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5 strikers who took Europe by storm last season

Saturday 10th June 2017
Last season, we witnessed loads of surprises in several Europe domestic leagues. Monaco's extraordinary cruise to the Ligue 1 title; RB Leipzig's fairytale debut in Germany and Antonio Conte's exceptional first taste of Premier League football, to name but a few. Perhaps most intriguing of them all was the performances of certain individual players, at one point deemed misfits.

Lionel Messi, with 37 goals, clinched the European Golden Shoe; now that's predictable. Harry Kane, yet again, retained his crown in the English top flight. Well, that's even more predictable. But what stood out was the unimaginable goalscoring prowess of some underrated strikers which came to the fore last season.

1 - Bas Dost - 34 goals

Bas Dost is one goal poacher severely criticised for his clumsiness, subpar technical ability and old-fashion style of play. Despite his consistency in front of goal, the Dutchman unfairly gets the stick for seamlessly doing his job.

About 100 goals, in twice that number of games, over eight years in Germany and the Netherlands, is certainly no fluke. Once again, that faultfinding resurfaced following his summer move to Sporting Lisbon with many expecting the 28-year-old to struggle in the Portuguese capital. Rather, he excelled, banging in goals with reckless abandon. Dost notched an impressive 34 goals in 31 league games, only bettered by Messi in the whole of Europe the last term.

2 - Dries Mertens - 28 goals

Another striker with great potential, yet regularly written off is 30-year-old Belgian Dries Mertens. Just like Dost, Mertens was a household name in the Eredivisie prior to joining Napoli in 2013. He made his mark at Utrecht and PSV where he struck 57 times in 127 games.

But unfortunately, his Italian sojourn somewhat coincided with the arrival of Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid. And as expected, the Argentine was preferred, with Mertens settling for a bit-part role. Nonetheless, he still managed 32 goals in three seasons. However, since Higuain's exit to Juventus, the Belgian has had an unbelievable change of fortune, hitting the net 28 times last season. That return meant he outscored the Argentine and was just one shy of Edin Dzeko who clinched the Serie A top scorers honour.

3 - Andrea Belotti - 26 goals

Joining Mertens from the Italian top flight is Torino goal machine, Andrea Belotti, who garnered 26 league goals. Belotti, his country's top scorer in the league, was evidently a thorn in the flesh of opposing defenders. His acceleration, tactical intelligence, work-rate and predatory instinct proved thorny for a whole lot of teams.

No wonder he's presently one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe. But Belotti wasn't this prolific in time past. The fact he began his career as a midfielder really didn't help his case, but perhaps that is the reason he managed just 18 strikes in about 70 matches in his previous two seasons. However, a change in position, coupled with a little bit of self-refinement ultimately modified his game.

4 - Anthony Modeste - 25 goals

Followers of the Premier League will always remember Anthony Modeste as one of Blackburn Rovers' worst signings ever after he failed to score a single goal. The 29-year-old had landed in the north-west as one of France's most promising talents, having impressed at Nice, Angers and Bordeaux.

However, Bundesliga fans could practically have your throat cut off for such assertions considering his remarkable impact since moving to Deutschland. He struck 17 times in two years at Hoffenheim and amassed two fewer in his first season with Cologne. But the recently concluded season is evidently Modeste's best yet, hitting the net 25 times to finish as the league's third top scorer behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski.

5 - Timo Werner - 21 goals

For every fairytale run, there's always that stand out performer. For RB Leipzig, who achieved an unbelievable runner-up finish in their maiden Bundesliga campaign, it has to be the young German striker, Timo Werner.

Werner, who turned 21 in March, netted 21 times for The Bulls in what was only his first full season. The young forward had previously scored in patches during his three-year spell at Stuttgart. But stunned everyone with his performances last term and it's just a matter of time before the big guns come calling.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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