Yes, Chelsea had icons even before the Abramovich era. Nobody symbolises the pre-oligarch days more than Gianfranco Zola. The imp-like Italian might not be the most prolific forward on this list, but his dazzling skills and equally dazzling smile earned him a spot.
Zola was crowned the Football Writers’ Player of the Year in 1997 following his first campaign at Stamford Bridge, and his seven years in London featured two FA Cups, the League Cup and the winner in a Cup Winners’ Cup final. Back in 2003, he was voted Chelsea’s greatest ever player. While he might not be rated that now, it just shows how influential he was.
Ferdinand is the 8th highest scorer in Premier League history with an incredible 149 goals. The cousin of former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, Les made his name with Queens Park Rangers and would score 24 goals in the 94/95 season.
Then he moved onto Newcastle where he was adored by the fans. His goal rate there was phenomenal: 41 in 68 games. He had a very successful partnership with Alan Shearer and was a runner-up in the league with the Magpies. His other major club was Spurs, the team he supported as a boy. Injuries slowed him down there, but he still had a big part to play.
Teddy Sheringham moved to Manchester United in 1997 and would go on to win three league titles in four seasons, winning him the footballer of the year honour. Incredibly, by today’s standards, he was 34 years old at the time. He would also win the Champion’s League in 1999 providing that assist for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, against Bayern Munich.
Sheringham is also a Spurs legend. He was the league’s top scorer in the inaugural year of the Premier League with a haul of 22. Beloved by the Londoners, his partnership with Jurgen Klinsmann was famous. He would also play for the likes of Portsmouth and West Ham United.
Now a familiar pundit, Ian Wright won the league title with Arsenal aged 34. It was his last act with the club before moving across the city to join West Ham. He struck up a famous partnership with a certain Dutch forward called Dennis Bergkamp, who appears later down this list.
Wright might be overshadowed by the force of nature that came after in Thierry Henry, but he was still a phenomenal forward and is Arsenal’s second highest scorer of all time, with 185 finishes. Randomly he is also Crystal Palace’s third highest scorer and put in 387 professional goals across his career in Scotland and England.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s cruciate ligament injury delayed the Dutch forward’s arrival at Manchester United from PSV. Astoundingly he recovered to unleash his best form and become one of the Red Devil’s all-time greats. He hit 150 goals in 219 games, an outstanding record.
The Dutch forward also became the PFA Players’ Player of the Year after his first campaign in 2000 and claimed the Premier League Golden Boot a year later. He smashed in 25 goals in the league with a ludicrous 44 goals across all competitions. He deserved to win more than a solitary title with Manchester United.
One of Chelsea’s greatest players and an icon of Jose Mourinho’s first and most successful period with the club, you’d forget that Drogba struggled when he first arrived from Marseille. The goals were dry and he was constantly accused of diving. However, when he settled, he was an absolute powerhouse.
He won back-to-back titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06. Then he would go on to win the Golden Boot a year later before repeating the feat with 29 goals in 2009/10. Drogba is also a legend off the pitch, famously setting up hospitals and schools in his native Ivory Coast.
Nations tend to go through eras with strikers. Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene with Everton in 2002 as a 16-year-old, but it was with Manchester United that he made his name, becoming a massive part of their success in the noughties.
He would go on to score 208 Premier League goals, on the way to five titles with Manchester United and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year prize in 2010. In his prime, his game was arguably sacrificed to make room for Christiano Ronaldo’s sublime talents. After a season with Everton, he now plays his football in the MLS with DC United.
A PFA Players’ Player of the Year when he scored 16 goals in 28 games in 1997/98, Dennis Bergkamp is another iconic Arsenal striker. His incredible treble at Leicester was hailed by Martin O’Neill as “the best hat-trick I have ever seen”, Meanwhile, a sensational finish against Newcastle in 2002 was named the greatest goal in Premier League history.
Bergkamp struck up superb partnerships, first with Ian Wright and then with Thierry Henry. The Invincible played an instrumental role in the most successful moments of Arsenal’s modern history.
There is nobody on this list that you would prefer to take a penalty than Matthew Le Tissier. The Saint’s icon proved that you don’t have to play for one of the traditional big clubs to be an all-time great. He spent his entire professional career with Southampton, scoring 161 goals.
His penalty record was phenomenal. He scored a remarkable 47 out of 48 attempts. You could bet your house on him converting. While he also played deeper as an attacking midfielder, he was a great striker for the Saints as well.
Cantona might have been everybody’s favourite villain in the 90s, but in the last ten years, Luis Suarez assumed his mantle. The former Liverpool star arrived from Ajax in 2011 and swiftly began to tear up the league. His sole honour with the Reds was a League Cup, but he still was magnificent during his time there.
In 2014, he was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year as well as winning the Premier League Golden Boot. Ever a subject of controversy, he’s bitten opponents on three separate occasions and was also involved in an alleged racism incident while at the Reds. Opposition fans loved to hate him, Liverpool fans adored him.
Another great personality of the game, you’d almost forget that he played for one of Manchester United’s biggest rivals, Leeds. He scored the Peacock’s first hattrick of the Premier League era, but it was when he moved onto United that he became a true icon of the game.
That karate kick is a moment that is engrained in the minds of every fan that saw it. Cantona’s charisma and personality literally changed the game. On the pitch, he was also magnificent. He won four Premier League titles with the Red Devils and scored 64 goals in 143 appearances for them too.
A Newcastle icon, Shearer is the greatest English striker of the Premier League era. He scored an incredible 260 goals across his Premier League career. Starting off with Southampton, he’d move onto Blackburn Rovers where he would famously win the Premier League.
Then it was onto Newcastle, his hometown club and his pride and joy. He holds the joint record for hattricks in the division with 11 and placed third in the 1996 FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He also held a solitary PFL Player of the Year award in 1995. Sir Alex Ferguson wished he signed him.
No other player had scored over 20 goals in five consecutive campaigns before the Frenchman came along. Famously converted from winger to striker by Arsene Wenger, his pace and potency were absolutely sublime. Henry had two spells at Arsenal, famously coming back in 2012 on loan.
He won the PFL player of the year twice and was an integral part of the Invincibles back in 2003-04. He’s also the Gunner’s all-time leading goalscorer with an amazing 228 goals. Henry captained the club in his final two seasons with the club before moving on to Barcelona.
Yes, the Premier League’s own special Argentinian is who we rate as the league’s greatest ever striker. The 31-year-old signed from Atletico Madrid in 2011 and few would have predicted just how sensational he would turn to be. He’s the Citizen’s all-time top scorer and holds the joint record for most goals scored in a single game (5).
Curiously underrated, he’s never won the PFL player of the year. He’s scored over 20 goals in 6 of his 8 seasons at the Etihad Arena and won four premier league titles. His goal against Queens Park Rangers back in 2012 is now iconic.