Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG and Sweden) 17 games, 18 goals ***
Most pundits thought at the start of the season that PSG would walk the French title. However, had it not been for the sensational form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic the club would be well off the pace in Ligue 1. His performance in Sweden’s 4-2 victory over England will be remembered for many years to come with some touting his final goal as the best ever scored. That game might finally have won over the naysayers who have spuriously questioned his greatness in years gone be.
Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid and Colombia) 17 games, 18 goals ***
When Atletico Madrid paid over the £35m they had just received for Sergio Aguero to acquire Radamel Falcao they seemed to have signed a top player for a top price. As it turned out the deal was a comparative bargain, with the Colombian stepping up to another level during his time at the Vicente Calderon. Now a genuine candidate as the finest striker in the world, rumours abound of a cross city move to the Bernabeu or a switch to Chelsea in the summer.
Robin van Persie (Manchester United and Netherlands) 22 games, 17 goals ***
Some questioned the price that United paid for Van Persie given his age, the length of time his contract had to run and more pressing priorities at Old Trafford. Somehow though he has already proven those doubters wrong with a series of performances that have confirmed his status as the Premier League's finest player. To have settled in so quickly is remarkable and he looks poised to reach 30 league goals for the second season running.
Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan and Italy) 20 games, 14 goals **
Were it not for the performances of El Shaarawy Milan would find themselves in a relegation fight. The youngster, known as the Pharoah, has carried the team in the absence of the departed Ibrahimovic and Thiago. Quick and a brilliant finisher he has provided the cutting edge that the side have sorely lacked and singlehandedly lifted the club into a semi-respectable position at the winter break.
Edinson Cavani (Napoli and Uruguay) 17 games, 16 goals **
There are few strikers in the modern game with the full range of abilities that Edinson Cavani possesses. The Uruguayan is a centre-forward who hurts team in a multitude of ways and is, on occasion, unstoppable. This season he has been at his very best, dominating defenders and winning matches almost single handedly. With Cavani in such form Napoli still look a major threat to Italy’s established powers.
Antonio di Natale (Udinese and Italy) 17 games, 14 goals **
It is difficult to recall a player whose career enjoyed such a dramatic upturn after the age of 30 as Di Natale. The Udinese striker is still frightening defences at 35 and shows no obvious signs of decline. The Zebras have suffered an alarming dip in form this year, which is far from surprising given the number of players they have sold in recent seasons, but Di Natale has still been remarkably consistent.
Demba Ba (Chelsea/ Newcastle and Senegal) 20 games, 13 goals *
A move to Chelsea in the January transfer window was ample reward for Demba Ba’s heroics at Newcastle. The striker has been one of the few bright lights in Newcastle’s disappointing start to the season and his arrival at Stamford Bridge should now provide some much needed competition for Fernando Torres. Last season his form tailed off dramatically after Christmas so he needs to maintain focus in order to justify a starting berth.
Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany) 17 games, 12 goals *
The impressive displays of Stefan Kiessling have left Bayer Leverkusen as the closest challengers to Bayern Munich as the Bundesliga run-in beckons. The German striker has formed an excellent partnership with Andre Schurrle in the Leverkusen attack and his ability in the air makes his a more than capable target man. The club have the experience required to maintain their exemplary form and with Kiessling at his best they may well run Bayern close in the coming months.