Strikers: Glorious past, mediocre present?
Can't believe I still have to ask this question - instead of simply assuming we all prescribe to the same version of reality - but the gauntlet has been laid down and I've got my loyalties completely sorted.
It astounds me how much the game has changed ever since I first saw a tall dark Frenchman kick the ball into space beyond another man, and run in behind his hapless victim. A tall, dark Frenchman oozing with personality that would rival Jimi Hendricks' on a good night at Woodstock. Just plain cool!
This was way back; around the turn of the century.
And that, should you need any clarification, was a gentleman who goes by the name of Thierry Henry.
Oftentimes, conversations about football turn into fruitless, shouting matches. None willing to budge.
Yet every once-in-a-while, amongst those uncountable squabbles - over who was more technically gifted or who managed to double back to resorting to insanity more frequently - every honest football fan will allow herself a fleeting moment of rationalization, and reach for common ground.
My mission is simple. To settle this for good...
The quality of strikers has plummeted to staggering depths.
Context for the uninitiated
The timeline of the footballing world is divided into two eras by a phenomenon called Lionel Messi. And on which side of that event occurring you became a football fan, is crucial to the point we at Sportskeeda Football want to discuss, hopefully at length.
Growing up as an Arsenal fan can be lonely - but in the era I grew up watching the Gunners, I wouldn't have even noticed any other fan, because the idea of being in love with any other team seemed prepostorous - and life has a funny way of following you around.
On a bi-weekly basis, I'm forced to often question myself, why in the name of all that is holy would I still feel this way for the club. This club which has let me down more times than my grades have. Having to constantly question myself for being part of this pathetic excuse of a fan base - which can't seem to agree on whether we're taking two steps back or three?
Can't seem to fathom why we're so mesmerisingly good one week and so utterly pedestrian and laboured the next!?
Why do I still care?
Doesn't take me that long to figure it out though...
It was stuff like this.
"He hasn't done well in one-on-one situations with Zanetti"
"And Henry has scored for Arsenal at the Bernabeu"
'The Flying Dutchman'
In India, any group of proper football fans used to contain your regular United fans (truckloads of them), a handful of Chelsea fans and one or two Arsenal fans. Never a City fan. Never a Tottenham fan. And let's please, forever say never.
There wasn't a remote possibility of being a Barcelona fan or a Real Madrid fan because their matches weren't telecasted on our CRT cable TV sets.
And if somehow you were a Liverpool fan, you were probably 50.
All of this, if football got to you before Messi or Ronaldo did.
What is the meaning of
Football was never meant to create consensus. It was meant to divide. Conquer. Then brag. It was meant to raise mere humans onto god-like pedestals and hurl profanities at them as we watched their fall.
It was meant for warriors, not the faint-hearted. It was meant for the fans. It was meant for the players who gave these fans countless, unforgettable memories.
It was meant for Ronaldo.
It was meant for Fillipo Inzaghi.
It was meant for Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Almost 2 decades since, the Swede is the last man standing in a long lineage of ridiculously talented strikers. Where are our goals now going to come from?
Olivier Giroud? Danny Welbeck? Romelu 'first touch so good' Lukaku!?
Yes, we do have a Luis Suarez. A Robert Lewandowski. A Sergio Aguero. Admittedly, proper top quality strikers! But let me ask you this? Wouldn't you much rather have a feisty Carlos Tevez! An in-your-face, hunt-you-down, gonna-put-you-down and dink-it-over-you Carlos Tevez!
I know I would.
No? Not a fan of the high press and the art of chipping?
Well, the Argentine did this too.
Past or the Present?
Alan Shearer is sitting pretty atop the pile of the all-time leading goal-scorers in Premier League history, finding the back of the net on, a mind-boggling, 260 separate occasions.
The Newcastle man is rightfully regarded as a legend in the game and has a reputation that precedes him. Tales of heroism (and also mulish behaviour) are still recounted in alleys surrounding St. James' Park, down there on Tyneside. And why wouldn't they? Two hundred and sixty goals. Nobody forgets that kind of contribution to the team. To the game. Even the Sunderland faithful will grudgingly concede the talent that the Englishman possessed.
Something to wind back the clock to the 'Alan Shearer has scored' days.
With Shearer out of the game, for the past 12 years, you would've thought that somebody must've already laid claim to his mantle.
You couldn't be more wrong.
The man closest to Shearer's record goal tally is a striker who's been at the forefront of the English game longer than his predecessor has been retired. That man is Wayne Rooney, the most prolific striker of his generation, and he's still 52 behind the man they called 'Smokey'.
Harry Kane is gunning for the top spot
Harry Kane has suddenly become the guy every man wants to bet on. To be fair to him, the lad had already been top-scorer in each of the last 3 seasons, but this kind of supremacy that surrounds the Englishman now has been the case for just the past year-or-so, and yet, many are ready to dub him the best there is, in the position, in the world. It was slightly different for the Newcastle number 9; it was only his entire life.
To say nothing of the fact that Alan Shearer had to ward off the modest talents(Amazon deep sarcasm) of the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Ian Wright, Eric Cantona, Michael Owen, Dennis Bergkamp, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry. What illustrious company that, despite not including anyone from the enormous wealth of talent in the rest of the world.
That too, after I've left out at least ten other strikers in England, who were leagues above the company that Harry Kane now finds himself in - on the goal-scoring leaderboard. I refuse to repeat the names of his contenders in an article that talks about the all-time leading goal-scorer in the best league in the world.
I do concede that Harry Kane is slightly ahead, when the parameter for determination, is the number of goals that each had scored at the same stage in their careers, but you would expect that wouldn't you?
When you make those kinds of comparisons between players from different eras, you also have to account for variable factors such as the number of games that footballers play these days, the change of mindset towards wanting to score more goals and the number of different attacking positions that have now come into the game (to try and look to supply the strikers).
Things were quite radically different in the days that've passed. There were four at the back, four in midfield with just two up-front. And when they said "just two up-front", they bloody-well meant it.
Though, I will say this. The fuss about Harry Kane is always after he's scored a goal. I mean, I never look for what Harry Kane is doing on the pitch.
Well, I used to worry about him after he'd scored - from since when he has improved - and now makes me start to worry when he is on the ball. Which I give him credit for, because no other man in a Tottenham shirt had ever managed to do that to me before, but I digress.
Alan Shearer meanwhile, made you soil your pants even when he was on the bench, or in the stands or in a coma. And that is all the difference that matters to a football fan. Not for a moment am I suggesting that Harry Kane doesn't have some serious talent, but is ever going to be Alan Shearer? I think not, but time will tell.