Vivianne Miedema: Dissecting the best strikers at Euro 2020 - The Athletic
There is an incredible variety among Europe’s top strikers at the moment, and that is reflected at Euro 2020. If you take the top goalscorers from the major European leagues, and then compare them to each other, they’re completely different players. It’s Harry Kane in England, Robert Lewandowski in Germany, Kylian Mbappe in France, and Cristiano Ronaldo in Italy. They’re all big names, but stylistically there is huge diversity.
I’ve always studied attacking players to try to improve myself. Growing up, I wasn’t really exposed to much women’s football, so I watched a lot of forwards from the men’s game. When you’re young, you have your idols. Mine was Robin van Persie. To this day, I try to examine players to understand what they do — movement-wise, technique-wise, tactics-wise.
Ronaldo’s record speaks for itself. He is now the top goalscorer in men’s European Championship history. After his two penalties against France last night, he has matched Ali Daei as the highest ever goalscorer in international football. Any footballer, at any level, can benefit from watching him.
I don’t think he gets enough credit for how he’s adapted his game over the years. I went back and did some research on his career — it feels like in every single season he made little tweaks to his game.
We all remember him at Manchester United. I was young then, but I still remember that excitable right winger taking people on, dribbling with the ball and shooting from outside the box. After a couple of years in Madrid, he converted himself into almost a second nine, just to the left of Karim Benzema.
Look back at his goals then: his striking ability and the power he generates is so good. He doesn’t need to put disguise on his shots, because he connects so well. Even if the goalkeeper knows where it’s going, he can’t get there.
But Ronaldo didn’t stop there. He continued evolving. When he went to Juventus, he started playing out on the left wing. He began dribbling again, and having a wider influence on the game. He was playing off a target man in Mario Mandzukic or Alvaro Marata, and then you saw something else happening to his game. It wasn’t just about goalscoring anymore, it was about creating too. To still be developing and changing at his age is pretty unique.
You can see that evolution in his physique too. He’s gone through such different stages. Once he got to Madrid, he really bulked up. He looked very strong, but his top speed was probably lower than it is right now. This summer he looks a little leaner, and he is flying.
We all saw his blistering run to score against Germany, covering 97 metres at 32 km per hour. To do that at 36 is incredible, but it wasn’t a surprise to me — I noticed that in one of the warm-up friendlies against Spain, he sprinted 60 metres in just seven seconds. That’s 32 km per hour. He’s doing this consistently.
He’s taken his game to a new level by making little physical adaptations. He’s worked out what he needs to do to make the difference on the pitch.
I try to do that myself. When we went into lockdown, I had four months training away from the Arsenal squad, trying to keep myself fit. I decided to work on running in-behind, to add a different dimension to my game. I was locked down with Lisa Evans, who is naturally super-quick and has always had that ability. We worked on it together so I could begin to introduce it to my play. Two years ago, I couldn’t have run behind 10 times in a match because I would have torn my hamstring! But now, when I see the opportunity, I can do it.
Of course, you need to have the stamina. Against Hungary, Ronaldo scored two goals in the last five minutes. That shows how mentally and physically sharp he still is.
His second goal against Hungary was not one of his most spectacular. Going through one-on-one, just a few yards out, he shaped to shoot before dummying past the Hungarian goalkeeper, Peter Gulacsi. It looked easy. It looked simple.
For a fellow forward, however, it was beautiful in its efficiency. The little touch he took to go around the keeper — how many other strikers would even try that? People say moments like that come from practising on the training ground, but that’s not right. This isn’t something you can learn in training, it’s something you pick up during your career. It’s something you earn through experience. It’s a sixth sense of knowing what to do in front of goal.
Ronaldo doesn’t panic. He knows that by taking it around the keeper, he turns a 50-50 chance into a 100 per cent goal. His instincts are perfectly attuned, his mind in perfect connection with his body. People say he is robotic. That’s not right either: you can only produce a piece of skill like that if you truly feel football.
When you’re analysing strikers, you can almost separate the tactical, technical and physical qualities of each player. Take Lewandowski and Romelu Lukaku, for example — there is a huge difference in style, but they’re both so effective.
I’ve watched a lot of Bundesliga this season, and Lewandowski — who scored two outstanding, and very different, goals against Sweden last night to keep his country in with a chance of getting out of the group — has such an instinctive understanding of where to be in the box. He scored 41 goals in 29 games — crazy numbers.
Yes, part of that is about knowing where the ball will drop, but it’s also about reacting to what other players do. That’s the difficult bit: you have to know your team-mates, and know your opponent — that’s what enables you to anticipate quicker than anybody else.
When I was at Bayern, Lewandowski was there too. I watched him train. He plays fully focused, all of the time. His concentration is unbelievable: even in the four-on-fours and seven-a-sides, you can see him looking at where the ball could end up. When a team-mate has a shot, his eyes aren’t on that player — they’re already looking at the goal, and anticipating where the ball might ricochet. It gives him a split-second before anyone else moves. The goals look simple, but when you break down all the work that goes into them, they’re far from it.
He does it so naturally. Personally, I don’t think of myself as a pure goalscorer in that way, I’m more of a creator. I’m always telling people I’m not a “nine” — but I score a lot of goals, so no-one believes me. Ciro Immobile is another predator who has shone in this tournament. He scored from outside the box against Switzerland, but it’s his goal against Turkey that sums him up: inside the area, first to react, first to the ball.
Lukaku is a different type entirely. His physique is something else. He’s got the body; he’s got the speed. The moment he faces forward and he runs at you, you’ve got absolutely no chance. He achieves such separation, so easily.
I love how he’s proven people wrong. When he was at United, people took the mick out of his first touch — but look at the way he’s played this season. His recent record for Belgium is absolutely ridiculous: 23 goals in his last 21 games.
Again, he deserves credit for the way he has evolved physically. I’m not saying he was overweight at Manchester United, but he didn’t have the same physique he has right now. For such a big guy, he’s now able to turn very quickly. You see that in his dribbling — he has such flexibility. He’s adding things to his game, and is a completely different player these days.
His athleticism means you can play him upfront alone, and he can run in behind time after time for the whole 90 minutes. You need that in this tournament — especially with so many teams playing a back five. When you’re up against three centre-backs, there’s obviously a lot less space for the striker. Personally, I hate playing against five at the back. To thrive, you need to engage your tactical brain.
There are different ways you can combat a back five: if they play a high block, like Russia tried to do against Belgium, you need the No 9 to make diagonal runs across the lateral centre-backs. It pulls them deeper and disrupts the line. Look at Lukaku’s two goals in that game — they both come from that very run.
If the defence sit in deeper, like Scotland did against England, then sometimes the striker really needs to pull one of the three centre-backs out. That can mean the No 9 coming back into midfield to drag his marker with him, enabling a No 10 or wide forward to run in behind. Kane has been criticised for playing deep, but tactically it’s the right move. His quality is on the ball, he needs to be involved — the issue is that, with England, he doesn’t have the same understanding he does with someone like Son Heung-min at Spurs. When he drops in, there isn’t the same movement in-behind. England are still a developing team, and those relationships aren’t there yet.
France are still trying to find the right balance too. For pure talent, few countries can match the trio of Mbappe, Benzema and Antoine Griezmann. The question is whether they can develop the relationships on the field quickly enough. Benzema joined the group late — though there are signs it may be clicking.
If it does, I’ll be watching. I’m still only 24. There’s still a lot to learn, and I believe I can still get better. Studying your contemporaries can only help you do that. At 36, Ronaldo is proof that the process never stops: keep observing, keep evolving, keep improving.
Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus:
🏟 134 Games
⚽ 101 Goals
🅰️ 22 Assists
= involved in 40% of Juventus’ goals
🏆 Serie A 2x
🏆 Super Cup 2x
🏆 Coppa Italia
🥇 Serie A Footballer of the Year
🥇Serie A MVP
🥇Team of the Year
🥇 Serie A top scorer
• Fastest player to score 100 goals for Juventus
• Most goals by a player in a season (37)
Since Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus, the club's numbers multiplied in sales, stock price, social media, sponsorships etc.
E.g., Juventus had 8m followers on IG when CR7 joined, they now have 51m.
Juventus and Italian football in general gained a huge benefit and worldwide attention with Cristiano.
Now Cristiano is set to leave a Juventus side that was never equipped to use him in a perfect way. I only say ‘midfield’.
Juventus picked the best cherry without having the cake ready.
So his numbers with Juventus are even more staggering.
He gave his all, as he always did in his career.
Good luck for the next move!
Just because Carragher has pissed me off with his everyone in the United squad is over £50m, let’s go through every player and see how much united paid for them without add ons because certain players haven’t met them.
Colour code - pink Ole signing, Green youth academy product, orange currently on loan. Red paid over £50 million
Let’s start with goalkeepers
David De Gea - in 2011 we paid £19.5 million
Tom Heaton - in 2021 we paid fuck all
Lee Grant - in 2018 we paid fuck all
Dean Henderson - in 2015 we paid fuck all
Now let’s go to defenders
Luke Shaw - in 2014 we paid £30 million
Phil Jones - in 2011 we paid £16.5 million
Raphael Varane - in 2021 we paid £34 million
Harry Maguire - in 2019 we paid £80 million
Alex Telles - in 2020 we paid £13.6 million
Eric Bailly - in 2016 we paid £30 million
Victor Lindelof - in 2017 we paid £30.7 million
Aaron Wan-Bissaka - in 2019 we paid £45 million
Diogo Dalot - in 2018 we paid £19 million
Brandon Williams - in 2017 we paid fuck all
Axel Tuanzebe - in 2013 we paid fuck all
Teden Mengi - in 2018 we paid fuck all
Juan Mata - in 2014 we paid £37 million
Paul Pogba - in 2016 we paid £89 million
Nemanja Matic - in 2017 we paid £40 million
Jesse Lingard - in 2009 we paid fuck all
Bruno Fernandes - in 2020 we paid £47 million
Andreas Pereira - in 2012 we paid fuck all
Amad Diallo - in 2020 we paid £19 million
Fred - in 2018 we paid £47 million
Facundo Pellistri in 2020 we paid £7.65 million
Donny Van De Beek - in 2020 we paid £35 million
James Garner - in 2017 we paid fuck all
Scott McTominay - in 2012 we paid fuck all
Hannibal Mejbri - in 2019 we paid £9.3 million
Cristiano Ronaldo - in 2021 we paid £12.86 million
Anthony Martial - in 2015 we paid £36 million
Marcus Rashford - in 2014 we paid fuck all
Mason Greenwood - in 2018 we paid fuck all
Edinson Cavani - in 2020 we paid fuck all
Jadon Sancho - in 2021 we paid £73 million
Anthony Elenga - in 2018 we paid fuck all
Tahith Chong - in 2016 we paid fuck all
Shola Shoretire - in 2020 we paid fuck all
Let’s not forget we’ve got 4 under 23’s thst have made first team appearances that we also didn’t pay for.
So your telling me out of the 38 players I just mentioned only 3 had a initial fee of over £50 million. Bruno I believe has now hit his performance based add-ons which take him over £50 million but that’s not his initial fee.
We’ve got 16 players on that list that came through the academy including pogba even though we did buy him back from Juventus.
We to say we have a squad full of players over £50 million your factually incorrect. Of course David De Gea would now be worth more than we brought him for but that’s not what we paid