The Other Top Goal Scorers in Europe
When we talk about the history of top-flight English football, it has become increasingly common to not look beyond the Premier League/Premiership era. Much to the annoyance of many, the statistics before the 1992/93 season are now rarely mentioned in conversations of top goalscorers, relegations and appearances. Similarly, when European football is discussed we have learnt to all but ignore the asterisk of “Europe’s Top 5 Leagues”.
Of course, this is largely useful – helping us narrow down debates on the best players in world football. But what about outside the top five? This mythical land of the unknown holds within it spectacular storylines, cult heroes and sometimes outstanding quality. Below I’ll take a look at some of the European game’s top scorers this season from the lesser-respected leagues.
*All stats are domestic league only
1. Enner Valencia (Fenerbahce)
To say the Ecuadorian has been a huge success at Fenerbache would be an understatement. Now at the age of 34, the forward is playing the best football of his whole career, as shown at the World Cup where he captained Ecuador and notched 3 goals in 3 games. An inevitable but seemingly absurd link to Barca was confirmed by the player’s agent in January, but it looks as if Valencia’s focus on Fener never wavered.
His season highlights include a hat-trick in one outing against Kasimpasa and more recently four goals in one game against the same opposition, another hat-trick in an epic 5-4 win against Andrea Pirlo’s Fatih Karagumruk and building up a brilliant relationship with the supporters. Enner Valencia was seen in the shops of Istanbul collecting sleeping mats and tents to donate to victims of Turkey’s recent Earthquake.
2. Rayan Philippe (Hesperange)
With what has to be the most ridiculous in the world’s top divisions at the moment, Rayan Philippe has registered 40 goals and assists in 18 games in Luxembourg’s top flight. Philippe was seen as an excellent coup for Hesperange when he joined on a free transfer from Dijon in France. However, nothing about the player’s record in France could’ve suggested how well he’d take to the BGL Ligue even with the considerable drop in quality.
Philippe has scored in every single game this season, 18 in a row, leading Hesperange to the top of the league for a potential first title in the club’s history. At just 20 years old, a move to a higher-quality league likely beckons.
3. Kyogo Furuhashi (Celtic)
It’s fair to say there wasn’t so much anger, as there was bemusement amongst the Celtic fan base when Hajime Moriyasu left Kyogo Furuhashi out of his Japan World Cup Squad. The Japanese frontman has taken to Scotland like a duck to water. Intelligent movement, great pace and finishing well on either foot are all elements of the 28-year-old’s game.
Furuhashi’s age may well be one of the factors that helps Ange Postecoglou hold onto his star striker, at 28 Premier League clubs may just hesitate to pull the trigger. With that said Crystal Palace (desperately in need of a goalscorer) have already been linked.
4. Musa Qurbanly (Qarabag FK)
Son of Azerbaijan legend Qurban Qurbanov, 20-year-old Musa looks to be the most exciting prospect from the Central Asian Country (who compete in Europe) since his father. The stats show Qurbanly is a clinical finisher, he can play anywhere across the front three and can generally rely on his goal-scoring instinct to pick up dangerous positions to sniff out chances.
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Qarabag sit top of the Primyer Liqa and have recently bowed out of the Europa League via a penalty shoot-out against Gent. Qurbanly was unable to make his mark in European competition games, but he has plenty of time to put that right in the future.
5. Jairo (Pafos)
Brazil, Slovakia, Greece, Moldova, Croatia and now Cyprus. That’s the route of a proper journeyman striker, and in this instance, it’s the path of Rio De Janeiro-born striker Jairo. Pafos currently lie in fourth in the Cypriot first division, with a squad made up of players from over 20 different nationalities.
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Jairo has typically been a goal in every three-game striker throughout his European career, most recently scoring 23 in 96 Hajduk Split in Croatia. Pafos has taken the Brazilian to another level, a good all-rounder, Jairo dribbles well and is maturing into a better finisher whilst still possessing good strength and decent pace.
6. Marko Livaja (Hadjuk Split)
It’s no surprise to see Marko Livaja named in Zlatko Dalic’s latest international squad for fixtures against Wales and Turkey. The striker, who scored at the Qatar World Cup, has been in red hot form this season for his boyhood club.
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Simply looking far too strong for the HNL league defenders most of the time, Livaja has a brilliant goal catalogue that ranges from typical target man headers to dribbling past three players including the goalkeeper. He doesn’t shy away from the big game either, scoring against both of Hajduk’s title competitors in Dinamo Zagreb and Osijek.
7. Ivaylo Chochev (CSKA 1948)
Another senior statesman to make this list, Chochev is now 30 and like Livaja he is back in his home country having ventured out to Italy. A popular figure during his five years at Palermo, the central midfielder sustained a nasty knee injury that would end up keeping him out for a year and a half. He returned to action with newly promoted CSKA 1948 and hasn’t looked back since, playing some of his best football not only domestically but also internationally.
A cultured midfielder who can do it all on his day and with more than just an eye for a goal, Chochev is, without doubt, one of the best the ‘efbet Liga’ has to offer. Despite being settled in the capital, he may well be tempted if the rumours are true and Hungarian champions Ferencvaros come knocking at the door.
8. Andrea Compagno (FCSB)
In one of the most surprising stories of the upcoming international break, Andrea Compagno (who was playing in Serie D in 2020) has been called up to Roberto Mancini’s preliminary squad. The experienced manager clearly felt that Compagno’s goalscoring exploits in Romania couldn’t be ignored, after all, he was the highest-scoring Italian in 2022.
6ft 3” (194 cm) he is unsurprisingly dominant in the air but what’s more impressive is the Italian’s quick footwork in the box. Not necessarily in terms of dribbling, but in making a darting run in front of his defender to stab in any low cutbacks from the wingers. A goal in the Europa Conference League against Anderlecht, a towering header of course, may well be the highlight of his season thus far.
9. Vincent Janssen (Royal Antwerp)
Paul Onuachu actually remains the top scorer of the Jupiler Pro League with 18 goals, but since he has already earned a Premier League move to Southampton there wasn’t any need for him to feature in this list. Instead, Vincent Janssen, who was very much a surprise call-up to Louis van Gaal’s World Cup Squad, is in Belgium after a reasonably successful three years in Mexico with Monterrey.
Back playing with confidence Janssen is obviously a better player than his time at Tottenham showed. Very good on either foot – the striker has a range of finishes in his locker, most recently drawing attention for a thunderous free kick against Union Saint-Gilloise which reached 129 km/h on its way in.
Honourable Mentions – A few players unfortunate not to make the cut for various reasons are as follows:
- Jefferson (28), Gzira United (Malta) – 16 goals.
- Matthew Shelvin (24), Coleraine (Northern Ireland) – 21 goals.
- Eetu Vertainen (23), Linfield (Ireland) – 17 goals.
- Jakub Reznicek (34), Zbrojovka (Czech Republic) – 15 goals.
- Barnabas Varga (28), Paksi (Hungary) – 15 goals.
By: Wilf Macdonnelll / @WilfMacdonnell
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Craig Williamson – SNS Group