A Tribute To The Dying Breed – The Penalty Box Striker

MAINZ, GERMANY - OCTOBER 29: Aaron Hunt of Bremen celebrates with team mate Claudio Pizarro after scoring his teams second goal during the Bundesliga match between FSV Mainz 05 and SV Werder Bremen at Coface Arena on October 29, 2011 in Mainz, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

One Bundesliga striker netted his 150th goal at the weekend and our Bundesliga writer Ross Dunbar pays tribute to the dying breed of striker which still thrives in Germany.

Largely down to the "Barcelonaization" of world football, the forward who lacks the same technical ability as other forwards but can guarantee you 30-goals a season has died away from a lot of the biggest leagues in Europe.

Barcelona’s success is to be admired but the desire for some coaches to model their club on the Catalans can verge on the ridiculous at times. The Barcelona project has taken decades to finally flourish and it remains to be seen whether it will continue when their current stars call it a day.

Thankfully, the Bundesliga is one of few leagues that can still find a place for the goalscoring centre-forward.

The growing trend in Germany is to have a natural centre-forward as the focal point of an expansive 4-2-3-1. This is something we see regularly in the Bundesliga with FC Bayern, Werder, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg just some of the big clubs who use this system.

Saturday evening was a special occasion for one of the best strikers in the Bundesliga with Claudio Pizarro netting his 150th league goal against Mainz. In recent weeks, he surpassed the 148 goals of Thomas Allofs and now the Peruvian has one of the most recognised names in the history of German football in his sights: Fritz Walter.

At 33, Pizarro may not have long left at Werder Bremen but with 62 league goals in just over 100 games for Thomas Schaaf’s men, he is one of the finest predators of the last decade. The "Andes-Bomber" spent six years with FC Bayern and continued that terrific scoring rate with 71 league goals in his time in Munich. Pizarro also got his hands on three Bundesliga trophies and three DFB Pokal victories.

But after a poor spell with Chelsea, Pizarro returned to Bremen on loan and helped his side reach the UEFA Cup final which they lost in extra time to Shakhtar Donestk. The Peruvian international striker returned to Northern Germany on a permanent basis in 2009 for an undisclosed fee and continued where he left off by scoring 16 goals in 2009/2010 season.

Last season, though, was a disappointment for Pizarro with a number of injury problems making it a difficult time for both the striker and Werder, who ended up involved in a relegation battle for long spells of last year. But those problems now seem well behind Pizarro who has scored seven goals in 10 games for Thomas Schaaf’s side this season. The River Islanders look set to be involved in a battle for a Champions League spot and if they keep can keep Pizarro and Marko Arnautovic fit, then they will be up there in May.

Another striker who splits opinions is FC Bayern’s goal-machine, Mario Gomez, who added another two goals to his tally against Nurnberg on Saturday. The German international has 113 Bundesliga goals with 12 of them in just 10 matches this season. The former Stuttgart man takes an unfair amount of criticism about his overall game but when you consider he has 73% pass completion ratio, as well as, creating 53 chances so far this season and racking up two assists in the Bundesliga, he offers much more than just standing around and waiting for an opportunity.

Coached by Jupp Heynckes, who sits third in the all-time Bundesliga scoring chart, Gomez is in the perfect environment to be a regular player at FC Bayern and continue to perform in the new-look German national side. And at just 26 years old, Gomez is almost certainly capable of beating Pizarro’s 150-goal record and the FC Bayern hitman now stands 34th in the all-time table which is led by another legend of Bayern Munich, Gerd Muller, who has 365 goals.

Gomez is part of a strong side at the Allianz Arena who remain top of the Bundesliga by four points with Heynckes’ men having an incredible goal difference of 30 scored compared to just the three conceded.

It surely can't be a coincidence that the Bundesliga is regularly the highest scoring league in Europe, providing, as it does, a home for goal-scoring forwards like Gomez and Pizarro. If there is a relation, long may it continue.

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