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Tom Hancock

The best strikers of the 90s

ROTTERDAM 14 MAY 1997: Ronaldo celebrates at the end of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final match between Barcelona and PSG played at Feijenoord Stadion in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The 90s was a decade of great change in football – and it was also a decade of great strikers.

From instinctive poachers to complete centre-forward, a wide variety of players banged in the goals for club and country during that period.

Here, FourFourTwo counts down the best of them...

32. Davor Suker

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One of the greatest Croatian footballers of all time, Davor Suker's goals fired the Balkan nation to the semi-finals at their debut World Cup in 1998 – where he won the Golden Boot ahead of Gabriel Batistuta and Christian Vieri.

At club level, Suker spent his prime years with Sevilla and Real Madrid – netting 24 times for the latter en route to the 1996/97 La Liga title, before helping them to Champions League glory the following season.

31. Roberto Mancini

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Before he became a successful manager in the modern era, Roberto Mancini played a key role in the most successful era of Sampdoria's history.

The Italian icon spent the vast majority of his playing career with La Samp, scoring 168 goals and winning numerous trophies – among them the 1990/91 Serie A title and 1993/94 Coppa Italia (he was also a European Cup runner-up in 1991/92).

30. Dwight Yorke

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Having made his mark on the Premier League with Aston Villa, Yorke earned a big move to Manchester United in 1998 – and it didn't take him long to become a legend at Old Trafford.

Forming an effective strike partnership with Andy Cole, the Trinidad and Tobago star scored a career-best 29 goals in all competitions en route to United's historic treble triumph of 1998/99 – including 18 in the league, enough for him to share that year's Golden Boot.

29. Gianluca Vialli

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Having notched almost 100 goals for Sampdoria and Juventus between 1990 and 1996, Gianluca Vialli brought his attacking class to England when he joined Chelsea.

The late, great Italian spent the final three years of his career with the Blues – for whom he struck 40 times in 88 appearances – becoming their player-manager in 1998 and soon guiding them to League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup glory.

28. Michael Owen

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Some players veritably burst onto the scene – and Michael Owen was certainly one of them, lighting up the Premier League as a teenager for Liverpool, then replicating that for England at the 1998 World Cup.

There, in the Three Lions' last-16 defeat to Argentina, Owen – who won the Premier League Golden boot in 1997/98 and 1998/99 – embarked upon a barnstorming run from the halfway line to score one of the greatest goals in World Cup history.

27. Fernando Morientes

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After making a name for himself at Real Zaragoza, Fernando Morientes signed for Real Madrid in 1997 and went on to score 100 goals for the Spanish behemoths.

A touch over half of those 100 came before the turn of the century, with Morientes at his most prolific during the 1998/99 campaign – which came after he had helped Real to Champions League success in his first season at the Bernabeu.

26. Filippo Inzaghi

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Famous for playing on the shoulder of the last defender, Filippo Inzaghi was once described as being "born offside" by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Far from keeping assistant referees busy, though, Inzaghi invariably timed his runs to perfection – allowing him to rack up the goals, of which his 24 for Atalanta in 1996/97 saw him finish as Serie A top scorer and win the league's 1997 Young Footballer of the Year award – all of which caught the eye of Juventus, where he won the Scudetto in 1997/98.

25. Christian Vieri

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Having returned to his native Italy from Australia to pursue a professional football career, Christian Vieri went on to become one of the deadliest strikers in Europe towards the end of the 90s.

Bobo's career peak came in 1997/98 as he banged in 24 goals in 24 La Liga outings for Atletico Madrid – finishing as top scorer in the Spanish top flight that season – before finding the net six times in five appearances at the 1998 World Cup.

24. Sonny Anderson

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Sonny Anderson only won six caps for Brazil – which was somewhat surprising given how many prolific seasons he enjoyed at club level in Europe, most notably for Monaco and Lyon.

In three years with Monaco, Anderson bagged 66 goals at an average of well over one every other game – helping his team to the Ligue 1 title before becoming a La Liga champion with Barcelona in each of the next two campaigns.

23. Gianfranco Zola

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One of the great entertainers of the Premier League era, Gianfranco Zola delighted Chelsea fans and neutrals alike with some truly special goals.

Wonderfully technically gifted, the diminutive Italian international joined the Blues from Parma – where he had won the 1994/95 UEFA Cup – in 1996 and had got his hands on FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup winners medals within two years.

22. Mario Jardel

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Another striker capped surprisingly few times by Brazil (10, to be precise), Mario Jardel was beyond prolific at the end of the 20th century.

Signed by Porto in 1996, the 1995 Copa Libertadores top scorer chalked up an incredible 170 goals in 175 games over the next four years – including 130 in 125 in the league alone – firing them to three successive Portuguese titles between 1996/97 and 1998/99.

21. Thierry Henry

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Thierry Henry's prime would come early in the 21st century – but he was well on his way to becoming a household name in the 90s, mainly after his performances at the 1998 World Cup.

Still rather an unknown quantity at international level, Henry – then of Monaco – finished the tournament as France's top scorer with three goals (as well as a penalty in the quarter-final shootout victory over Italy).

20. Robbie Fowler

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Simply nicknamed God by his adoring Liverpool faithful, Robbie Fowler was one of the most clinical finishers of the early Premier League era – averaging more than 20 goals a season between the 1993/94 and 1996/97 campaigns.

Fowler's best goalscoring season came in 1995/96, when he featured in all 38 of the Reds' league games and netted 28 times – which, had it not been for a certain Alan Shearer banging in 31 goals, would have been enough for the Golden Boot.

19. Andriy Shevchenko

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Andriy Shevchenko ended the 90s at AC Milan, but it was with Dynamo Kyiv that Ukraine's greatest ever player first made his mark on the European game.

Having racked up a mightily impressive 39 goals in 41 appearances during the 1997/98 season, Shevchenko banged in a further 33 in 1998/99 as Dynamo upset the odds to reach the Champions League semi-finals – with his displays prompting Milan to break their transfer record to sign him in 1999.

18. Jurgen Klinsmann

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A hero of West Germany's 1990 World Cup triumph and Germany's Euro 96 success, Jurgen Klinsmann scored at all five major tournaments in which he played during the 90s.

Klinsmann arrived at Tottenham in 1994 with a reputation as a diver – but 29 goals and the prestigious FWA Footballer of the Year award in his first season (as well as finishing second in the 1995 Ballon d'Or) soon silenced his critics, who he taunted by 'diving' in celebration after scoring on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday.

17. Andy Cole

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In 1993/94, Andy Cole amassed 34 Premier League goals for Newcastle – a single-season record in the competition until Erling Haaland smashed it 29 years later.

Cole the Goal's scintillating form at the sharp end of the pitch prompted Manchester United to sign him for a British-record £7m in January 1995 – a shock deal at the time but one which ultimately yielded Cole three Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League before the decade was out.

16. Patrick Kluivert

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Frequently criticised for his attitude, Patrick Kluivert didn't have the career he perhaps ought to have done – but for a few years in the 90s, the Dutchman was one of the deadliest strikers in Europe.

His stock rose considerably when he scored the winner in Ajax's 1995 Champions League final triumph over AC Milan, who he joined in 1997, before moving on to Barcelona the following year – having scored twice during the Netherlands' run to the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup.

15. Ian Wright

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Plucked from non-League obscurity by Crystal Palace in 1985, Ian Wright joined Arsenal in 1991 – and he went on to earn legendary status as one of the greatest players in Gunners history.

Capped 33 times by England, Wright scored at least 23 goals in all bar has final season at Highbury – and hit the 30-goal mark on four occasions – leaving in 1998 as a double winner, having helped Arsenal to European glory in the Cup Winners' Cup four years earlier.

14. Raul

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Raul remains one of the highest goalscorers in the history of the Champions League / European Cup – and it all began in the 90s for the Real Madrid and Spain icon.

La Liga's Breakthrough Player of 1994/95 and the division's top scorer with 25 goals in 1998/99, Raul won two Spanish titles and the Champions League with Real before the end of the century.

13. George Weah

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One of the finest African footballers of all time, George Weah won the 1995 Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards – both firsts for the continent of Africa.

A French champion with PSG in 1993/94 and a Scudetto winner with AC Milan in 1995/96 and 1998/99, the Liberian – who goes down as one of the best players never to appear at the World Cup – was unstoppable at his peak, firing PSG to the semi-finals of the 1994/95 Champions League with a competition-high seven goals.

12. Alessandro Del Piero

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Juventus and Italy legend Alessandro Del Piero won it all at club level during the 90s, scoring many a vital goal as he played a pivotal role in Juve's three Serie A titles and their 1995/96 Champions League triumph.

Del Piero actually reached three successive Champions League finals with the Bianconeri, top-scoring with 10 goals in 1997/98 – becoming the first player to hit double figures in a single edition of the competition since Marco van Basten nine years previously.

11. Jean-Pierre Papin

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One of France's greatest ever players, 1991 Ballon d'Or winner Jean-Pierre Papin had won two Ligue 1 titles, two Scudetti and reached two Champions League finals by 1994.

Having been on the losing side with Marseille in 1992, Papin – who bagged 94 goals in the first three seasons of the 90s alone – became a European champion with AC Milan two years later (although peculiar UEFA rules meant he missed that final as teams were only allowed to field three non-native players).

10. Oliver Bierhoff

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Probably Germany's finest centre-forward since the legendary Gerd Muller, Oliver Bierhoff scored 37 goals in 70 caps form his country – most of them during the 90s, including the first ever golden goal in the final of Euro 96 against the Czech Republic.

Remarkably, Bierhoff had been playing for Ascoli in the second tier of Italian football until 1995 – but a big move to Serie A's Udinese preceded an even bigger one to AC Milan, and he banged in almost 100 goals in the latter five years of the decade.

9. Hristo Stoichkov

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The greatest player ever to come out of Bulgaria, Hristo Stoichkov was simply lethal at his peak in the early 90s – as evidenced by four consecutive seasons of 22 goals or more for Barcelona.

In 1994, Stoichkov – a 1991/92 Champions League winner – inspired Bulgaria to the World Cup semi-finals, top-scoring at the tournament and scooping that year's Ballon d'Or.

8. Alan Shearer

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Alan Shearer scored a whopping 260 Premier League goals – and the majority of them came during the 90s, when he starred in Blackburn Rovers' 1994/95 title triumph before joining Newcastle in 1996.

In each of the 1993/94, 1994/95 and 1995/96 seasons, the England international broke the 30-goal barrier in the league, winning the Golden Boot on each occasion – and finishing third in the 1996 Ballon d'Or, having helped his country to the last four of their home Euros.

7. Romario

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One of the most natural finishers in the history of the game, Romario racked up more than 700 career goals – and scored over 100 for three different clubs.

The brilliant Brazilian's first century came at PSV – who he helped to three Dutch titles, including two at the beginning of the 90s – before he enjoyed a phenomenal, 32-goal debut season with Barcelona, then helped Brazil to victory at the 1994 World Cup.

6. Dennis Bergkamp

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Performer of footballing magic and scorer of goals which left fans and commentators alike struggling for words, Dennis Bergkamp was one of the most superbly skilled players ever to grace the Premier League – in which he won the first of three titles in 1997/98.

And when he wasn't wowing for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, the devastating Dutchman – who finished as Ballon d'Or runner-up in 1993 – was turning on the style for his country – and in no more notable fashion than that winner against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals. 

5. Eric Cantona

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Perhaps the most influential overseas player of the Premier League era, Eric Cantona was instrumental to Manchester United's 90s dominance under Alex Ferguson.

The famously flamboyant, exceptionally enigmatic Frenchman certainly left his mark on the competition (and one Crystal Palace supporter), scoring 64 goals – many of them truly stunning – in four-and-a-half seasons at United before abruptly retiring in 1997 – having won four league titles and two FA Cups.

4. Marco van Basten

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If injury hadn't cut him off in his prime, 1992 Ballon d'Or winner van Basten (he had already claimed the prize in 1988 and 1989) would probably top this list; he might even have gone down as the greatest striker in the history of the game.

What we're saying is: Basta was seriously special – as evidenced by his jaw-dropping volley in the Netherlands' Euro 88 final victory over the USSR, the kind of brilliance which he brought into the 90s, netting 62 times in three superb seasons for AC Milan before being forced to hang up his boots.

3. Gabriel Batistuta

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Serie A's biggest foreign star of its 90s heyday, Gabriel Batistuta is a Fiorentina legend – racking up 203 goals for La Viola between 1991 and 2000, finishing as leading scorer in the Italian top flight with 26 goals in 1994/95.

Equally big an icon for Argentina, Batigol struck 56 times in 78 international caps – helping his country to victory at the Copa America in 1991 and 1993, and scoring six goals at the 1998 World Cup, where he was pipped to the Golden Shoe by Davor Suker.

2. Roberto Baggio

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Roberto Baggio, The Divine Ponytail, is simply one of the greatest and most popular players ever to play the game – and in many ways, the 90s belonged to him.

While he missed the decisive penalty in the shootout against Brazil, Baggio almost singlehandedly dragged Italy to the final of the 1994 World Cup – having won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year double the previous year.

At club level, Baggio won the Scudetto with Juventus in 1994/95 and AC Milan the following season – while football stats doyens IFFHS named him the ninth-best Italian player of the 20th century in 1999.

1. Ronaldo

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Few players have ever revolutionised a role like Ronaldo did that of the centre-forward in the 90s – a decade in which he set himself well and truly on the way to all-time greatness.

Had it not been for the seizure which caused him to miss the final, O Fenomeno might well have fired Brazil to 1998 World Cup glory (having been the youngest member of their victorious 1994 squad, aged only 17) – but he had already more than proved his utterly elite quality with 81 goals in just two seasons for Barcelona then Inter Milan.

Ronaldo's 34 La Liga goals for Barca in 1996/97 saw him pick up the Golden Shoe award as Europe's top league scorer – before he went on to claim the 1997 Ballon d'Or, his first of two.

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