Stats alone don’t make a great player, but they certainly must be taken into account when discussing and deciding who are the top players in European and World football.
La Liga sensations Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are in a league of their own at the current time, but neither the Portuguese winger or Argentine playmaker would be classed as an out-an-out striker.
But, a quick glance across the channel shows the Olivier Giroud is banging in the goals for Montpellier, as his stock rapidly rises in Ligue 1. However, the French international will need to match his 17-goal tally again over the next few seasons in the league to be regarded as one of the best.
In Spain, amidst the greatness of Ronaldo and Messi stands some pretty good strikers, although David Villa’s leg break asks questions over his ability when he returns to the fold at Barcelona.
Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain are fighting for a starting spot with Los Blancos, let alone the title of European football’s best striker, whilst Fernando Llorente is surely destined for bigger-and-better things with Athletic Bilbao or beyond. His time may come.
But in Germany, often regarded as the fifth best league in Europe, striker Mario Gomez is making a mockery of all before him. And, most importantly, he’s done is season after season.
The striker first broke into the Stuttgart side on a regular basis in the 2005/06 season, scoring six goals in the debut campaign. It was by no means a stunning start.
But, the next campaign he notched 14 goals, and then followed that up with 19 the next. Another 24 in 2008/09 earned his big money move to Bayern Munich, and the improvement in quality of team has eventually led to even more Bundesliga goals.
In his first season at Bayern, Gomez struggled to fit with the football philosophy at the Allianz Arena, spending plenty of time on the bench in a 10-goal campaign. The rut didn’t last long though, with Gomez taking the Bundesliga Golden Boot with 28 strikes last season – including five hat-tricks.
It’s the player’s ability to score goals in bundles that is a little bit special, with Gomez hitting 11 hat-tricks and 72 total goals in his last 72 games.
The numbers are quite incredible, when you include 21 more league goals this season, plus 10 in seven Champions League games after the four against FC Basel last night.
These statics pose the obvious question – who is better? Of all the players mentioned, it’s Van Persie who is showing the most consistent form, but even his numbers don’t add up to those of Gomez, who has scored 33 goals in 50 European matches for the two different clubs he’s played for.
Interestingly, the Gunners hitman has only struck 20 times in 65 European matches with Feyenoord and his current club. And in all competitions, the amazing run of 54 goals in 70 games isn’t on a level with Gomez.
For Rooney, who is enjoying one of the best goalscoring periods in his club career, the 41 goals in 65 games in all competitions over the last season-and-a-half again struggles to compare.
Of course, both Rooney and Van Persie have a lot more to their own games than just scoring goals – a detrimental factor for Gomez when people consider his all-round standing as one of the game’s top strikers.
But, the job of a forward is to score goals first and foremost, and there isn’t anybody in the business whose better at that task than Gomez. He’s a poacher who can tap-in from six yards, but also has a cannon of a shot to bang in the goals from distance.
And, whilst we’re happy to under-value the level of play in the improving Bundesliga, it’s about time we paid some respect to ‘Super Mario’ – the best striker in European football.