Golden strikers lose the magic touch?

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Last season, two strikers shared the coveted Premier League Golden Boot award, notching 20 goals each for their respective sides.

Manchester United had signed Dimitar Berbatov, a classy forward from Tottenham Hotspur, for a reported £30 million in 2008. His style and skill was unquestioned, although concerns over his effort levels have always followed the Bulgarian.

The same can't be said of Carlos Tevez, whose terrier-like style made him a firm fans' favourite at Old Trafford before making the controversial switch to the Etihad Stadium a year later.

Hailed by the Citizens after making the cross-town move, Tevez was a catalyst for the club's rise towards the very top of the table. He struck 23 league goals in 35 games during his first season, before slotting another 20 in 28 appearances last term.

That tied him alongside Berbatov, who reached his mark in 32 matches, and did so with the help of hat-tricks against Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as five in the rout of Blackburn.

But these stunning runs of form have not been followed up this season. Both have been unable to hold down places at their club, although for different reasons, as has been quite publicly shown.

For Berbatov, competition has been so fierce this season within the Red Devils camp that he's featured just ten times. Only five of those appearances have been starts.

And yet, the former Bayer Leverkusen forward has scored seven goals during those limited opportunities, with a strike rate at close to 50% having taken just 15 shots.

With 10 goals in 21 games in all competitions, it's not a case of Berbatov's form suddenly going south - he simply can't get a place in the side.

Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck are currently the favoured combination for Sir Alex Ferguson. Last season, Welbeck wasn't even in contention, on loan at Sunderland.

Javier Hernandez also appears in-front of the 31-year-old in the substitute stakes also, with the Mexican international also enjoying a fine debut campaign last year and of a different ilk to his rangy teammate.

As for Tevez, his troubles are a little more complicated, but again stem from falling out of first team favour at his club.

The arrival of Sergio Aguero was heralded as a chance to create an Argentine attack that would strike fear into Premier League clubs. But, with Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli in the ranks, things were never going to be simple.

And, with just one league start and two substitute appearances in the top flight, things boiled over in Munich, as Tevez and Mancini very publicly aired their differences whilst on the bench at the Allianz Arena.

Tevez quickly went from hero to zero, with the captain's armband no longer in his possession and the fans no longer on his side. An exile in Argentina has followed, with a training ground return scheduled for today.

It's unlikely that everyone will play happy families from the off, although Mancini has offered an olive-branch and the players are willing to welcome the 28-year-old back for action.

Further appearances this season remains up for debate, but Tevez will just be hoping for one goal in the campaign, rather than reaching 21 and surpassing last term's total.

So is this Golden Boot scenario a flash in the pan, or a realistic problem of under-performing after winning the award.

In America, 'the Madden theory' has emerged in more recent times, with the suggestion that when a player is on the cover of the much-loved NFL computer game, they have a bad season the following year. Could a similar scenario be the case in England?

In the Premier League era, 16 different players have either won or shared the Golden Boot, starting with Teddy Sheringham at Tottenham. He suffered an injury the following season, but still scored 14 goals in 19 games and went on to hit double figures in the following two campaigns.

Andy Cole and Alan Shearer enjoyed similar successes, although Cole never matched the 34 goals he hit in the 1993/94 season.

Shearer won the award three years in a row, before Chris Sutton, Dion Dublin and Michael Owen shared it in 1997/98. It was easily Dublin's finest season, whilst Sutton struggled dramatically in the next two campaigns before moving to Celtic.

As for Owen, his consistency led to a similar situation the following year, again scoring 18 goals and sharing the award with two players - Dwight Yorke and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Yorke actually scored more goals the following season, whilst Hasselbaink scooped the award again in the 2000-01 campaign. Kevin Phillips sat between the pair though, scoring 30 in 36 games for Sunderland. He's always been prolific.

Thierry Henry won it the following year, before Ruud Van Nistelrooy pipped him to the award the next term. Henry wouldn't make it a losing habit though, winning for three consecutive seasons between 2003 and 2006.

Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo were the next two winners - I need not explain their blistering form in the seasons that followed, with Drogba winning again in 2009-10.

Nicolas Anelka scooped the award the year before though, and managed to hit double figures the following year before struggling last season and again this. It led to his exit last month.

And that brings us to Tevez and Berbatov, the most recent winners of the award. Both have all the attributes to be not just one of the Premier League's best strikers, but the world's.

Whilst neither are young, they still have years left in the tank and clearly need first team football to increase their chances. Berbatov, at least, has shown he's still got the eye for goal.

The jury remains out on Tevez at City, and realistically a move away from the club might be the best long-term solution for all parties. If he leaves the English top flight, it will be a major loss for football in this country.

The same is true of Berbatov, who was linked with a move away from Old Trafford in January. Ferguson dismissed the speculation though, with United set to take up an addition one-year option on the player's contract, which would expire in the summer.

As the previous winners of the award have shown, you don't have to be brilliant the following season to enjoy future success in the division. Providing they stay in the country, they both have plenty more to offer in the coming years.

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Dimitar Berbatov
Manchester City
Carlos Tevez
Premier League
Manchester United

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