With 40 goals for Real Madrid last season, Cristiano Ronaldo finished the campaign as Europe’s top scorer and runaway winner of the Golden Boot, leaving the likes of Lionel Messi trailing in his wake. A closer look at his stats, however, show Ronaldo averaged an incredible 5.6 Shots per game over his 34 appearances, meaning he took a total of 190 Shots at goal throughout the season to score his 40, an average of 1 Goal per 4.76 Shots.
Bearing this in mind, we sifted through the OPTA data available for the top five leagues in Europe to find the most clinical finishers around. Players who were- mostly- far less involved in their team’s play but when the chance came, knew how to find the net.
To cut out any statistical anomalies, a player had to score 10 or more goals and appear in at least half his team’s league games to qualify.
Similar to our Successful Dribblers article, the Bundesliga has the most representatives in our Top 20, with six. Five come from La Liga, four play in Ligue 1, three ply their trade in the Premier League and just two of our Top 20 are from Serie A; an indication of just how difficult it is to score in Italy compared to other top divisions.
Four of the five domestic champions have players in our Top 20, with only German title-winners Borussia Dortmund missing out; somewhat ironic given the Bundesliga’s domination. Bayern Munich scored 81 Goals last season and the lethal shooting of Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller combined for 40 of those. Bayern match Barcelona as the only team with more than one player; Pedro joins Lionel Messi in our Top 20 with an average of 1 Goal every 3.8 Shots. Compare that to David Villa who, despite scoring 18 Goals (5 more than Pedro) averaged 1 Goal per 6.23 Shots, highlighting his somewhat misfiring season for Per Guardiola’s side. What’s noticeable here is Dirk Kuyt’s stats are identical to Pedro’s, highlighting the under-rated Dutchman’s key contribution to Liverpool.
Young Javier Hernandez’s goals proved crucial to Man United’s title win and his 1 Goal per 3.32 Shots makes him the sixth best in Europe for last season. Strike partner Wayne Rooney scored 11 Goals in comparison, just 2 less than the Mexican, but Rooney’s ratio is 1 Goal per 7.12 Shots, a clear example of Hernandez’s importance to United’s front line. With 9 Goal for Aston Villa, Darren Bent failed to qualify but it’s interesting to note he averaged 1 Goal per 3.02 Shots at Villa compared to 1 Goal every 6 Shots at Sunderland.
While there were plenty examples of top-class finishing from the “bigger” teams, there were contributions from players in struggling clubs that were, arguably, more significant: Levante can thank Felipe Caicedo for his sharp-shooting; the club finished just two points above the relegation zone in La Liga and second-placed player scored 1 Goal every 2.70 Shots to grab 13 Goals and fire them to safety.
Steven Fletcher proved to be the most lethal hitman in the Premier League, with his 10 Goals (1 per 3.19 Shots) helping Wolves escape the drop by a single point. Gregory Pujol’s eye for goal saw hims score 1 Goal every 3.68 Shots (better shot conversion than Messi) as he helped Valenciennes stay in Ligue 1 by a four point margin.
Elsewhere, our most clinical finisher, Cologne’s Milivoje Novakovic with 1 Goal every 2.47 Shots, was joined in Bundesliga mid-table obscurity by Papiss Demba Cissé of Freiburg, who, with 1 Goal every 3.34 scored 22 of his side’s 41 Goals, a fantastic 54%.