The World Cup is fast approaching and with nine days to go until host nation Russia kick off against Saudi Arabia, RealSport continue their theme of looking at the five best ‘number nines’ heading to Russia.
You can read RealSport’s best World Cup number tens HERE.
The World Cup Golden Boot is up for grabs, with the likes of England’s Harry Kane, Euro 2016 champion Cristiano Ronaldo and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski -who is rumoured to be leaving Bayern Munich this summer- all likely to be amongst the goals.
In no particular order, here are the five best strikers participating in this summer’s World Cup.
1 Robert Lewandowski [Poland]
A clinical finisher both with his feet and head, Robert Lewandowski is regarded as one of the best and most complete strikers in the modern game, and his scoring record speaks for itself.
The Pole has scored 106 goals in 126 Bundesliga games for Bayern Munich across four seasons, 52 in 93 appearances for Poland since his debut in 2008 and 16 in the European World Cup qualifying campaign alone, a record.
KEY STAT: Lewandowski became Poland's all-time top scorer after a hat-trick against Armenia in October 2017.
It's no surprise he's won the Polish Footballer of the Year award each year since 2011.
Poland's captain, the striker is renowned, too, for his infectious work ethic and mentality. He might not get his hands on the World Cup Golden Boot, but Lewandowski is certainly one of the best strikers we'll see in Russia.
2 Harry Kane [England]
Consistently improving and arguably one of the hardest working players currently in the game, Harry Kane is tasked with leading England's line in Russia.
The 24-year-old broke into Tottenham's first team towards the back end of the 2013/14 season and, essentially, hasn't stopped scoring since then, becoming the second fastest player to reach 100 Premier League goals.
KEY STAT: Kane ended the 2017 calendar year with 39 Premier League goals, surpassing Alan Shearer's record (36).
Kane goes from strength to strength every season, scoring over 25 Premier League goals for three straight seasons, winning two Golden Boots and equalling Ronaldo's record for most goals scored in a month (13) in September 2017.
One of the most self-driven, motivated and determined footballers in the game, it's no surprise that Kane was named England captain recently, the youngest ever.
3 Cristiano Ronaldo [Portugal]
A testament to Cristiano Ronaldo's status as one of the greatest footballer's of all-time is his seemless transition from inside forward to traditional number nine.
Much of his game, in his younger days, relied on his speed and power, but to negate the loss of these attributes, Ronaldo moved to a more central position to take advantage of his strength, vision and goal-scoring prowess.
KEY STAT: Ronaldo's scored one goal per international game played across 2016 and 2017 (24 games, 24 goals).
Essentially, his off-the-ball work and general involvement was reduced to capitalise purely on his goal-scoring and short-distance chance creation, which has seen him continue to break goal-scoring records.
Portugal's all-time top scorer, five-time Balon d'Or winner and five-time Champions League winner, hopes will rest on his shoulders in Russia and the European champions will be relying on the striker to spearhead their charge to glory.
4 Gabriel Jesus [Brazil]
A favourite of Brazil manager Tite, Gabriel Jesus is likely to lead the line for the beaten semi-finalists of 2014, alongisde Neymar and Philippe Coutinho.
This is because he's such a versatile forward, able to play as a more traditional or false nine due to his dribbling, pace, technique, movement and work rate.
KEY STAT: Jesus was Brazil's highest scorer in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers with seven goals in ten games.
Only making his international debut in September 2016, Jesus now has nine goals in 15 appearances for his country, as well as four and a penalty in Brazil's gold medal Olympic campaign in 2016.
He's so highly regarded that he recently captained his country in their friendly against Croatia at the age of 21.
5 Romelu Lukaku [Belgium]
Following a £75 million move to Manchester United in the summer, Romelu Lukaku didn't have the season expected of him, based on his goal-scoring exploits at Everton that earned him the transfer initially.
However, Lukaku did manage to net 16 goals in 34 league games, as well as five in six cup appearances, including his 100th Premier League goal in March 2018- the fifth youngest player of all-time to do so.
The 24-year-old, furthermore, has 33 goals in 67 international appearances since 2010, 22 of which came in 25 games since 2016; an impressive rate of 088 per game.
KEY STAT: Romelu Lukaku is Belgium's all-time top scorer (33) at the age of 24.
A physical presence up front, Lukaku poses a threat both on the ground and in the air, making him a lethal weapon at the front of Belgium's starting XI.
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