Every team needs a top goal scorer — and they don’t come much better than Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski or Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe — but who are the other players most likely to hit the back of the net across Europe’s top leagues?
By now most people are familiar with Expected Goals (xG), the metric that can tell you exactly that. StatsPerform’s xG calculations are based on 35 different contextual factors: including a variety of shot type, shot position, goalkeeper position, chance type, assist type and pressure on the ball.
The end result? StatsPerform says: “Adding up a player or team’s Expected Goals can give us an indication of how many goals a player or team should have scored on average, given the shots they have taken.”
So if a player has an xG of 10 and scores 11 goals, they have exceeded expectations. We should also note that penalties are always assigned an xG of 0.77, which is the average success rate in football, so for this data we will show Non-Penalty Goals only.
Lewandowski may want to leave the German champions this summer, but his 35 goals in 34 games (5 penalties) last season put him on top of the xG charts across the major domestic league competitions in Europe (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France , Portugal and the Netherlands).
Next up is a man who is 10 years younger than Lewandowski. France international Mbappe, who came close to joining Real Madrid for nothing this summer before turning them down and signing a new contract at PSG, had 28 goals in 35 games (4 penalties) in Ligue 1 last season and he also had 17 assists, the most from any player in the top 20.
But which other attacking players boasted a high xG number last season, meaning they are more likely to score than their peers?
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Goals, goals, goals
Lewandowski leads the way across all age groups. The Poland international is a penalty-area poacher and his Shotmap in the Bundesliga last season is something to behold, with all but two of his goals coming from inside the box.
His 156 shots are also the most of any player in this list, with 76 of those on target. That’s a cool 48%.
Of course there are the usual suspects of Mbappe, Mohamed Salah (4), Sadio Mane (6), Karim Benzema (13) and Cristiano Ronaldo (20) on the list as well. But Borussia Dortmund will be pleased to see their new signing Sebastien Haller there at No. 3, with 19 Non-Penalty Goals from 98 shots.
At age 34, FC Cologne striker Anthony Modeste (5) impressed last season, while 22-year-old Vitesse frontman Lois Openda also finds himself above the more established likes of Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, Liverpool’s Diogo Jota and Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick.
Notably, of all the players in the top 20, only RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku could be considered more of a midfielder than a striker. His xG of 16.94 is surpassed by the 19 Non-Penalty Goals he scored last season in the Bundesliga.
If the xG number is low and the goal number is high, it also shows the player has scored more difficult goals. Son Heung-Min’s 23 goals for Tottenham Hotspur came at 16.01 xG.
And if you want a comparison to 2021 Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, his 6 Non-Penalty Goals goals from 89 shots last season at PSG came at an xG of 11.38.
the next generation
PSG’s Mbappe is clearly a world-class attacker, and his stats already have him among the top players in the world, but which other youngsters equal to or under the age of 23 made an impact in front of goal last season?
The aforementioned Openda (2) had a fine season for Vitesse, while the Dutch Eredivisie has another star performer in AZ Alkmaar’s Vangelis Pavlidis (3). The Greece international’s 18 Non-Penalty Goals came at an xG of 16.57.
Liverpool spent a potential €100 million to sign Benfica’s Darwin Nunez (4) and we can see why. He was only expected to get 15.48 goals via his xG last season and managed 22 instead.
Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic (5) and Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior (6) were also featured, while Man City’s new €60m arrival Erling Haaland had 16 Non-Penalty Goals from 74 shots at an XG of 13.74 during an injury-hit season at Dortmund
However, if clubs are looking for a player who won’t cost the same as these big names and is still likely to score with regularity, they could do worse than to look at the rest of the top 20.