Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Zlatan: Top 50 forwards of the 2010s ranked

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi might have dominated the 2010s with their goalscoring, but there were still plenty of other forwards who brought their finishing brilliance to the decade.

Now that we’re marauding into the brave new world of the 2020s in which Ronaldo and Messi are gradually winding down, there’s an oh-my-god-I-feel-old nostalgia that will quickly take hold of the 2010s.

Don’t worry, we’re still only a couple years away from that cosy and cushy past, so there’s still a long way to go before it becomes truly retro, but we’re already looking back on it with an element of yearning.

A decade of amazing forwards

Not only was it a decade in football that, like any, was littered with iconic moments, but the sheer depth of top-class strikers really is outrageous once you look past the Messi and Ronaldo-dominated headlines.

It’s easy to forget in an epoch where the two living legends dominated the Ballon d’Or that the 2010s was jam-packed with players who would easily have lifted the golden football had they lived in different eras.

And in celebration of all the brilliant forwards that terrorised defences between 2010 and 2020, the team over at COPA90 decided to draw up a top 50 ranking that we couldn’t resist sinking our teeth into.

Revealing the forwards who placed between 50th and 11th in ten-man segments each day on Instagram, they eventually allowed the fans to decide how the top ten would be ordered in what made for an intriguing result.

Top 50 forwards of the 2010s

So, be sure to see if you agree or disagree with the final rankings by checking out COPA90’s top 50 forwards of the 2010s in all its glory down below:

50. Roberto Firmino

49. Hulk

48. Kevin Gameiro

47. Burak Yilmaz

46. Bas Dost

45. Mario Mandzukic

44. Alvaro Morata

43. Mauro Icardi

42. Mario Gomez

41. Carlos Bacca

50-41 summary

As we ease our way into a list stacked with lethal finishers, it’s perhaps inevitable that the periphery segment is dominated by cult heroes such as Hulk, Yilmaz, Dost and Bacca.

However, you’ll forgive us for thinking that Firmino has been hard done by when you consider his impact on Liverpool‘s Champions League and Premier League triumphs as a man who redefined the number nine position.

40. Diego Costa

39. Alexis Sanchez

38. Andre-Pierre Gignac

37. Riyad Mahrez

36. Antonio Di Natale

35. Paulo Dybala

34. Marco Reus

33. Dries Mertens

32. Ciro Immobile

31. Radamel Falcao

40-31 summary

Now we’re talking. The middle sections of the list feature more than a few forwards who enjoyed dazzling years and seasons at the highest level without being able to sustain it across the entire decade.

Mahrez was simply electric in Leicester City’s Premier League-winning campaign, Falcao was arguably the world’s best number nine in 2012 and Immobile romped his way to the European Golden Shoe in 2019/20.

30. Olivier Giroud

29. Fernando Torres

28. Arjen Robben

27. Robin van Persie

26. Romelu Lukaku

25. Sadio Mane

24. Eden Hazard

23. David Villa

22. Carlos Tevez

21. Wayne Rooney

30-21 summary

Legends, legends everywhere. From the World Cup-winning and forever-underrated Giroud to the record-breaking Rooney for both Manchester United and England, there’s plenty to enjoy here.

It’s nice to see Lukaku getting due praise for reaching the Premier League’s 100-goal club at a very young age, while Hazard and Mane aren’t held back by producing their goods from out wide.


20. Gonzalo Higuain

19. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

18. Edinson Cavani

17. Raheem Sterling

16. Antoine Griezmann

15. Harry Kane

14. Edin Dzeko

13. Jamie Vardy

12. Gareth Bale

11. Mohamed Salah

20-11 summary

Is there an element of English bias going on here? Maybe we’re reading too much into things, but it’s hard not to feel as though Vardy and Sterling are placing quite generously amongst all these icons.

Nevertheless, it’s good that Kane hasn’t been penalised for his lack of trophies and that Griezmann’s Ballon d’Or-contending form in the middle of the decade hasn’t been forgotten.

10. Kylian Mbappe

9. Neymar

8. Sergio Aguero

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

6. Thomas Muller

5. Luis Suarez

4. Karim Benzema

3. Robert Lewandowski

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

1. Lionel Messi

Top 10 summary

So, the biggest question itself – Ronaldo or Messi? – has been answered. Truth be told, you could order them either way without too much controversy because both two superstars are in a league of their own.

However, you’ll forgive us for agreeing with the thoughts of the people when you consider that Messi won no less than five Ballon d’Or trophies across the decade with a staggering 91 goals in 2012 alone.

What changes would you make?

Got enough to debate and chat about there? You’re damn right.

When you walk your way through a list stacked with so much quality that your eyes water and spine tingles, it’s inevitable that trying to rank them from best to worst was going to be a thankless task.

Should Dzeko be above Kane? Should Rooney be below Sterling? Should Lukaku be get the better of Robben? Should Aguero be outdone by Muller?

We could go on and on, but the moral of the story is that football is such a subjective sport that you could sit down 100 fans, ask them to order the same 50 forwards and no two rankings would be the same.

And a massive reason behind that is the sheer quality of forwards in the 2010s… what an era.

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