Rarest Top Players: Best Second Strikers in Football

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 11.2.2024.

Between a role and a position, the second striker is probably the most overlooked component of the football terminology. Yet, not because of its low importance or impact, but because of its rarity. The best second strikers in football have the most unusual, even contradictory skills a player can have in their arsenal.

Oversimplified as the manager's compromise between picking an attacking central midfielder and playing another forward, the secondary striker usually does more than both. Denying such a simple outlook.

Playing just behind the main striker, commonly with a lot of freedom of movement, usually equally adept at both scoring and creating goals for their teammates, the second strikers are football's rare commodity.

Physicality is often a defining characteristic for second strikers, not just sheer size though. Think of Carlos Tevez, one of the best at this position. His tenacity in pressing and tendency to get stuck in created a lot of opportunities for his teammates. Yet some secondary strikers have the luxury of mostly leaning on their technical and tactical abilities.

Looking at the best second strikers in football currently, we will be looking at their individual strengths that make them as good as they are.

#10 Julio Enciso (Brighton & Paraguay)

Julio Enciso

In the Football Manager video game community, Julio Enciso might be called a regen of Carlos Tevez. Not just resembling the Argentinian legend in looks and stature, the Paraguayan has the skill combination mimicking one of the great secondary strikers of the 21st century. Impactful tenacity and technical ability have enabled the 20-year-old to peak into this list of best secondary strikers in football with a stats return of 25 goals and 13 assists in 97 games. Yet an injury has hampered his second season with Brighton and it’s an uphill road for a player like him to bounce back. But if he does…

#9 Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli & Italy)

Giacomo Raspadori

The Italian 23-year-old is just starting to make his mark on the game to the level his talent suggests, but in that unusual mixture of skills is the reason why he is often employed as an SS. The ability to change the tempo and direction of his movement, paired with technical skills and vision make him a player difficult to defend with both aggressive and stand-offish approaches. Raspadori likes to fake shots in order to rattle the defensive line and start his slaloms that can finish with a through pass as often as they do with a bolting shot. His return of 71 goals and 24 assists in 241 games display the versatility of the Italy international, for whom he scored six and assisted four goals too.

#8 Rafa Silva (Benfica & Portugal)

Rafa Silva

As is often the case with secondary strikers, Rafa Silva is quite the versatile player, with experience across positions. But his differentiating skillset is that of an SS, with 85 goals and 76 assists for Benfica in 308 games, it's easy to defend this take. Even at Braga, Rafa Silva provided both sides of the goal involvement column - 26 goals and 18 assists. As most good SS players should be able to do, as they are usually surrounded by bodies, Rafa can take on contact and still manage to keep his silky touch.

#7 Dries Mertens (Galatasaray & Belgium)

Dries Mertens

Closing the end of his career, and a strongly versatile player, however, Dries Mertens did make an impact as an SS, and helped keep the secondary striker position relevant for a few years when the two-striker option was abandoned. When starting games as an SS, 123 times according to Transfermarkt, Dries scored 33 goals and made 26 assists. Yet the Belgian switched positions and roles often during matches.

#6 Christopher Nkunku (Chelsea & France)

Christopher Nkunku

A highly versatile player, yet Christopher Nkunku's skill set mostly coincides with the secondary striker position. As he is almost equally proficient at scoring and assisting, as proven by his record at RB Leipzig where he bagged 70 goals and 56 assists in 172 matches. Yet, Nkunku has yet to showcase his dual ability at an international level, while his Chelsea start has been hindered by injuries.

#5 Paulo Dybala (Roma & Argentina)

Paulo Dybala

A case of a secondary striker who predominantly utilizes his technique, rarely his physicality. Yet it's a technical ability that few others can match. Paulo Dybala stretches the defensive line with his fortune-telling vision and dangerous long-range ability. One of the best in the game, truly. Working his best when he is paired with a strong centre-forward who can drop down long balls toward Dybala. The Argentinian has scored 172 goals in his career, alongside 78 goals, in 464 matches.

#4 Joao Felix (Barcelona & Portugal)

Joao Felix

Another player who was pushed outside of his natural position, that of the secondary striker. Due to tactical needs and the rigidity of some managerial systems, Felix played on the left-wing, and as a CF often. Yet his abilities scream - secondary striker. The technical maestro who is exquisite at one-touch play is able to score from tight angles and afar. With 79 goals and 40 assists in his 266 games, Felix has the stats of an SS. With those numbers increasing as he starts playing in a team where he doesn't have to be as physical as he was at Atletico.

#3 Julian Alvarez (Manchester City & Argentina)

Julian Alvarez

While even the existence of the SS is sometimes denied by football traditionalists, it's hard to argue that Julian Alvarez is anything else but. Too dangerous for a goal for the AMC position, too team-oriented for the traditional centre-forward 9. Making him an enigma for the defenders is what allowed him to be a key member of the star-studded Argentina side despite a young age, with 28 caps already. In 82 games for Manchester City, usually being the SS but sometimes the lone forward, Alvarez scored 32 goals and made 15 assists. Rarely playing the full 90 at that. In 122 River Plate games, the talented forward scored 54 goals and made 31 assists.

#2 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid & France)

Antoine Griezmann

Picture perfect secondary striker. Or maybe just a "player" would be enough. Yet while the Frenchman is quite versatile, he is primarily an SS.

The case of Antoine Griezmann is the perfect to showcase the flexibility of the SS position. As, while Antoine is a great header of the ball, especially for his height, he is paired up with an even more physical centre-forward, Alvaro Morata. There is no doubt that the Frenchman is the better finisher and a technical player.

Great at counter-pressing, at splitting the defensive lines with his flair, vision, and teamwork, and at scoring, Griezmann is a player around whom managers can build entire team styles. Griezmann started 199 club games as an SS, providing 92 goals and making 43 assists.

#1 Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich & Germany)

Thomas Muller

A player so good that they had to invent a special role just to describe what he plays. And while Thomas Muller made the cut for one of the most versatile players in the game, he is primarily a secondary striker. Showing all the characteristics one has to have in order to succeed at this position: the tactical ability to find space (his role is the "raumdeuter" after all, space explorer), teamwork, equally good ability to score and assist, willingness to press, adeptness at playing one-twos, creativity, vision...

Even the stats of Thomas Muller perfectly showcase why he is placed so high as the best secondary striker currently - 690 games for Bayern Munich, 237 goals and 264 assists. One of the players with the very most assists. His ratio for Germany is almost identical, 45 goals and 40 assists in 126 games.

Hopefully, this list and the player descriptions will make you appreciate the art of the best second strikers in football. As they are rare as they are exceptional.


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