As the summer transfer window edges ever closer (find out when it opens across Europe here), there’s one thing that’s clear: most of the continent’s top clubs are looking to sign a new No. 9 striker.
With Erling Haaland‘s 52 goals in 52 games for Manchester City this season proving that a central goal scorer is a key part of any team, a number of teams will be looking to the transfer market to boost themselves in this position.
Here’s some of the options who could be available, and which clubs would suit them best.
Karim Benzema, arguably one of best centre-forwards ever, has left Real Madrid to join the Saudi Pro League and it would be logical to replace him with a world-class goal scorer of proven pedigree. If Madrid had been signing a backup, they could have gone down the “up-and-coming” route, but now they need instant quality — alongside, sources say, a planned loan deal for Espanyol‘s Joselu.
While there are several No. 9s in world football that could score regularly for Madrid, Kane is the only one available who can offer the hold-up expertise, off-the-ball work and creativity to the level of Benzema. In fact, he represents the closest match to the Frenchman’s skillset.
But, even with the England captain entering the final year of his contract, don’t expect any swift resolution here. If he moves abroad — and some outlets have reported that the chance to beat Alan Shearer’s Premier League record tally of 260 may keep Kane (who has 213) in England — Spurs will inevitably demand a transfer fee of over €100 million. And Madrid are already set to spend in excess of that to bring in Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham.
With Manchester United‘s takeover moving slowly, it’s hard to predict what kind of budget manager Erik ten Hag will be handed this summer. If they have over €100m to spending on a new striker and Kane slips out of their hands, the club should be frontrunners to land Osimhen, who was Napoli’s top scorer (31 goals in 39 games across all competitions this season) as they lifted the Serie A title.
The Nigeria international may not have Kane’s penchant for dropping deep or playmaking (Kane touches the ball about twice as often as Osimhen per 90 minutes), but he guarantees relentless piercing runs between opposing defenders and his finishing is among the best in Europe.
Having arrived for €75m from Lille three years ago with plenty to work on, the 24-year-old has continuously polished his game and now appears more patient and precise in the build-up phase. Napoli would want around €150m to let him leave but those who have watched him closely believe Osimhen is still some way off reaching his potential.
Eintracht Frankfurt snapped up Kolo Muani on a free transfer from Nantes last summer and he scored 23 goals in 46 games this season. The France international, who also impressed for his country at the 2022 World Cup, is contracted for another four years, so Frankfurt are reportedly looking for a transfer fee of over €75m.
Linked to practically all the elite clubs vying for a focal point in attack, it seems a lower risk for Bayern to make a move for him given how he has adapted to the Bundesliga so quickly.
Fast and tall, with quick feet, he averages over three dribbles per 90 minutes. Tactically, he’d be a good fit for Bayern as he sets up goals (10 assists in the Bundesliga this season), links up well with teammates in the final third, and creates space for midfield runners.
After a lacklustre season with Juventus, where he scored 14 goals in 42 games, the prospect of signing the 6-foot-3 striker comes with questions. Can he find his way back to the version of himself where he scored 20 goals in 24 games before moving to Juve from Fiorentina for €70m in January 2022? Are his recent troubles of a physical, mental, or tactical nature — or a bit of everything? Is there too much risk in spending Juve’s desired fee of €70m-€80m to sign him?
A competent scouting and coaching team should come up with most of the answers, but an inexperienced owner and a club in chaos (like Chelsea) may not wish to part with a huge slice of their transfer budget on a player whose recent form and stats are unlikely to generate much enthusiasm.
But as much as Vlahovic’s recent career trajectory is a mystery, it’s not so long ago that his fine touch, unstoppable left-footed strikes, excellent link-up play and well-directed headers from his Fiorentina days placed him among the best strikers in Europe. It could be a risk that pays off.
Without European football next season, Tottenham might have to settle for signing a player of potential rather than the finished article in the event that Kane departs.
Although the 20-year-old Hojlund has been linked with every top club in Europe over the past few months — especially after scoring five goals in four games for Denmark since making his debut in September — there are reasons why a move to Spurs may not be as ridiculous as it seems. Rather than being signed as a back-up, Hojlund should be high on the agenda for any coach who likes his forwards to press and play on the front foot — as new Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou does.
The left-footed Hojlund is more of the speedy, physically robust, penetrative, “handful” kind of No. 9 — and, yes, stylistic comparisons to Haaland have been made — than the high-scoring all-rounder he could be replacing. Yet there’s enough potential to work on to justify some tactical rejigging to fit him in.
With Vlahovic possibly on the way out, Arkadiusz Milik unlikely to stay and Moise Kean not guaranteed to score double figures, a new centre-forward appears an obvious part of Juventus’ comprehensive summer rebuild.
Thuram won’t be short of offers, given he is out of contract, and the France international has plenty of clubs to choose from. But he would offer Juve the attacking energy, freshness, directness and power they’ve been lacking this season.
Being confined to the Europa Conference League is not the ultimate selling point, but Juventus — despite their current financial and legal troubles — remain a prestigious name in European football. And who knows, perhaps a return to the city of his formative football years (he spent some childhood years in Turin, as his father Lilian established himself as a Juve legend) would count for something too?
Every top club wants a No. 9 striker. Osimhen to Man United?