Goals are the currency of football. No one gets more attention than goalscorers. For a striker – or any other player, for that matter – to make it to the top of the scoring charts in their division is the peak of achievement. In a competition as illustrious as the Premier League, it’s even more impressive.
Here we take a look at the top ten Premier League goalscorers since its formation in 1992.
Highest Goalscorers in Premier League History
10. Les Ferdinand – 149 goals
(Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Leicester City, Bolton Wanderers)
Les Ferdinand is perhaps one of the most well-liked players in the history of English football – and that’s not hyperbole. Not only is he an MBE and a gentleman, but a supreme goalscorer too.
Along with 149 goals in the Premier League, he also provided 49 assists, a figure which ranks him inside the top 50 in that list. The bulk of Ferdinand’s Premier League strikes came for QPR where he played from 1986 to 1995. He scored 80 goals in the league in total, with 20 coming before the creation of the Premier League.
His best goalscoring season came in 1995-96 when he bagged 25 for Kevin Keegan’s electrifying Newcastle United side that finished four points behind champions Manchester United. Sadly, that was the closest Ferdinand got to a Premier League title.
He spent six years with Spurs before enjoying brief stints with three different Premier League clubs. He retired in 2006.
9. Michael Owen – 150 goals
(Liverpool, Newcastle United, Manchester United, Stoke City)
Michael Owen is one player who perhaps should be much higher on this list. He began his career with an explosion of pace and goals. Owen scored the first of 150 Premier League goals on his debut against Wimbledon in 1997 but would play only two times that season.
In the 97-98 campaign, however, Owen burst into life and the consciousness of football fans around the world. The teenager scored 18 goals for Liverpool in 36 matches. He recorded the same tally for the club the following season but in six fewer matches. Owen would maintain this astonishing strike rate for another five seasons, scoring 118 times in 216 Premier League matches before winning the Ballon d’Or and moving to Real Madrid.
After an unhappy spell in Spain, the prodigy returned, and the rest of his days in the Premier League did not meet the lofty standards he set himself. This was due in large part to a series of injuries which stunted his finest asset: his speed. He moved to Newcastle United in 2005, spending four seasons on Tyneside before a surprise transfer to Manchester United saw him win his first Premier League trophy in 2010-11. He retired after one final season with Stoke City.
8. Jermaine Defoe – 162 goals
(West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Bournemouth)
Jermaine Defoe was a case study in consistency. In nearly 20 years in the Premier League, he had a handful of excellent seasons, but many more that were merely, for lack of a better term, solid. Far from being a negative, however, Defoe’s steady goal record is the hallmark of a top-tier striker and one that found his level in perhaps the most difficult league in the world.
Defoe began his career as an academy graduate with West Ham. He quickly announced himself as an exciting prospect, scoring ten goals in his first season as a starter for the club. After West Ham was relegated in 02-03, Defoe joined Tottenham Hotspur for the first of two spells with the North London side. He was excellent in white, scoring 43 times before joining Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth. When Redknapp left Portsmouth for Spurs in 08-09, Defoe followed him.
His second spell was just as successful and in 09-10, Defoe enjoyed his best goalscoring season in the Premier League, scoring 18 times in 34 appearances. He left the club in 2014 for America where he stayed briefly with Toronto before returning to the Premier League to play for Sunderland. Defoe was superb in the North East, scoring 34 goals in 87 matches for the relegation-threatened club. He finished his Premier League career with a less happy stint with Bournemouth.
7. Robbie Fowler – 165 goals
(Liverpool, Leeds United, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers)
On the red side of the river Mersey, they have a prosaic and powerful nickname for Robbie Fowler: God.
Much like Michael Owen, Fowler enjoyed the best of his Premier League years in the early stages of his career. In his debut season, he scored 12 goals – the Liverpool fans knew they had something special on their hands. Fowler was an instinctual striker who relied on his mental attributes as much as his physicality. He put these capacities to even better use in the 94-95 season when he scored 25 times in 42 appearances.
His best was yet to come, though. In the 95-96 season, Fowler bagged 28 in 38 – a career-high. He maintained decent numbers for the next few years but never reached the dizzy heights of those first three campaigns. He moved to Leeds United in 2001 and stayed for barely a year before switching to Manchester City at the midpoint of the 02-03 season.
After four seasons in Manchester, he made a dramatic return to Liverpool where for two seasons he showed the occasional glimpse of his early years. He retired in 2011 after a handful of one-year spells in England, Australia and Thailand.
6. Thierry Henry – 175 goals
Social media is awash with debates over who is the best Premier League player in history. The same names always crop up: Ronaldo, Giggs, Lampard, Gerrard, Scholes, Terry, Shearer. But for my money, one man stands apart from the rest.
Thierry Henry arrived in England in 1999, brought in by the peerless Arsene Wenger to transform the forward line of an Arsenal side in transition. They had won the Premier League in 97-98, but their squad was ageing and in need of fresh blood after missing out by a single point to Manchester United in the title race.
Almost immediately, Henry astonished English crowds with his lightning-fast feet, magnetic first touch and his innate finishing ability. He reached double figures in his first season, scoring 17 times in 31 matches. In the eight campaigns that followed, Henry would reach double figures every single time.
Henry hit his peak in 03-04 when he scored 30 times in 37 appearances as Arsenal went undefeated for the entire season.
Henry wasn’t just a goalscoring tour de force, however. He could make a goal too. He provided 74 assists in his time with Arsenal, averaging almost ten per season. Only ten men in the history of the division have set up more goals.
5. Frank Lampard – 177 goals
(West Ham United, Chelsea, Manchester City)
Few midfielders in the history of football can claim to have a better goalscoring record than Frank Lampard. He scored just shy of a goal every three matches across over 600 matches for three Premier League clubs between 1996 and 2015. While Lampard scored 30 for West Ham United and Manchester City at the start and at the end of his career, it is his time at Chelsea, sandwiched between the two for which established his legacy as one of the all-time Premier League greats.
For the first six seasons of his career, Lampard played in the claret and blue of West Ham. He scored 24 times in 148 league appearances for the Hammers before he made the short trip across London to Chelsea.
At Stanford Bridge, Lampard was simply outstanding. He became Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer and played just shy of 650 matches in 13 seasons, winning three Premier League titles as Chelsea announced themselves as one of the dominant forces in European football.
He left for newly formed MLS side New York City FC in 2015, but would first sign for their affiliates, Manchester City. One of his six goals for the club came against Chelsea – a confusing event to befall someone who had become so synonymous with the club.
4. Sergio Agüero – 180 goals*
Of all the foreign imports in Premier League history, there is an argument to say that Sergio Agüero is the finest. Since joining Manchester City from Atletico Madrid in 2006, he has proved his worth time and time again, scoring bags of goals and winning a shedload of trophies in the process.
He signed for a big fee in 11-12 and immediately won hearts and minds in Manchester. He scored 23 times in 34 appearances in his first season and scored *that* goal on the final day of the season. Since then, the Argentinian has performed outstandingly on an alarmingly consistent basis. Had Agüero been born in Bolton rather than Buenos Aires, there’s every chance he would be the Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer already.
Now 32, he may be approaching the twilight of his career. However, he remains the only active player on this list, and he will continue to climb the ladder as long as he is playing in sky blue.
3. Andy Cole – 187 goals
(Newcastle United, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Sunderland)
The archetypal journeyman striker, Andy Cole scored goals wherever he went. For seven Premier League clubs, the poacher supreme scored 187 goals and carved out a legacy for himself as one of the nation’s finest forward talents.
For whatever reason, he was not suitably rewarded with England caps. Cole won just 15 throughout the entirety of his career and was unable to replicate his club form on the international stage. He was in his pomp at the same time as the likes of Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Les Ferdinand and Robbie Fowler, which meant he had hot competition for the Three Lions’ number 9 shirt. However, you still feel he deserved better for his astounding exploits in the Premier League.
He began his career with Arsenal in the old First Division, making just one appearance in his three seasons as a professional with the club. In 92-93, however, after a couple of decent loan spells with Fulham and Brighton in the lower divisions, Cole earned a move to a Newcastle United side who were enjoying a meteoric rise.
In his first campaign in the newly-formed Premier League, Cole scored a bewildering 34 goals in 40 matches – a long-standing Premier League record. He was enjoying similar form at Newcastle the following season before he switched to Manchester United at the mid-point.
It was at Old Trafford where he would be rewarded for his goals with trophies. He scored just shy of 100 league goals for the club, winning five Premier League titles along the way. He left the club after eight seasons in 2001 to join Blackburn Rovers where he enjoyed a decent spell. After that, he played for four top-flight clubs in five years.
2. Wayne Rooney – 208 goals
(Everton, Manchester United)
As introductions to football go, Wayne Rooney’s was pretty dramatic. He scored a number of blockbuster goals for his boyhood club, Everton, and ended his first full season as a professional footballer as one of the world’s most promising youngsters.
He was tracked – and approached – by a number of Europe’s elite clubs, but ultimately decided to stay on Merseyside, for another season at least. His form in 03-04 was similar and did nothing to quieten the hubbub surrounding this prodigious young Scouser.
In time for the beginning of the following season, Rooney completed a long-awaited move to Manchester United, where he would ultimately become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. He scored a hat-trick on his debut in the Champions League, the first of 253 goals for the Red Devils. The rest is history.
Rooney won five titles under Alex Ferguson, playing a unique brand of aggressive football that won admirers worldwide. After more than a decade of service, he re-joined Everton in 2017. There were some memorable moments in that campaign, but Rooney had lost a lot of the physicality that made him a great player in the first place.
He left England for America in 2018 but returned at the mid-point of last season to play for Derby County in the Championship. He has impressed for the Rams, even if as a team they have underperformed. Perhaps we have not seen the last of Rooney in the Premier League just yet.
1. Alan Shearer – 260 goals
(Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United)
Few – if any figures – are as uniquely intertwined with Premier League history than the league’s runaway top scorer. The great Alan Shearer scored a baffling 260 goals in his time with Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United.
A Newcastle native, Shearer began his career at the opposite end of the country as a scholar with Southampton. He scored on his debut for the club in the old First Division and in his first season in professional football he managed a creditable three in five.
His second campaign was less memorable as he struggled to find the shooting boots which would serve him so well in his later career. But over the course of the next three seasons, Shearer showed enough promise for newly-minted, newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers to splash out a huge figure sum on the powerful forward.
Over the next four seasons, he would maintain a strike rate that has never been seen in English football before, scoring 112 goals in 138 league games. In the 94-95 season, in which he scored 34 times, Shearer deservingly lifted the Premier League trophy with Blackburn Rovers.
Blackburn later slumped, and Shearer chose to join his boyhood club, Newcastle United, rather than team up with Alex Ferguson in Manchester. He had a number of compelling seasons in the North East, but a series of injuries prevented him from finding the incredible form he had at Blackburn. Even so, he still managed to score 148 goals in 303 league games, taking his tally to 260.