Whenever we consider the greatest footballers in Premier League history, those who score the goals inevitably rise to the front of our minds. After all, goals win games, and winning teams earn championship titles, which obviously makes prolific scorers worth their weight in gold.
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As we turn our attention towards the top scorers over the last three decades, dating back to when the 1992-93 debut Premier League campaign and beyond, we can appreciate those who set the benchmarks for their footballing peers to achieve. Just as interestingly, only one player in the top three is currently active, meaning he still has time to reach the pinnacle of this legendary list.
Between his 1988 top-flight debut and retirement in 2006, Alan Shearer played for just three clubs, and none of them was Manchester United. The Red Devils always wanted to sign the prolific Geordie striker, but they could never lure the all-time leading Premier League scorer to their cause.
That was the case when Shearer switched from Southampton to Blackburn Rovers in 1992, and again in 1996, unable to resist the lure of playing for hometown club Newcastle United. Despite being active before the Premier League was inaugurated, his goals in the old First Division are still recognized in the record books.
Shearer netted a relatively modest 23 goals in 41 league appearances at Southampton when Blackburn paid a then-record English fee of £3.6 million, which seems a pittance compared to modern transfer values. He repaid their confidence by scoring 112 goals in 138 Premier League matches, helping Rovers win the 1994-95 title.
Manchester United and Real Madrid both wanted Shearer after Euro 96, where he topped the scoring charts with England, but Blackburn refused to sell him to either club. Newcastle United stumped up a then world record £15 million, and this is where Shearer saw out his playing days. Having scored 283 top-flight league goals, nobody before or since has come close.
Rooney quickly established himself as a key player for Sir Alex Ferguson, as the Red Devils continued to dominate English football. At his peak, while the legendary Scotsman remained at the managerial helm, Rooney was consistently a reliable source of goals and wonderful creative vision, equally happy scoring himself or setting up teammates.
By the time Ferguson had retired and Rooney was becoming somewhat less reliable, he still departed from Old Trafford as the club’s record scorer in all competitions, rising above legends including Denis Law and Bobby Charlton. In the Premier League, Rooney registered 183 goals in 393 appearances.
Thankful for his excellent service, United granted Rooney a free transfer back to Everton, where he scored 10 in 31 games. Then came the farewell tour with Rooney spending two seasons in the MLS with DC United, before hanging up his boots as a player and becoming manager at Derby County. His overall Premier League record stands at 208 goals.
At the time of writing, England striker Harry Kane has 199 Premier League goals to his name and has reached the landmark of 300 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur. But getting to this milestone was quite the journey, following early loans at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich City, and Leicester City.
The breakthrough campaign for Kane was the 2014-15 season, hitting 21 goals in 34 league appearances, and never looking back from that point onwards. Underlining his importance to Spurs, the Premier League Golden Boot award has been won by Kane three times, back-to-back in 2015-16 and 2016-17, then for a third time in 2020-21.
Already on 16 goals in 21 appearances during the 2022-23 campaign, Kane is continually being linked with a move to Manchester United, who could launch a bid for his excellent scoring touch ahead of 2023-24. Now aged 29 and still at the peak of his career, Kane could yet match or even surpass the 260 goals record set by Alan Shearer.
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