The striker position has always carried with it a certain air of glamour that until recently wasn't experienced anywhere else on the pitch. The biggest reason most people become fans of football is the beauty and determination that go into putting the ball in the back of the net. Goals are also the easiest point of entry for casual fans to begin their obsession with the beautiful game, so naturally the names most often on the lips of new fans are the flashy forwards who score plenty of goals for their teams.
It's not just goals that make strikers valuable to their teams, of course. Over time, we've seen the forward positions evolve to include different types of strikers and strike partnerships; the Premier League has seen Peter Crouch, Carlos Tevez and players of all shapes and sizes in between lace up their boots and take to the top of the pitch. Whether it's holding up the ball for the attack to come through midfield or making a darting run to open up space for another striker to run into, it's clear that forwards have adapted over time just like the other positions.
The most successful forwards in the Yahoo! Fantasy Football game this season have been Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez, but the players below could give them a run for their money if they were snapped up by a Premier League team during the January transfer window.
It's hard to imagine, but there are whispers coming from Spain that Real Madrid may be willing to part ways with their French striker. The Galacticos are always recruiting new talent, and with Benzema having been at the club since 2009, it's apparently coming up on time for a change at the forward position despite Benzema still only being 27 years old.
The powerful center forward is quicker than his 6'1" frame suggests, proficient with both feet and a strong aerial presence. With 8 goals and 7 assists in La Liga this season, Benzema's production displays both his unselfish distribution and his lethal finishing. Capable of playing on either wing as part of a three-forward system, Benzema would pretty much walk into the starting eleven of any team in England, with the possible exception of Manchester City or maybe Chelsea (though I'd start him ahead of Willian or Andre Schurrle).
The 23 year-old is having a breakout season in Ligue 1 with Olympique Lyonnais, having provided his side with 17 league goals and 7 assists in just 19 appearances. A product of Lyon's youth academy, Lacazette has to this point in his career been a one-club man, but the lure of bigger leagues (La Liga and the Premier League, in particular) could be enough to entice the striker to make the move to a new club.
Lacazette is one of the most well-rounded strikers to emerge in a long time. He's very strong despite his relatively small frame at 5'9", possesses loads of pace, has impeccable close control with the ball at his feet, is a tireless runner off the ball and makes intelligent runs to get himself into scoring positions and is deadly accurate with shots from all over the pitch. There will be multiple suitors lined up to try to offer Lyon enough money to steal him away, though they'll certainly be well aware of the talent they have on their hands.
One of the issues that tends to arise at big-money clubs like Manchester City, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain is that there aren't enough minutes available to make all the big-name, big-ego stars on the books happy. Such has been the case with PSG's Uruguayan striker, who has seen limited playing time in his preferred role as the main striker behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The 27 year-old's goalscoring prowess in Serie A for Napoli (78 goals in 104 appearances) earned him his big-money move to Paris in 2013, but he hasn't been at his best since his transfer and is reportedly looking for a lifeline to revive his career. With 3 years remaining on his contract he won't come cheap, but there have been multiple Premier League clubs reported to be after his signature, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Despite not being a regular starter or in his best form for PSG, Cavani is still averaging a goal every other game (23 in 45 appearances), making the prospect of seeing him start regularly for an English club an exciting one.
Yet another Argentine striker has emerged recently to join the seemingly endless ranks of world-class forwards from the South American nation. There aren't many comparisons being made to Diego Maradona and the similarities with Lionel Messi end after the acknowledgement that both played for Barcelona, but the 21 year-old is on a trajectory to join Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez as great Argentine strikers.
Earning a move from Sampdoria to Inter Milan in 2013, the former Barcelona youth striker has blossomed in Italy, netting 19 times in 40 appearances for the Nerazzuri. A few off-pitch indiscretions aside (let's just say he and John Terry would have plenty to talk about), the youngster is about as mature a talent as there is for center forwards that could still play for their U-21 national sides. His intuition and decision-making in front of goal belie his young age, and his clinical finishing--particularly on the counter--make him an appealing target for a number of European clubs.
We'll close again with a player many of you may not be familiar with. The Valencia youngster has been touted as the solution to Spain's recent issues at striker (alongside Diego Costa), even earning a reputation as the "next David Villa." Of course, we often hear that a promising young player is the "next ____" but in this case that projection looks pretty accurate. The 21 year-old has been successful for both club and country, even earning a call-up to the full Spanish side in 2014 and scoring 3 goals in 5 appearances for Vicente del Bosque.
More than just a finisher, Alcácer can regularly be seen dropping into midfield to help link play between defense and attack, and his movement to drag defenders around the pitch is second-to-none for young strikers. Extremely intelligent with his runs, the Spaniard is just as likely to find himself on the receiving end of a pass in front of goal as he is outside the box with a huge pocket of space opened for a teammate to exploit. Valencia aren't as strapped for cash as they used to be, so selling one of their brightest prospects may not be a priority, but with rumored interest from Liverpool and Arsenal, they may decide the money may be better used to reinvest throughout their squad if the price is right.
Be sure to answer the poll below (Guillermo Ochoa, Mats Hummels and Arturo Vidal have been your choices thus far) and let me know your thoughts in the comments!