‘It is the hardest position on the pitch. That’s why they cost so much, that’s why they get paid so much and that’s why finding one at this time of the year is so hard.’
Former Liverpool and Newcastle United manager Graeme Souness is succinct in his assessment of why strikers are so important. And with a week of the January transfer window left to play out, the clamour to buy one has never been greater.
Frank Lampard lost his job craving a goalscorer; West Ham grabbed the one he wanted in Danny Ings. Bournemouth gazumped Southampton to steal Nicolas Jackson and Manchester United are still on the look-out, despite the surprise signing of Wout Weghorst.
Signing a quality striker remains one of the hardest things to get right in the transfer market
Frank Lampard was dismissed as Everton boss after being unable to sign the striker he craved
As for Chelsea, they are simply collecting them. ‘Keep it simple, stupid,’ said one Premier League manager to his chief scout when challenged this week. ‘Scoring goals either keeps us up or wins a trophy.’
It’s blunt but as Souness underlines: ‘If you find an out and out goalscorer, you don’t even have to play well as they will nick you games. The Liverpool team I played in of 1984 wasn’t necessarily the best but we had Ian Rush. We won the League, European Cup and the League Cup.
‘They are the really tough guys, not the defenders who take the cheap shot when you’re on the half-turn. They take the physical assaults and they carry the fight. There’s not too many top ones around and that’s why they cost a premium.’
Many managers blame the football fad of changing formation to 4-3-3, which has served Liverpool to good effect, for the dearth of an old-fashioned centre forward, hence the reason Tottenham and Napoli can confidently demand £100million plus for Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen this summer.
Victor Oshimen and Harry Kane are two top quality strikers valued at more than £100m
The vogue is to find an inside forward or inverted winger instead. But whatever the style, find a forward that scores. ‘It’s very simple,’ said one director of football. ‘Everyone wants a striker because there are two positions that get you out of the sh*t: goalkeeper and striker. It doesn’t matter if you are at the bottom or the top. And the January window is not a window you necessarily prepare for, it’s one that gets you out of trouble, hence everyone scrambles for strikers.
‘Look at Manchester United, would…