Strikers have undergone a remarkable evolution in the 21st century. Modern strikers have become multifaceted players no longer confined to the traditional role of simply finding the back of the net. They are expected to embody versatility and adaptability in the modern game.
Strikers are expected to contribute in build-up play, press whilst not in possession and create goalscoring opportunities for their teammates. This evolution of their role reflects the tactical changes that have happened within the sport.
Strikers in the 21st century are more of a complete package. They are potent goal threats, adept at creating chances and hardworking when not in possession.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the seven strikers with the most goals in the 21st century.
(Note: Only goals scored by players in Europe's top five leagues, all competitions and national teams have been considered)
#7 Sergio Aguero - 403 goals
Sergio Aguero is a Premier League legend in his own right. He is one of the best strikers of the 21st century and has earned plenty of admirers all across the world with his innate ability to find the back of the net.
The former Argentina international is known for his positioning and anticipation. These traits have allowed him to capitalize on even the slightest defensive lapse and have helped him become a true poacher. But Aguero's game goes way beyond his predatory instincts inside the box.
His technical proficiency, quick acceleration and clinical finishing made him a nightmare for goalkeepers throughout his illustrious career. Aguero scored a total of 403 goals in 730 appearances in the 21st century.
#6 Edinson Cavani - 425 goals
South America has delivered some of the finest strikers in the history of the beautiful game. Uruguayan marksman Edinson Cavani is yet another player who took Europe by storm with his striking prowess in the 21st century.
Cavani is a complete number nine, indefatigable on the pitch and blessed with creativity and incredible finishing skills. Cavani has scored a whopping 425 goals in 779 appearances in the 21st century.
#5 Zlatan Ibrahimovic - 454 goals
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's striking prowess is as iconic as his larger-than-life personality. He combined size, strength and agility to outmuscle defenders and create space before producing thunderous strikes.
The Swedish legend's inventive and audacious goals showcased his unparalleled creativity and technical wizardry. He scored 454 goals in 773 appearances in the 21st century to solidify his reputation as a footballing maverick.
#4 Karim Benzema - 457 goals
Karim Benzema is one of the most elite goalscorers we've seen in the 21st century. His exceptional ball control, elegant dribbling skills and passing ability make him not just a traditional striker but also a playmaking force.
Benzema's movement is sharp and has a knack for finding pockets of space. Additionally, his precise finishing ability, link-up play and prolific goalscoring ability highlight his status as one of the most complete forwards of the modern era.
The iconic French striker has scored 457 goals in 893 appearances in the 21st century.
#3 Robert Lewandowski - 559 goals
Robert Lewandowski's seamless finishing and remarkable consistency make him one of the greatest strikers of the modern era.
The Polish icon has used his impeccable timing of runs and aerial prowess to make himself a goalscoring machine capable of converting half-chances to goals.
He has scored a whopping 559 goals from 773 appearances in the 21 century.
#2 Lionel Messi - 807 goals
Lionel Messi has fused artistry and precision on the football pitch like no other. His incredible ball control, burst of pace and unmatched dribbling skills have helped him upend the tightest defenses throughout his career.
Messi has also shown the ability to find the back of the net from a variety of positions, angles and situations. He has mastered the lob, the side-foot finessed shot, volleys and absolute thumpers.
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of the game. He has scored 807 goals in 1028 appearances in the 21st century.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo - 819 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo is not only regarded as one of the best footballers of all time but also as the greatest goalscorer in the history of the sport. The Portuguese legend's career is replete with moments of individual brilliance via which he has consistently transformed the fortunes of his teams.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is the leading goalscorer in men's international football (123 goals). Ronaldo has scored a whopping 819 goals in 1118 appearances in the 21st century.