Robin Van Persie (Arsenal and Holland) ***
What a year 2011 was for the Dutchman. After years of recurring injury problems Van Persie was finally able to demonstrate what he could do with a period of prolonged fitness. He started scoring at a rate of a goal a game in January and never stopped. Already this season he has 17 league goals to his name as he spearheads Arsenal’s assault on the top 4. If he can remain healthy for the rest of the season the sky is the limit for both him and Arsenal.
Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich and Germany) ***
Nobody in football at present is quite such a natural goalscorer as Gomez. Somehow, anyhow, he finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net. His movement and anticipation are unquestionably his greatest assets, but his range of finishes prove that his prowess in front of goal is unrivalled. Now that he is replicating his club form for the national team Germany have the cutting edge to support their European Championship challenge.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan and Sweden) ***
Barcelona’s decision to pay £45m and exchange Samuel Eto’o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic always looked a terrible decision. That they then compounded the error by letting the Swedish master join AC Milan for just £20m only made it worse. Since returning to the San Siro, Zlatan has rediscovered the form that made him such a valuable commodity. Blessed with truly sublime technique Ibrahimovic at his best is a one man attack, one which Milan must keep firing if they are to retain their title.
Edinson Cavani (Napoli and Uruguay) **
Last season saw Cavani join the ranks of the game’s best strikers. This season he has maintained that level of domestic performance and shown that he can also cut it on the European stage. The three goals he scored over the two matches with Manchester City were crucial in securing Napoli’s progress in the Champions League and in showing that money can’t always buy you success. Having said that, the list of clubs interested in signing the Uruguayan front man would suggest that not everyone believes it to be the case.
Roberto Soldado (Valencia and Spain) **
With a broken leg potentially ruling David Villa out of the European Championships this summer, the race is on to fill Spain’s centre-forward role. Of course, it is eminently possible that Vicente Del Bosque will opt to use David Silva as a “false nine”, but if Spain do choose a traditional striker Soldado must be in pole position. Over the last couple of years he has developed significantly, but this season has been a further step up in class. In particular his five goals in six Champions League outings demonstrated an ability to operate at the highest level, even if Valencia couldn’t reach the knock out stages.
Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow and Ivory Coast) **
An incredible goalscoring record in Switzerland was enough to recommend Doumbia to CSKA Moscow. Since his arrival in Russia he has not disappointed as he continued that remarkable run of form. This season he has taken that level of performance into the Champions League with five goals in the group stage (including a vital one away in the San Siro) that put CSKA through to the second phase of the tournament. While the Russian league grows ever richer and more competitive it still remains to be seen whether CSKA could hold on to such a talented young striker.
Klaas Jan-Huntelaar (Schalke and Holland) **
Often touted as the next in a long line of prolific Dutch strikers, it appeared after his transfer to Real Madrid that things might not work out for Huntelaar. With an increasing trend towards players who do more than just score goals there were doubts as to whether he could succeed at the highest level. While his game remains primarily based on goals, the volume which he provides has put to bed any lingering concerns. Quite simply there are precious few more potent penalty box strikers in the game at present and certainly not many who deliver on so many fronts. It’s only a matter of time before the Hunter surpasses Patrick Kluivert’s record of goals for the Dutch national team.
Demba Ba (Newcastle United and Senegal) *
Set for a summer move to Stoke (until doubts over his knee led to a failed medical), Ba’s free transfer to Newcastle must be the best “buy” of the season. The powerful Senegalese striker has proved an immediate hit on Tyneside with a flurry of goals that have lifted Newcastle into an excellent top half position. What has been remarkable about Ba has been not just the quantity, but the variety of his goals. Lethal in the air, he possesses a delicate touch and has shown himself a set piece specialist as well. Alan Pardew’s faith in the striker’s fitness has already been repaid, hopefully the doubts about his knee do not prove well founded.
Olivier Giroud (Montpellier and France) *
Montpellier’s title push this season has been based squarely on the shoulders of Olivier Giroud. Few were aware of the calibre of the striker prior to the start of 2011/12, but scouts around Europe are now circling for the latest French bargain. Having made his debut for France against the USA in November, the Montpellier man must now focus on staking a claim for the Euro 2012 squad. Laurent Blanc’s team remain in transition and so Giroud must surely be a strong candidate to make the position his own.
Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen and Peru) *
Pizarro’s consistency in front of goal has seen him overhaul Giovane Elber as the Bundesliga’s all-time record goalscorer among foreigners. For all his success though the Peruvian has probably never begun a season as well as this. As the focal point of Werder’s attack he has been instrumental in the run of form which left them well placed at the half-way break.