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AC Milan

Olivier Giroud and 10 of the game’s most under-appreciated strikers

Olivier Giroud is a Chelsea player no longer after completing his transfer to AC Milan last month, thus bringing his decade-long association with the Premier League to an end.

In just two and a half seasons at Stamford Bridge, Giroud scored 39 goals and laid on 14 assists in 119 appearances, winning two FA Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League.

The World Cup winner has reportedly cost Milan a transfer fee of just โ‚ฌ2 million, and he took roughly five minutes to start repaying the faith by scoring with his very first touch for the club in a preseason friendly against Nice on Saturday.

Giroud came off the bench in the 61st minute and headed home the equaliser in the 66th, as the latest custodian of Milan’s prized No. 9 shirt wasted precious little time opening his account.

In truth, the veteran target man has scored goals wherever he’s been, departing the Premier League having scored 90 goals in 255 appearances split between Chelsea and Arsenal. He has also amassed 117 caps for France and scored 46 goals. He also happens to be Les Bleus‘ second highest goal scorer of all time, with only Thierry Henry (51) having found the net more times for his country.

Giroud also won the Puskas Award in 2017, with his scorpion-kick goal for Arsenal against Crystal Palace being voted the best in the world in the previous 12 months.

And yet still Giroud remains underappreciated and unloved by a large number of football fans. But the results are undeniable and there for all to see.

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He’s not the only one either. In an age of generic attacking forwards milling about creating overlaps and overloads, the old-fashioned battering ram is a footballing anachronism. The out-and-out striker is not the commodity it once was.

While entirely subjective, there are a few high-scoring strikers out there playing in Europe’s top leagues who rarely seem to receive the kudos and adulation that many of their similarly prolific predecessors once did.

Operating in the considerable shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid for so long, it seemed to escape notice that Benzema still regularly passed the 20-goal mark in all competitions while his partner was racking up ridiculous half-centuries.

Indeed, the France striker has managed the feat in La Liga alone during each of the last three campaigns having found himself returned to the focal point of Los Blancos‘ attack once again.

Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan, 64 goals in 95 games)

Allowed to leave Manchester United after being accused of not offering enough up front, Lukaku has rebuilt his reputation at Inter chiefly by scoring vast rafts of goals and leading the line with formidable presence.

The Belgian scored 30 goals in 44 games and chipped in with 11 assists in his debut season at the Bianconeri, powering his new side to their first Serie A title in 11 years — yet still, he struggles to convince some onlookers of his merits.

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His name is hardly mentioned outside Italy, but Immobile has scored over 150 goals for Lazio since joining the club from Sevilla in 2016.

A hard-working striker of the “never say die” school, the 31-year-old covers more ground than most and has also provided 42 assists for his teammates in that same period of time.

Slightly ungainly at the best of times, Dzeko forged a reputation during his time at Man City for being able to score with almost any part of his flailing body.

He was also responsible for scoring City’s vital 92nd-minute equaliser against QPR on the final day of the 2011-12 season, though Sergio Aguero’s title-winning strike 120 seconds later somewhat stole the Bosnian’s thunder.

Since moving to Roma, Dzeko has finished as the club’s top goal scorer in four of the last five seasons, even rattling away a phenomenal 39 goals in all competitions in 2016-17. But the general perception remains that he’s not quite at the very highest level as a striker.

Mandzukic is without a club after seeing his short-term contract at AC Milan expire at the end of the 2020-21 season, with injuries limiting him to just 11 appearances.

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The 35-year-old Croatian forward has played for a succession of some of the biggest clubs in European football — Juventus, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, — but still hasn’t appeared able to fully muscle into the wider consciousness when it comes to discussing the top strikers of the past 10 years.

This despite scoring some vastly important goals for club and country in that time, including his sensational volley against Real Madrid in the 2016-17 Champions League final (which was nominated for the 2017 Puskas Award, only for Giroud to win) and the extra-time heartbreaker that knocked England out of the 2018 World Cup in the semifinals.

Aspas left the Premier League as something of a punchline following his fairly tepid stint at Liverpool, which fizzled out with a corner kick so momentously dreadful that is still spoken of (with a wince) to this day.

However, since returning to Spain, the striker has recaptured his form and scored well over 100 La Liga goals for Celta and finished as the club’s top marksman for six seasons on the spin — only to somehow miss out on a place in Spain’s Euro 2020 squad. Genuinely baffling.

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A comparatively late bloomer, Moreno didn’t play top-level football until he was 22, though since then he has established himself as one of the most productive strikers in La Liga.

Indeed, of all the players in the Spanish top flight, only Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (38 goals, 12 assists) was involved in more goals in all competitions than Moreno (29 goals, 10 assists) of Villarreal last season.

As far as individual output is concerned, that’s about as impressive as it gets. But few outside of Spain will really knew much about him before he was part of their Euro 2020 squad.

Alvaro Morata (Juventus, 20 goals in 40 games)

Often maligned and chastised for being prone to the odd inexplicable hash, there is a reason why Europe’s elite clubs keep signing Morata.

He leads the line well, occupies defenders, is extremely good in the air and has also proven himself in maintaining a perfectly respectable goal to game ratio throughout his career while peppering his portfolio with the occasional breath-taking wonder strike.

Consistent if not prolific, Wood continues to provide the lion’s share of Burnley’s league goals in the club’s continued efforts to punch well above their weight in the Premier League.

In the mould of Giroud, Wood specialises in making a nuisance of himself, engaging physically with defenders and finding pockets of space in the penalty area to operate in.

Wood has played in four Premier League seasons for the Clarets and scored more than 10 goals in all of them. As if to underline his importance, the New Zealand international also finished the 2020-21 campaign by either scoring or assisting 11 of his side’s final 14 league goals.

After struggling to make inroads at Liverpool due to issues with form and fitness, Ings was almost forced to start his career anew in the aftermath.

He signed for Burnley and scored 43 goals in 150 games before moving back home to Southampton, where his renaissance has been fully realised and he earned a recall to the England national team.

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With zeal and zip, Ings has mustered a near 1-in-2 goal to game ratio for the Saints since the start of the 2018-19 season.

The striker even managed to surpass the 20-goal mark in 2019-20, becoming only the third Southampton player ever to manage the feat in the Premier League, after Matthew Le Tissier and James Beattie.

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