every game (it now turns out Torino did get into the Europa League after Parma were banned..). Teams like Sociedad did well with the likes of Vela and Griezmann both scoring 16 each – although Barcelona failed with Messi getting 28, Sanchez 19 and Pedro 15 – another argument for a solid defence.
The hard, cold facts these day suggest that you could pay £30m+ for a striker, and it will not guarantee 20 goals. Looks at the ones who did not achieve 20 this season – Cavani, Aguero, Llorente, Rooney, Benzema, Tevez, Higuain, Balotelli…and so on. All of those cost their respective teams in excess of £15-20m plus, in some cases. The chances of signing a player capable of bagging 20+ a season is slim to none. You would have to pay nutty amounts of money to even try.
The best bet for teams is to get two or three that are capable of scoring 15-19, that way if one fails, there are another two to take up the mantle. This summer I have seen the likes of Southampton, West Brom, Fulham and more shell out in the region of £10-15m on decent players who have done the business in other leagues such as Holland and Ukraine, but these are players that may fail to reach double figures. Nowadays you have to pay £15m+ just to get a player who can hit double figures. Players mentioned above who didn’t hit 20 are deemed ‘World Class’, and those sort of players only want to play for the top teams, because only the top teams can afford them. West Ham forked out £15m on Enner Valencia, who is naturally not a striker – that is the sort of risk some are taking – a player who averages 1 in 4, in a good season. Idiotic from the Hammers.
For 80% of first division football teams, they can forget thinking they can sign a 20 goal a season striker, they are much better off simply finding 2 that can reach double figures, and hope the midfielders chip in, because when it comes to strikers the money is ridiculous. And even if they do stumble upon a gem, the bigger teams will take them off you. The best bet is finding rough diamonds and giving them a chance.
To add some context to the rarity of 20 goal a season strikers, think about this. In the 5 leagues we have analysed, there are 20 teams in each, 18 in Germany. 98 teams, and on average each team will have 4 strikers (some have more, some less, so lets call it 4 per team). So that is 392 strikers, and only 10 scored 20 or more (and one of those was a midfielder)…so technically 9.
So, if my numbers are correct, around 2.5% of strikers in the top 5 leagues in Europe score 20 goals a season. That’s how rare such Forwards are. So the next time a mate of yours is saying ‘We could do with a 20 goal-a-season striker’ – just tell him that. Such strikers are gold-dust!