It was the night before Christmas, and all through 90min HQ, not a creature is resting because we have the final category of Welcome to World Class 2021 to sift through.
It’s been one helluva fortnight, with our top five players in each positions revealed through the #W2WC metric, fan vote or the guys on our YouTube channel. It won’t shock you to hear there has been plenty of debate, awful chat, conjecture and Twitter spats, but we have reached the last day of this year’s edition.
It’s time for the top five strikers, and if there’s one main takeaway here it’s that age is just a number.
Before we get to that, though, here’s a quick reminder of how it all works.
- A world class footballer is defined as one of the top five players in the world in their position.
- All players can fit into one of ten on-field positions; GK, RB, LB, CB, DM, CM, AM, RF, LF, ST.
- All players have been graded across ten different subcategories in the decision-making process.
- Performances for club and country are considered.
- We want you to have your say – check out details on how to get involved below.
As has been the case throughout, we asked you to place your votes for the final inclusions in the top five – below you can find the result of our poll and find your top five strikers of 2021.
All statistics are provided by StatsPerform over the period of January 1, 2021 to November 30, 2021 (inclusive of domestic and continental cup competitions).
5. Harry Kane (down 2)
Games played: 44
Minutes played: 3659
Chances created: 46
Shots (on target): 149 (64)
Shot conversion rate: 16.8%
Minutes per goal: 146
Harry Kane’s ability is often brushed under the carpet because, well, he’s English, and because, well, he plays for Tottenham.
But put all that aside for just a minute and simply appreciate Kane the player. Not only is he a prolific goalscorer, he’s a striker that has rounded in game into almost the complete package.
The winner of the Premier League Golden Boot during 2020/21, Kane also bagged the most assists in the division, telepathically linking up with Son Heung-min more times than Jurgen Klopp has moaned about fixture congestion.
World class? Absolutely.
4. Erling Haaland (new entry)
Games played: 38
Minutes played: 3331
Chances created: 40
Shots (on target): 130 (78)
Shot conversion rate: 29.2%
Minutes per goal: 88
It’s been claimed that Erling Haaland is in fact half human, half cyborg. While 90min cannot verify such claims, what we can do is present the unbelievable statistics that show the Norwegian is indeed a world class striker.
38 goals in 38 games for Dortmund between 1 January and 30 November? Utterly ridiculous.
A shot conversion rate of 29.2% – greater than Lewandowski’s, Ronaldo’s, Benzema’s and, well, anybody else? Utterly ridiculous.
All of the above at the age of 21? Utterly ridiculous.
Sure, Haaland doesn’t have a bulging trophy cabinet just yet, but Dortmund’s 2021 DFB-Pokal success convinced 90min readers to vote him as world class in a romping poll win.
3. Karim Benzema (up 1)
Games played: 45
Minutes played: 3827
Chances created: 68
Shots (on target): 171 (77)
Shot conversion rate: 19.9%
Minutes per goal: 113
*Insert pseudo-intellectual line about Karim Benzema emerging from Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow*
We’ve reached the point now where Benzema’s Real Madrid career transcends Cristiano Ronaldo (how’s that for pseudo-intellectualism?). The Frenchman is now on his own plane at the Santiago Bernabeu, and despite several opportunities to jump ship he has stayed loyal to Los Blancos’ cause.
Ageing like a fine French wine in football terms, his form in 2021 has been remarkable, with his dead-eyed finishing ability a joy to behold throughout. Now 34, he already has 20 goals this season at the time of writing. Scary.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (new entry)
Games played: 46
Minutes played: 3792
Chances created: 46
Shots (on target): 199 (82)
Shot conversion rate: 15.1%
Minutes per goal: 126
Speaking of Ronaldo…This man’s inclusion will perhaps raise a few eyebrows, and although 2021 was certainly not his most memorable year in terms of trophies as Juventus relinquished their Serie A crown for the first time in a decade, he still excelled on a personal level and smashed each of our metrics.
This was the year that saw CR7 complete his transition into an out-and-out, goal-poaching striker – a seamless adaptation after a sensational career as a flying winger. He may not necessarily be as explosive to watch, but he has done what he needed to do to survive at the top of the game, and the numbers speak for themselves.
Another 30+ goal season remains a distinct possibility following his sensational return to Man Utd, as his relentless pursuit of individual accolades goes on. He is not a man you would bet against.
1. Robert Lewandowksi (–)
Games played: 42
Minutes played: 3544
Chances created: 68
Shots (on target): 185 (98)
Shot conversion rate: 28.7%
Minutes per goal: 67
Fact: This is the second year in a row that Robert Lewandowksi has been the highest-scoring player across all the metrics out of all of those included in Welcome to World Class.
If it wasn’t for the late-blooming Benzema, we would almost certainly look back on Lewandowksi as the undisputed best striker of his generation. And in all honesty, while Madridistas may have something to say about it, we probably still will.
It seemed improbable that the superlative Pole would come anywhere close to matching his statistics from last year, but he’s done exactly that – in fewer matches too. In short, he is the epitome of the ideal modern-day centre-forward; he has everything.
Lewandowski’s exploits with Bayern Munich may not have been recognised with a Ballon d’Or, but if it’s any consolation he is comfortably our winner here.